Sunday, June 14, 2009

June critique 4

One of my own paintings. I needed something at the top of the page, and even though you may have seen it before, here it is.

I have at the suggestion of a friend began posing on twitter each day when I have updated the blog. I don't imagine I will be posting anything else, like what color socks I am wearing.If you do twitter you can sign up,if you know a lot about twitter, get back to me and tell me what the hell its good for. I also have a facebook account. People kept asking me to "friend" them and I said no, until my wife asked. I have plenty to do painting my pictures and writing this blog. Both of those of th0se social networks are only of use to me in making readers aware of its existence.

I will start out tonight with a note on throwing away paintings. When you decide its time to clean out the studio you will probably find a lot of paintings that you no longer want to devote the space to keeping. Here's what to do with them.
  • Lay your rejects on the flloor and look for smaller "paintings" within them. Sometimes you can slide a frame around on them and find a painting to which you can cut down the larger canvas. My old frind John Terelac used to call this "reformatting" If you find one painting a year out of your rejects it will be worth the trouble. I have found quite a few. As this is a business to me, I am always delighted to save a part of a painting. A single find, will pay for my canvas supply for a year.
  • Panels, I paint a lot on Masonite panels, I generally don't throw those that weren't successful away, I scrape them a little with the side of my palette knife to get the ridges off of them. On my palette I make a stiff mixture of white and a little Liquin ( so it will dry in my lifetime ). I paint a thick coating of that over the panel using a stiff bristle brush, so that I leave brushmarks woven across the surface. Then I set them aside to dry for at least a couple of weeks. I have a loft at the back of my studio, so I throw them up there. When they are good and dry they are wonderful to paint on, those of you who have followed this blog for a while remember my discussing Seago. This gives a texture like he had on his panels.
  • If I am throwing a panel away I am very careful to be actually throwing them away. There are many stories of artists throwing paintings "away" only to discover someone has pulled them out of the trash and hung them up, or worse yet consigned them to the local antique dealer or posted them on e-bay.To prevent this I have a can of old spray paint in the studio. I spray a swastika on the front. Few of the jerks who will pull your painting out of the trash have the ability to clean that off, and selling a landscape with a big swastika on it is....well, difficult.
  • lay larger panels over a 2 by 4 on the floor and stomp on one side to break them. If one of the pieces has an image that could be saved, cancel it with the spray paint.
  • Canvasses, slash them with your razor knife, and then cut them off the stretchers. DON'T throw those stretchers away!
I heard a story once about Tom Curtin a Vermont painter of my grandfathers generation, who threw some half finished paintings away in a trash barrel behind his house. Evidently Emile Gruppe noticed this and rescued the paintings. Gruppe took them home, daubed at the a little bit with his own paint and then sold them as his own work. I guess Tom Curtin was furious. I heard this story very second hand and can't even swear it is true but......I have stood in the alley behind the house up in Cambridge, Vermont, that Curtin once lived in , where it supposedly happened and scratched my head.

I also want to respond to a comment from
Blogger A reader who said...

I'm glad that I'm not alone in thinking that painting and drawing gets harder the longer you work at it. I'm struggling to learn and I always feel like I'm taking big steps backwards.

I want tell you something I believe about learning to paint. So long as you
  • study great paintings in books and museums
  • read books by painters who could do it themselves
  • find someone who paints well, and get their criticism when you can. and or take the occasional workshop
  • paint steadily
you will automatically get progress. You can count on that. It won't be linear, that is you will paint along at a certain level and then all of a sudden jump to the next ability level. You will again remain on that plateau for some period of time and then be surprised one day as you realize you have grown into a new ability. If you do the things above I guarantee you that WILL happen. I have seen it in my own work and that of many others.

Below is a seascape sent in for the great critique. I know this place well, it is Halibut point on the northern tip of Cape Ann, Massachusetts.

I love painting seascape, in fact I started a new one today. I like to assemble them in the studio, mostly out of my head. I have painted many studies on location and I think the best way to get a seascape painting is to make it in the studio. They are the closest traditional painting comes to abstract expressionism. You can make almost any arrangement of rocks and water you can think of in almost any color. There are however a lot of "tricks" to it, and water does have an anatomy.

