Monday, October 18, 2010

Enslaving values to design

I am still decompressing from the absolutely epic trip with fourteen of the nations finest painters to Provincetown, Massachusetts. We worked like dogs and partied some too. What a great trip! I learned all kinds of new things!

Above is a recent 9" by 12" painting I made, below is a photo of the location. I am not sure the photo is exactly from my position but it is from within a couple of feet anyway. Notice the enormous difference between the two.

I have simplified the scene a lot, and I have left out a lot of stuff, but I have done something more. I have set up a big pattern of light and shade, my values, and I have imposed them on the scene. I have "enslaved" my values to my design. My design is more important in the hierarchy of my painting than transcribing the actual values before me.

I wanted to simplify thew entire foreground into a big shadow shape. The benefit for me in this was that it set up my middle ground to be in a contrasting bright light. If I hadn't dropped the value of the foreground, the middleground light wouldn't have registered on the viewer. Even though I could see all of that stuff in the foreground, I deliberately "lost" it all into the big shadow shape I created.

I was asked by someone on the trip, after I had been out working on the same painting for about four hours, what I did to handle the changing light. My answer was:


Because I have a formal arrangement of light and shadow that I am carrying out, the light can change some, but I won't need to follow it. I already have a pattern into which I am putting my light and shadow,. As the light changes, for the most part I will stay with it. Sometimes something really cool shows up and I alter my plan to include it, but I try to keep to my pre-designed value plan.

I worked this plan out in the first hour or so I was working on the painting, in a monotone underpainting that was pretty carefully worked up. It was almost a finished version of the painting in a single tone.

More about this tomorrow.


Snowcamp, a three day snow painting workshop, is scheduled for January 29th, 30th, 31st. Like last year, Snowcamp will again be held at the Sunset Hill House near Franconia Notch in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Last year we braved some cold temperatures and had a lot of laughs doing it. After a day of painting in the snow, we all meet for dinner in our private dining room and enjoy the camaraderie of the other artists. This is a total immersion experience, a refrigerated boot camp.
We can walk out the inn's backdoor, and paint the panoramic views of the Whites and if our feet get cold run back inside by the fire for hot coffee. There are great locations all over this area if we want to leave the enormous grounds of the inn. Built at the turn of the last century, the inn is charming and comfortable without being too formal. I have taught three workshops there and it is an ideal venue. They also give us a special rate. This is sacred ground for American landscape painting, Bierdstadt, McEnteee and Kensett and nearly all of the other Hudson River School artists painted here in the1860's Here is the link to sign up.

I have filled one ten person workshop, and scheduled a second. The second is filling gradually. I am not sure just what it means but with one exception or so, everyone signing up is a returnee. I have 50% of last years participants back on the roster for this year. I think that is probably a recommendation for the event, if you are thinking of signing up.


Unknown said...

it is always one of my favorite things to see a photo of the place, and then the interpretation you made of it. One of the big lessons I have learned from you is that we are interpreters, not "recorders" - this is a fabulous example of that.
I wonder how many of us would have seen that place and passed it right by as having no artistic interest? said...

I am impressed,really. I have to learn that discipline of holding on to the original vision in the changing light.Good lesson.

Nice avatar too

Anonymous said...

Wow~ what a beautiful interpretation - I don't know if that's even the right word to use - but what you did with the view is just amazing. Very inspiring~

Pat Jeffers, Artist said...

The scene in the photograph is nearly a jumbled mess. What was it that visually attracted you and made you want to paint it?

Anonymous said...

I do enjoy reading your posts..... thanks for sharing your thoughts and technique advice. Do you have an image of the initial work up in monotone?

Jo-Ann Sanborn said...

Fourteen of the nations best MEN painters. Sounds like such fun and the work you've shown us has been fabulous. You've said it before but this is a really clear example that a painter's responsibility is to the canvas not the scene. Thanks!

Karla said...

I remember a few posts ago when you were enduring the rainy days and stated that you had your outside spot all picked out and I anxiously anticipated the view you had picked. Wow, was I suprised when a few posts later there was a picture of you standing in what looked like a back alley painting a simple house - fascinating! So much to learn.

Susan Daly Voss said...

"I AM A PICTUREMAKER" !!! Thanks for that reminder, and excellent example of making a plan and sticking with it.

Woodward Simons said...

Thanks Stape for posting this valuable example. I suppose being able to redesign as you have done comes with much practice combined with knowledge.

You're a master at it. Thanks again!

Mary Byrom said...

Nice post Stapleton. Showing the choice made with all the junk around is what it is really like in "real life" painting en plein air. I know for me it can often be a 1 or 2 second flash of a view that makes me choose it. Of course the more I look at it the more junk appears so sticking to the first memory is where its at. You also grounded this design in what I call "echoing shapes".(in slightly different temperatures and values) Which are really clear in works of the Masters (Winslow Homer comes to mind with lots of good examples of that...)

JonInFrance said...

That's just sooo inspiring! Lovely painting

barbara b. land of boz said...

Well said and well done.....
Thank you for the time spent and the look inside the design.

BTW...I loved the video from the
p-town trip, It was like being a Fly on the wall!!

willek said...

Great interpretation of the everyday into the special. Thing is, regardless of the changes you made, I think most of the natives would know where this painting was done... and probably remember it more like how you painted it rather than how it looks in the photo.

Sorry to be missing the Snow Camp as I have a conflict. I attended Snow Camp II last February and am still working off the knowledge you imparted. It was an informative workshop-athon and was the most thorough treatment of winterscapeing I have ever been through.

Stapleton Kearns said...

It was a great location, it was just too complicated.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I can't believe you are impressed. I didn't know you impressed. Go figure.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Hey, thanks.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I liked the red chimney and the piers in the foreground.Lots of subject matter is jumbled but usable.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Sorry I do not.I have shown monochrome underpaintings before though.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I didn't write the guest list. I would rather have women along. I like em.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I like to paint street scenes. If I stand in an alley, that's OK, less traffic.

Stapleton Kearns said...

"I AM A PICTUREMAKER" !!! that is a big idea. Might make a dandy neck tattoo.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Woodweard Simons;

Stapleton Kearns said...

'Thanks. I like to paint things that are funky. I would rather deal with 'junk" than a cleaned up souless waterfront like some towns now have.

Stapleton Kearns said...


Stapleton Kearns said...

That video of Ignat is like a painting lesson for free.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Sorry you can't come. I will miss you.

jeff said...

I'm curious about the chap who asked why you changed things. On the one hand they are a very good painter, but on the other he did not understand the concept.

I find that fascinating.

Stap, great post and highly educational as always.

Mary Sheehan Winn said...

This is a fine example and I appreciate the point you make about 'enslaving the values' to the design.
Being a 'picture maker' is the thing to remember from the beginning of the painting.

Pat Jeffers, Artist said...

Thanks. I learn so much from you.