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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Surefire route to solid design

6x8" value study of a Maine shoreline

Just returned home from teaching a workshop in South Freeport, Maine. This demo was done to emphasize the value of values. :-)

Rule#1: Simplify, simplify, simplify. This is all about finding the large abstract shapes. If you take color out of the equation, it gets you looking at things in a whole new way.

When you're done your value study, stand back and ask yourself where you could link things together to strengthen your design. We need to remind ourselves again and again that we are not painting rocks, trees, water, sky. We are painting shape, value and color. And striving to employ a gorgeous variety of hard and soft edges to create depth, integration, texture and mystery.

Click for more tips on the whys of exploring your subject in this way.

The umbrella brigade hard at work. As offices go... I think we might be winning!

One of my students said she had an 8 hour car trip ahead of her and was looking for a way to work on her art while on the road.

There are a couple of games I often play when on long road trips. One is to squint down as I watch the passing landscape and compare the relative value of things. Use the number scale of 1 to 10, and really work on your ability to determine exactly what # one value is relative to another:
  • shadow on foreground bushes relative to shadow on background hills
  • blue sky relative to clouds.
  • what about the clouds? - sunny side to shadow side, verrrrrry subtle, half a value? Stormy? 3 values?
This will really fine tune your ability to assess value.

The other game is the "how would I mix that color?" game. As the landscape rolls by, ask yourself - what tubed colors would I use to mix the:
  • late evening sunlit hills
  • sunkissed mountains
  • what about the shadow sides? how would you neutralize the color?
  • morning sunrise filling the sky
  • is it one color at the horizon and another higher up?
  • what about the pavement? Exactly what would you use to nail that gray?
It's endless, and endlessly fascinating. You could even have a tiny palette in your lap and try to mix the colors you're seeing right there in the car (works better if you're not driving - steering wheel gets in the way.) If you decide to try this, I'd love to hear how it goes for you!

A huge thanks goes out to Bobbi Heath for inviting me out to Maine and organizing the workshop, including filling it with 12 AMAZING students! We had a fabulous 3 days together. You rock Bobbi!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Something New and A Little Magic

"A Twist on Tulips"
Original Oil - 6"x8"

You thought I forgot about 50 Flowers in 100 Hours, didn't you? Not so! Just been sidetracked lately.

All proceeds from the sale of this painting will go to relief efforts for the current famine crisis in East Africa. In addition, the donated amount will be matched equally by the Canadian government. In other words - you get a painting and you'll be doin' a whole lotta good!

Something New
I'd like to step outside of the art forum for a moment and share some other news with you. This is my art blog, and I assure you it will remain dedicated to art related posts in the future, but I wanted to let you know about something else I've been up to.

In addition to taking and teaching a lot of workshops in the last year - I have also been pursuing something I'm as passionate about as I am painting - working toward certification as a life coach. It's something I've put off for years, thinking I already had a fantastic career, but the call just kept getting louder and I finally decided to go for it.
The journey from there to here has been enormously powerful and enlightening. I have learned so much about how we get in our own way, and how empowering it is to get really clear about our choices. I've been working with my own amazing coach for some time now, and we've been making some pretty big strides together.

What Is It?
If I were to sum it up, I would say that a great coaching relationship supports you in getting connected with your biggest, most fabulous vision for yourself, and then helps you go out there and get it! (Wimping out not an option.)

If you're curious to find out a bit more about what I'm doing as a coach, and the wonderful benefits of working with one, please check out my coaching website. I've also just started a coaching blog. It will be filled with all kinds of lift your spirit, conquer those naysayer voices kind of inspiration, so if that interests you, please drop on over and have a look.

And Now a Little Magic
This crossed my path a few days ago and I thought you would love it -  a most amazing time lapse video of night turning to day in a very special place in the world. Click on the little white icon on the bottom (to the right of the blue HD) to watch it full screen.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Plein Air Tip and a Big Fat Challenge

"The Sunshine Coast"
Original oil - 6"x8"

What trips you up the most in plein air painting? It's a good thing to ponder. Once you have an answer, there is huge value in focusing on that particular thing the next few times you go out.

For me it's detail and design. Seeing past all the detail - and the challenge of finding a good design. Here is one exercise that will really help you address both of these issues at once:

Do a quick (15 minute) value study of the scene - in paint - using only black, white and one or two mid-tone grays.

Photo of scene

6x8" value study

Remember the goal is not to copy the scene. It's to create a strong design. As you go -  squint and compare, and be exploring:
  • how to eliminate detail
  • where to link shapes to create an interesting pattern of light and dark
  • where you can lose edges by bringing values close together (to connect shapes)
  • where to push values lighter or darker to strengthen your design
  • what stays - what goes
Lots of folks do value studies with pencil in a sketch pad. I prefer to do them in paint as it gets me thinking about edges and brushwork at the same time that I'm sorting out simplification and design. This was a workshop demo so there is no finished painting to show, but you get the idea.

Big Fat Challenge:
A few of my students have taken on a challenge to do 50 of these studies in the next 30 days. If any of you want to do the same, jump on in. Once you've done 50, send me a photo of your best one, and a photo of the scene it was done from, and I'll post a selection of them here on my blog later in the fall. Bonus - you have until September 30th to get me your image. :-)

On another note, I am only teaching one Daily Painting workshop this year. It will be in my Canmore studio Oct. 1st-3rd. For more details please click here.