Sunday, August 30, 2009

More of the same demo

I am going to continue a little with some details and explanations on the piece I discussed last night. The photos tonight are taken in the studio under my halogen lighting and the picture looks much warmer, It is probably more accurate but all photography seems off to me. I have tuned them in photoshop but I am never really happy with the results.

As I explained, I did an underpainting in raw umber. I wanted the real traditional look of a brown ground hanging out under my thinnest passages. I am not a big fan of burnt umber and seldom use it. I sometimes underpaint with burnt sienna, and occasionally ultramarine. Drawing is mostly delineating the darks, all of those are colors I would be happy to have operating on the bottom of my darks. That is, I won't have a problem if they mix into the color of my shadows. Raw umber is also transparent, warm, and dries quickly. I have seen people get into big problems underpainting in bright reds and cadmium yellows etc. that act as a pollutant in their shadows.

Here is a detail of the upper left hand corner of the painting. If you click on it you should get lots of detail and the ability to inspect my brushwork. The birchs were actually dead, I put some foliage on them, this was done with a #12 brush for the most part with little details going in with a #4 and a rigger. It is and arrangement of different sorts of marks. There are plenty of thin accent lines along the trunks and branches they make the passage pop. Without there contrast the area would look dead. I also made sure the sky was low enough in value that the white trunks would show against it. It was not that way in nature. This is an example of something I have said before.

although you worked hard to learn to state your values accurately, there are times, particularly in landscape painting when you will want to state them artistically. They are subject to the decision making process and are a tool of design like any other.

I made a point of placing at least four values in that passage. I arranged them deliberately, they are:
  • the sky
  • the foliage
  • the bark shadows on the branches
  • the bright note of the white branches
Each of these notes is necessary to tell the story of what is going on there, and each value needs to be a step apart from the rest. The most common fault I see in the work of beginning, and intermediate painters is a lack of enough values. They might for instance see that one thing is darker than another and hit it with a heavy dark,. rather than having a choice of several different darker values in their inventory.It reminds me a little of something I heard about primitive premathatical cultures who would count, one, two, three. many.

I have deliberately used a light and fluttering brushstroke to describe the foliage and I have thrown little accent marks in there to suggest individual leaves. I have also thrown some little shadow notes onto the trunks of those trees, little dark accents, and leaves that cross in front of them all break up the overly linear look. That keeps things from getting too perfect. I want those trees to twist in and out of the flickering light and appear and disappear as they rise towards the sky. This kind of situation calls for a fair amount of finesse or it looks wooden and inartistic.

Here's a detail of the foreground left, again if you click on this you will get a larger view. There isn't a leaf or blade of grass in there. All is suggested with brushstroke that generalizes their appearance. The last thing I would want to do would be to fill a corner like this with carefully rendered detail. From a distance I want the passage to read as grass and goldenrod and all, but up close I want it to be beautiful paint. I always like the magic aspect of impressionism . It is sometimes paint and sometimes nature. It is a sort of dance along the line between the two.

I also paint with surface. The paint is thicker and thinner, hopefully in an artistic way. When done well the paint has a luscious quality. One of the thing I like about handling, which is made up of brushwork and surface, is that there are so many things out there that try to look like paintings. The way we know a real painting these days is in part by handling. In today's world handling is more important than ever, There are blown up photos, projected and then naively copied onto the canvas by souless meatpuppets, there are giclees and there are prints on canvas and who knows what else!

Notice in that detail also, my signature. I think a signature is more important today also. It is a sort of branding, a certificate of authenticity in a way that was unnecessary before the rise of the many paintinglike products. I could never understand why an artist would have an illegible signature. Whats the point of a meaningless glyph? If you made it, claim it, certify the damn thing!

Beneath that signature is a date, see it? I spread it out below the whole signature because I think that looks cool, but that year is there. Many years ago my work was far more old timey looking than now, and I even used to sell it through antique galleries as almost all of the galleries then would only show modern art (how things have changed!) My father suggested that I should put dates on all of them lest anybody think they were old. But I didn't know the best reason for doing it until a few years ago. Then old pieces I had made in the late seventies and early eighties started appearing in the auctions. The catalog would always note "dated 1981" or something like that. I want people to see a work trading at auction is not my current work for a number of reasons.
  • I paint a whole lot better now,
  • I don't want people to think I am feeding my art into auctions myself in order to get whatever I cab for them.
  • I want people to see that the lower prices that art by a living artist almost inevitably brings are for things I did many years ago, and not for my current mature work.
  • I like to have people see those sorts of dates and think, "gee he's been around for a while!" That is reassuring to people that I am an established painter who didn't just start out last week. I wish to be recognized for my endurance.
Here I am, painting at Profile Lake in the White Mountains. Both Bierstadt and Jervis McEntee and a whole lot of other 19th century painters worked right where I am standing. Its my blog, I can put my picture in it if I want to.


Bob Carter said...

Hi Stape-
Great demo! I really like to read the "why" of your painting decisions. I think that's very useful for all of us.
I used to date all my paintings on the front until a much more experienced artist advised me against it. Her take on this was that in the minds of some people (potential customers) a painting a few years old must be faulty because it hasn't sold yet. Of course there are a zillion reasons a painting might still be available several years later, including that it hasn't been put on the market before. Nonetheless, I now date on the back side. I suppose in your case, not many pieces hang around too long to get "stale". :-)

Gregory Becker said...

Great post Stape. Your brushwork is so deliberately beautiful. Nothing looks accidental. More than that is your color accents especially at the bottom of the birches and where the shadow and light meet across the water.
Real nice visual play and the reflections come toward the viewer.
BTW I only put my initials on my work. I should sign it.
I love the pic of you. That scene behind you would have been my first choice.

Todd Bonita said...

Great post. I like to see how the painter was thinking and you've really hooked us up here. How long does a piece like this take you? I'm sure you talked about this before but Im guessing a day in the field and maybe a day and some change in the studio? Just curious. Beautiful painting and nice to see the cropped close up of the detail brush work.

Diane Greene said...

Do you consciously paint a space for your signature, or do you just sign it somewhere after the painting is finished?

Stapleton Kearns said...

That's not a problem. If a painting doesn't sell after a couple of years, I can paint out the year.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I am working on the picture I stared there. It might get posted, but it is very different from the last. It is a tight luminist piece in a three color earth pigment palette.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thank you I put in a day on location and a couple of days in the studio. Sometimes it takes less time, often more.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I will answer that in the post tonight