I had the good fortune, years ago to know Charles Vickery, a fine seascape painter and fine man as well. Charlie gave me a few lessons in seascape painting.he would come into my little gallery in Rockport and sit at my easel and paint demos for me. I still have one or two he did. It was like watching a magician. You would see it happen but that didn't mean you knew how it happened. Until I get my computer act a a little more together and recover from the passing of my laptop, I am without photoshop so I will have to talk about this painting tonight rather than working up a digital version of my own. I will do a week long series of posts on the anatomy of the water sometime later this summer. There is still so much yet to write!

The first thing this picture needs is a focus, in a seascape it is usually a major wave that is rolling in. There is the beginnings of a wave at about 9 o'clock but it really doesn't gather into a wave that commands attention. Its a little like a stage with all of the minor characters on stage but no leading man. There is a nice heavy rhythm to the water though. Water has weight and good seascapes make you aware of that.

This painting could use better control of color temperature, there is one sort of mid temperature in the rocks and the water could use some warm notes in it, particularly in the foam. I would expect the shadows in the rocks to be cooler, perhaps bearing optical violets. They are very common out in the sunlit landscape. The rocks need some simplification, that could be had by tying the lights together in that midground and making either the lights or the shadows dominant. They are evenly divided now in area. Either the light or the shadow should predominate by covering more area.

Also on the idea of predominance. The painting seems to evenly divided between rock and water. I think one or the other needs to predominate. Since it IS a seascape that should be the sea, to do that, the sea should cover about twice as much canvas as the rocks.

It seems all a little unrelated to me. The sea and the rocks and the sky need to bear a common note, a bit if "envelope" to hold the whole thing together. All of the colors in a painting should relate to one another, lest your painting become a mosaic of unrelated colors. For instance the sky color could be reflected in the "flat" parts of the water. The sky could also influence the upward facing planes of the rocks.

The value of the lights on the rocks in the foregound is too close to the value of the shadows in the midground. All of the lights need to be brighter than any of the shadows. In this kind of a sunlit environment the difference should always be several steps. That is important, if you neglect that, you will not get light in your painting.
I will return with more tomorrow.


willek said...

Hey, Stape. How about some comment on the "optical Violets" comment in your post. Do they occur in shadows when cool blue light from clear sky gets bouncing around in the shadows of reddish objects? Are they most likely to occur on certain days in certain light conditions? WillEK

Unknown said...

yes, me too, me too. A little more explanation of the shadow violets.

A painter friend who uses mostly panels for painting, does cut up
some "losers" on occasion to get a usable composition. He calls it "band saw editing."
When I throw canvases away, I slit them with a knife. Panels I scrape or sand down and use again.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I guess I had better post on optical violets tonight

Stapleton Kearns said...

Be careful sanding paint. Cadmium is for instance, safe enough to work with bound in oil. It is not safe floating around as dust where you might breathe it, so wet sand it or better yet, don't sand it.

deepbluehue said...

Thanks for your response. I definitely need to work more steadily and put my work up for critiquing.

Stapleton Kearns said...

You are welcome.
I hope you are as beautiful as that name.Or maybe you are a guy named Hugh?I would like to imagine you look like Elizabeth Siddall.

willek said...

Thanks, by the way for these crits. They are very helpful. They are no BS, nuts and bolts, straight talk. Nice and technical, too. Also thanks for turning us onto Elizabeth Siddall, a standard of beauty from the past that I had not heard of. WillEK

Maree Clarkson said...

Hi, the use of Twitter or Facebook can be what you want it to be - it's through TwitterTracker that I found your (lovely) blog. Check this out : Plein Air back in the 80's -

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thank you. I met a girl at a party back in about 1975 who was a dead ringer for Elizabeth Siddal, I was love sick for weeks.

Stapleton Kearns said...


Thankyou. I just signed up for twitter, you must be the first peson to find me through it. I had a little problem with some shocking "friends" whose taste in women was appalling.I guess I will have to monitor that. Thanks for stopping by