Monday, August 31, 2009

Smuggling red

Here's an update on the kittens, as you can see, they are growing rapidly. Isabelle is the black and white one and Toast is the other. OK, on with the show! Here is that painting again and below it is the next detail.

Here is the middle of the painting. I would like to point out a couple of things here. One is that I have deliberately painted different passages separate colors. I could have decided to take a tonalist approach and make them, all similar or closely related, I often do. Each of those brushstrokes is a different color than the ones around it. Look at the small green tree in the center of the detail. Above it is another tree that is ochre colored, above that the hill is a grayed olive color, in several variations and then the top of the hill is covered in pines that are an ultramarine color.

Look to the right of that middle tree. See the streak of light running in front of the big white pine down to the water? It is hot.

I am doing something here I call "smuggling red".

One of the things I do to landscapes to make "em" cooler, is smuggle red. Let me explain that to you. Blue and yellow are easy to see in the landscape, the sky is blue, the foliage is green ( blue and yellow ) surfaces in the light , dry grass and other things in the landscape are yellow. But red is more hidden. It tends to be woven into everything else. Often as a modifier. You don't see it out on its own as much as the other two, but its there just the same , woven into everything else.

Good color in landscape painting often calls for recognizing the role various reds have in the color notes of the painting. There's a story about a venerable New England painter who taught a lot of workshops. At the end of a long day he would run up and down the line of students, outside at their easels when he was tired and he would just say to each of them "more red, more red!" It sounds silly but it was more than a joke, because it WAS good advice. Almost every learning painter fails to get enough red into a painting. I try to weave a lot of it in as it steps on all of those greens that are so annoyingly It also takes the electric look out of a sky and keeps shadow notes from being too icy. Red is a wonder product!

So I smuggle reds. I am sneaking it into things, feeding it into other colors. I make a hot pink color myself and tube it up. It is the exact opposite of the color of green leaves and grass in the sunlight. I like to step on my greens with it, but it also goes nicely into skies and other places too. Some of the old landscape painters used to carry a color then called flesh, now called Caucasian flesh, I believe, for a similar purpose. My hot pink color is nothing like the old flesh color but the principle is the same.

Look along the water line at all of the reds and sienna I have stuck in there. They enliven the passages and form a nice foil for all that green.

You can see there is a warmer , slightly redder note in those passages, but I have played it up. I think there was more red there than the camera caught in this shot but you get the idea.

Let me point out to you another example in that passage. Look at the top of that big white pine.
Notice all of the red in that? You can paint the lights in pines with a lot of red and as long as you have some green in the shadow note, they look good. Nice and warm out there in the light and its another part of the canvas that isn't covered in green. I am always looking for ways to vary the greens, and to reduce the area it covers in a summer picture like this where I have LOTS of green anyways.

I was asked in the comments;

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

I always sign a painting at the lower left, as that is the traditional place to do it, and I want it found. Sometimes ,very rarely there is a design reason to put it in the lower right. I don't usually use any design strategy to make my signature fit, but I do try to paint that corner with very little impasto (texture). I always let a painting dry before I sign it. Signing over a rough surface is a nuisance. I often have to wipe it off a couple of times before I get a good signature, I couldn't do that on a wet canvas I sign with a rigger. I make a point of getting the signature on straight. The lip of the frame is going to be right there, and will show up a crooked signature. If you want to sign on an angle, make sure it is enough of an angle so that it looks deliberate.


Todd Bonita said...

Wow..another goody here. On occasion, I will read something about picture making or technique that I may have discovered on my own in the studio but never verbalized..This idea that you posted tonight about smuggling reds is one of those ideas that I recently discovered on my own while painting. I do it with other colors too whenever necessary and of course, depending on what I'm painting. For me, it's usually the very last step in finishing a piece..I stand back and say, "It needs more red".."Where can I put the red?"...I tune into that color and where it is in the image..I recently found that my ability to tune into a specific color for this purpose is improving with every painting and my confidence to use it intuitively is growing. Like almost everything, I suspect it's something that improves with practice. Great post, I was glad to know that smuggling color has a name and is regarded as a legitimate practice.

Philip Koch said...

Great pussy cats! All blogs need cat photos from time to time- I'm trying to think of a way to sneak a feline onto mine, but I don't have a cat so it's hard to think of an excuse.

Love Stape's phrase about "smuggling" reds. Let's face it- we're out there having a hopefully deep, emotional response to nature- it's moving, it's huge, the light's changing, etc. and all we've got is a flat surface and some colors. Of course we have to stand on our heads from time to time and push things in the paintings to build some drama. For perceptual painters in the summer the perceived greens in the motif can be really monotonous. Wolf Kahn once listened to me complain about this problem and replied "Tell me about it. I live in southern Vermont at the bottom of giant salad bowl."

Unknown said...

Thank you for all of the close ups of this painting the last couple of days - very helpful. The lesson on red was also very insightful.

One question, what do you think of Transparent Oxide Red for an underpainting? I have done it a few times and it seems to be a nice, dark, transparent, and earthy color that dries quickly. But, perhaps there is a reason NOT to use it?

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thanks, understand that smuggling red has a name because I gave it one. When you stand before the great painting judgment and utter that you will get a blank stare.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Aren't we all perceptual painters? Are their guys making paintings they don't perceive? I am confused and frightened. They are nice cats though, aren't they.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I had never even heard of transparent red oxide till I read Schmids book. It took a while to find, I think only Rembrandt makes one. I thought it was funny and never used it up. I am sure it is fine to use though. Schmid is a wonderful painter, but a lot of times I open up the magazines and see page after page of Schmid wannabes. Don't let this happen to you. If you must rifle someones pockets, make sure they are dead first.

Unknown said...

Just outstanding...i agree about the red...but you are giving away our trade secrets ;v)...houdini is rolling over in his grave

Anonymous said...

smuggling red...a colorful phrase, but how does it work? is it a color wheel complementary color in contrast with the ubiquitous greens, or just a warm color? i went for a hike this afternoon and there's not much red, so perhaps it's an artistic device; we thank you for that, and keep up the great work.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thanks, Houdini is only napping.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Hi there!, no it is just a catch phrase for deliberately sowing greens into the landscape. Iy is installation not observation.