Wednesday, September 1, 2010

More about layins 4

Lay in crew.

It is about 90 here, and its almost 10:00. This is not like New Hampshire. I will write a little tonight, but I am so hot I must cut it short. Maybe it will cool off later. I think I am happier at 10 below than at 90.

I want to address several more sorts of layins. The first is a line drawing. I almost never do this, frankly I am much more comfortable in mass drawing, I guess because that is what paint is.
I think the problem with line drawing starts is that you tend to think they are more accurate than they really are. The lines seem so decisive that you honor them when they should be tuned and revised as the painting progresses. When I do this, I use a dotted line and keep it as faint as I can. Ives used to speak of coathanger lines. What he meant by that was lines that enclose a figure, particularly when they delineate in a hard line an edge which is soft. He would say it looks like the figure is enclosed in a coathanger. When students start out in line they often create coathanger lines and I am forced to humiliate them. I usually suggest they try to work in masses and keep things REAL soft. You can always harden up later. A soft mass can be shoved around at will and looks like it deserves to be. As general practice I think starting with a line drawing is hazardous. The exception to that is if you have made a finished charcoal study or pencil drawing prior to beginning a canvas and have worked out the problems. Then you transfer the lines from that onto the canvas.Then the lines might actually be as meaningful as they appear.

The other sort of layin I want to discuss is the "big poster shapes" as described by John Carlson in his "Guide to Landscape painting". Carlson suggests reducing the picture to about half a dozen big areas of color. The poster shapes. Posters were more familiar in his day than ours. They were often silkscreened and were made up of large broad shapes of color. Think Toulouse Latrec.This is not a method I use often, as I have shown, I tend to do highly finished burnt sienna or burnt sienna and ultramarine underpaintings.

Poster shapes is an effective way to lay out a painting though. You get em in and then subdivide them with your drawing, trying not to chop em up too much. If you keep those shapes only decorated with subdivisions, rather than chopped into smaller and smaller areas, this can give an effective large design to a piece. But it calls for discipline to avoid losing the "big look".

I will move on to a new subject next, however I wanted to reiterate. The painting is made or lost in the layin. There is no point in going into opaque color and thickening the painting up until you have got the design and general drawing worked out transparently. If you cheat the layin for time, you are likely to pay later. If I have a good layin, I am halfway through a painting. Gremlins are a lot harder to deal with once you commit to opaque paint. Transparent paint is easy to manipulate, wipe off and redraw. Opaque paint is much harder. When you lay something out in monochrome or a two color system you separate the problem of color, from that of drawing and design. If you get those latter two right, pasting the color on top of that armature is easier.


I will be holding a three day workshop at the Bass Harbor Campground in Bass Harbor, Maine. the 25-26-27th of September. That's Saturday-Monday. We will paint outside and I will teach beginners to experts the art of outdoor landscape painting.
Here is a link to where you can sign up
Reservations at the Bass Harbor campground can be made here.

7 comments: said...

OK, Ok this has been like a message from above. ( New Hampshire is above Massachussetts).I've been struggling with a new painting and wouldn't you know it,my layin was only a half a_____ job. I'm scraping it out, putting it aside, getting a new substrate and starting all over. I'm going to do it right this time.

Stapleton, the heat has been so unseasonable and unreasonable. We have resorted to putting on the air conditioner for today. I'm with you, I rather have my 30 degree below boots on in the winter than the air
conditioner on in September!

Philip Koch said...

You guys up in NH and MA are pansies! The real he-men faced the heat down here in Maryland unafraid-
of course we all expired long ago, but that's not important.

I love the phrase "coat hanger line." I says it well. Also Stape is right there is something so correct looking about a line drawing, it really can make you stop looking further. Masses are where it's at.

Deborah Paris said...

Oh, all of you, please!!!! you don't know HOT until you've been to Texas in August!! You could fry an egg on the roof of my studio ! but why would you want to......

Stapleton Kearns said...

I hope that works for you. I have been there many times.

Stapleton Kearns said...

It must be crazy hot down there.I am developing a coathanger line myself.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I have been to Texas and painted on ranch when it was well over a hundred degrees. But I won't jump at the chance to do it again.Unfortunately here in northern New England we seldom own air conditioners so we suffer, like Texans must have during the depression when the movie theaters still had those signs with the ice cubes on them that said "Its cool inside".
Which reminds me of a witticism from Groucho Marx, who said " Outside of a dog, a book is mans best friend, inside of a dog, it's too dark to read.

Unknown said...

Your lay in knowledge has been most helpful. I have never done the two color (cool/warm) laying, but I am going to try it. It seems so effective.