Saturday, September 26, 2009

Still another little trick



Here's a picture I am working on. It is unfinished, but I may post a picture of it finished. One of the things I have been doing in this blog is posting step by step pictures of my paintings as I make them. It is a lot harder than I thought it would be for a couple of reasons. First, I get all hung up in the painting and forget to take the photos, that has happened several times. But the number one thing that has made it hard is this. When I get the photos open in photoshop it is obvious that I have not moved smoothly to the completion of the painting. I am embarrassed to post them. I have sometimes reworked an area several times to get it right, and the photos show that. I look at the photos and think "it looks like I haven't a clue what I am doing".

If I were a studio guy,and sometimes I am, I might make a finished drawing on the canvas before I started to paint, but as I am usually working outside I tend to just lay it in. I do usually do a monotone study under the painting (grisialle). So sometimes the painting looks OK in the end but my path their is less linear than I would like. Painting is really hard for me and getting harder. I sometimes stumble across the finish line.

Here's the little trick. I have done a lot of advertising over the years and been reproduced in magazines and on postcards. I was often surprised when I saw my work reduced, that some dumb compositional problem or an error in drawing jumped out at me. The painting looked fine to me until I saw it tiny, and then I saw the problems. After having the unpleasant experience of discovering a painting I thought was good, look horrible shrunk down, I began photographing them myself first and looking at several paintings I had, to see which ones looked the best in miniature. I would often find that as soon as I saw the little photograph ( from the developer in those days) I could quickly fix the paintings problems.

That led me to this practice. I photograph and print out small images of the paintings I am working on. I print them perhaps 2" by 3" and look for problems. I virtually ALWAYS find something. So tonight's little trick is this. When you are nearing completion of a painting, print out a little photo of it and see what it looks like in reduction. Just like looking at your work in a mirror, it will give you a fresh eye, and a chance to spot flaws that you didn't notice full size. I haven't a clue how it works!

18 comments:

Gregory Becker said...

That painting looks wonderful. I am going out to paint with Heiner Hertling tommorow. Ever heard of him? He heads up the Michigan Pleine Aire Painters. He knocks out a scene in one hour. All the while walking around and helping others and cracking jokes. Should be fun. I hope I have some success tommorow. I may try a Zorn palette just to get something tonal.

Walter L. Mosley said...

This makes me feel good because usually I'm all proud of a painting, take the time and trouble to photograph (light set up, tripod positioning, etc) and then look and realize I've got to change things. Thanks for the pragmatic, practical outlook to use this as part of the process. Thanks.

Walter L. Mosley said...

Oh, stunning painting by the way.

Jeremy Elder said...

Great tips - I do the mirror and photo shrink too when I remember. I need to remember more.

By the way, I love the color of this piece, variate but harmonious. I am wondering what the focal point is though? I seem to focus on both the pond and the foreground tree.

Jo-Ann Sanborn said...

So true that we need methods for finding the problems before we think we're done. I'm a "have at it" painter, and sometimes have to backtrack big time when things aren't right. It's refreshing to know that you struggle, too, and especially nice to give a solution. Nice painting!

mariandioguardi.com said...

Hi Stapleton,
I do both, as well; always looking in my studio mirror during the painting and drawing process and then take a picture near the end for a check. But NOW I am going to take a picture of the painting IN the mirror and see what that reveals! I'll let you all know if it's worthwhile.

Jan Blencowe said...

Hi Stape,

What's the difference between an "ebauche", and "imprimatura" and "grisaille" is it just the level of finish or complexity in the underpainting?

Stapleton Kearns said...

Jan:
I was very tired and should have said grisaille, I am changing the post to say that. I will answer more completely later.
...Stape

mariandioguardi.com said...

I am a curious cat. So I did try the photo of my painting in the mirror. The answer is that it is NOT twice as effective as either a photo (reducing) or looking at in in a mirror (a reverse & reducing).

Currently, I am painting a somewhat color-complicated still life ( I know this is not a still life blog so I apologize in advance) and I am hoping this observation can be applied to landscapes as well. Here it goes:In a previous Stapleton post he showed us how the shadow colors inform us of the local color when it's blown out in strong light. The reverse seems true as well.
I noticed today that when the local color is obscured by being in the shadow (revealed by reflected light only), you can inform the the viewer as to the object's local color by using a pure, strong hue as the highlight. For example: the back lit "purple" bowl I have going is painted as a yucky brown color (because it has strong yellows reflecting into it) but it reads totally purple because I used the right purple highlight. Hopes that make sense and is interesting.

willek said...

Just a terrific paintingg, Stape. Very warm colors. Was this an earth pallette, too?

Stapleton Kearns said...

Gregory:
Mentors are very important. Follow him around. Old guys taught me how to paint.
.....................Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Walter;
Thanks. Pragmatic AND dogmatic, you get both matics in one.
........Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Jeremy:
That's right! You get one for each eye!
There's one of the dangers in a Hudson River school approach. The detail can scream from all over the painting. There is a primitiveness to it.
................Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Jo-Ann
Thanks, I struggle. I pu;; my hair our over paintings. And sometimes it works.
...................Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Marian:
Even though you see a yucky color reflected into the shadow there is nop reason not to cheat it towards the local color. Also you can play the local color hard at the shadow edge.
..................Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Jan;
I am tired and it is late, I must look that up. I believe the word I should use is grisialle.I think of an eboche as a sort of loose rub-in and an imprimatura as a dead color under paintying. I will actually look it up and see if those definitions are correct.
...............Stape

JT Harding said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JT Harding said...

love your work and blog however its really hard (for me) to read long paragraphs of white copy on a black background. would you ever consider changing the background to white and the type to Black?
Thx Stape
JT