Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Charleston marshes 2

Above is the Charleston Marshes painting. over the next few days I am going to studioize it. Sometimes a painting only needs a few touches in the studio and at other times it needs a lot of work. Probably no spot of paint on this piece now will still be showing when the thing meets it's frame. Sometimes I wreck' em in the studio and you might get to see that as well.

I want to scrape the surface of the painting with my palette knife to get all of the ridges of paint off of it. I can do this because it is bone dry. I stick an old Masonite panel under where I intend to scrape ( on the back of the canvas) I do this so that I don't hit the stretcher bars with the knife and cut notches into the front of my painting or leave ghost impressions of the bars on my paint. This photo is "keystoned a bit, the actual painting is square of course.

Here is a closeup of what I did next. I threw a warm mix of titanium white, gold ocher and a touch of Quinacridone red ( instead of Quinacridone my spellchecker just suggested gangrene ) onto the sky I put plenty of it down too. It is a mattress onto which I intend to throw my blue. I want this "cooking" behind my sky color. You have heard me say this before but,


It is essential to get the red and yellow in there or your painting will be cold and dead. These colors give light, and life. put em in first, to make sure they are there. When you put the blue in, don't mix it down into the warm colors, scatter it over them allowing them to show. This is really important. Amateur painters screw up right here all the time. The used furniture stores are full of bad landscapes bearing this particular fault. I will try to make a closeup of this tomorrow to make sure you see it.

I than began to plot the parts of the clouds that are in the shadow with a gray made from white and ivory black. I vary its temperature, warm in some places using burnt sienna and cool in others using a little Prussian in the gray.

Now here comes the hard part to explain. For the rest of this process I am kind of an abstract painter. I have painted thousands of skies and I do know how they they look, but more importantly I am making an artful arrangement. What I am doing is pushing it around and trying to get designed in an attractive manner. I am applying a number of design ideas which I will explain in the next posts. There is no trick to this, its just a matter of having done a lot of it.

Where I have built up too much paint I take it out with my knife and sometimes I use the knife to make blocky corrections and cut out forms as well. All of this is going on with a huge brush almost 2 inches wide. I am paying real close attention to my edges as well. I want to keep this thing pretty softened up. otherwise my clouds will look like potatoes.

I have made these images a little larger than usual if you click on them, Blogger only allows me an image of the largest the size you see before you.

I also painted out he top of the trees and the roof of the rear house. I did this for two reasons. One I want to downsize that rear house, it seemed too big and assertive, I guess I need it, but I am going to soft pedal it.
Secondly and far more importantly, I like to paint into the next form and then paint that form back out over the sky. That keeps me from building up edges around the trees. And it also allows me to paint the trees back into a wet sky which allows me to give them a soft edge. I can blend effectively if both are wet. I need to do a whole post on just that, I have so much I want to tell you!

Here is my stopping point for the day, tomorrow I will go further into how I arrived here and probably get those trees painted back out over the sky again. I am going to dwell some on the design ideas I am applying here, because that is what makes this kind of a sky go. This image when clicked on should be large enough for you to seem more clearly. Incidentally, notice how I am influenced by the Dutch paintings I was showing you last week. There is so much to learn by studying the work of the great artists from before us,and not just the 19th century guys either. They are called the old masters not just because they were old.


JAMES A. COOK said...

Fantastic post. You have my attention. I noticed how your cloud formation has taken on the same mass and design as the land formation and that the mass of blue sky in the upper left balances the mass of the house and trees. Am I seeing this correctly , was this your intention?


Stapleton Kearns said...

To some extent it was, but there is a whole nother agenda going on here that I will begin explaining in the next post. I also roll out my very first fill in the blank question.

Unknown said...

This is wonderful what you're doing. First of all do follow an artist whose work you really admire, follow the thought process. I didn't hear you talk about "cooking" before. Anyway, the results are amazing, the painting is beautiful and the sky is airy and atmospheric and really feels like clouds, that's great. I'll have to go back and dig into your other posts to see where you talk about "cooking". And the high resolution image...thanks for posting. Please continue... If you want to take any of my images from the landscape section of web page for your critique idea please feel free to do so, the address is
I don't care, be brutal, I want to learn, thanks.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thanx Walter:

Wow,great offer there are a lot of them there too.great!Are you working
outside? I find this the hardest time of the year to pull ff good paintings, some day when I am rich nd famous I will spend it in Tuscany...........Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...


Mike Thompson said...

Hi, Stape.

It took me a while to remember my Google account password, so I've been holding back for a few days.

Thanks for the bigger images and explanations of the sky process.

I don't have any good photographs of my work at present but I will try to make some soon so you can critique one or more. The most recent paintings I have made were with Golden Open acrylics and watercolors. Are these OK or would you prefer just oils?

I usually make 'black' from ultramarine blue and burnt siena or transparent red oxide. I can vary them warm/cool but it is hard to repeat. The only time I have actually used ivory black was a brief time when I was fooling around with some abstraction and used it with ultramarine blue. I was surprised how rich the color seemed because the usual word is 'black' makes a painting look dirty. I have noticed a similar effect with neutral tint and watercolors - this is a bit like coloring brown easter eggs. Why in particular did you use ivory black in the sky?

One of my gazillion questions concerns edges. I have an incrediblely hard time with edges and making them much too hard. Can you keep this in the back of your mind as you narrate and describe how you make the edge have the softness or hardness you want? And how you use edges to form the composition and direct the eye?


Stapleton Kearns said...

I can teach you more if you are painting in oil, painting is painting though most things stay the same. I can critique Acrylics.. I would recommend that you change to oils though. I think that they are far superior. I have a friend, Charles Movalli, a well know New England painter who switched because of health reasons and he says he is happy with them, and his work still looks good to me. I can tell they aren't oils but its not a problem.

Often teachers of painting will recommend their students not use black. I use it and a lot of fine painters have as well. The dangers of it are as I see it twofold.
One is that it is not a great pigment to have under things and is said to promote cracking. I have considered checking out mars black for this reason.
The real danger to black is that students use it to form their shadow colors, that is they automatically add black to the color of the object in the light to make the shadow. That is deeply wrong. If that's what you are doing with black you probably should lose it.
Your ultramarine and red iron oxides are a fine way to go.
Another standard black can be had by mixing viridian and alizirin. That makes an inky black that is about as dark as black can get. I will try to work more discussion on edges into the future posts. Everyone paints edges too hard as they learn. You should develop the habit of looking at every stroke you make and checking its edges for their degree os softness. If you keep the whole show soft well into the making of a painting it is easy to tighten up a few edges later. If you paint too hard it will make a few partially softened edges look OK when maybe they are not and only soft by comparison. There's about 10 posts worth of information that need to be thrown down to really flesh that whole edge thing out ( we'll meet on edges soon said I,proud 'neath heated brow )....Stape