The summer months bring rain to the American Southwest. Skies become dark, light bright and fleeting; a sudden downpour, and then it vanishes. The clouds clear and once more the intense light returns. Everything becomes more vivid and alive during these brief showers and scudding clouds with lightning often adding to the drama. To me, this is the desert at its best – a harsh beauty in a harsh land.
Month: June 2022
I just recently realized that I can use Photoshop to help me create shades of grey in a photograph. This is particularly useful when trying to render a portrait into a painting. Portraits are very difficult to produce with any reliability as a painting because the face is subtle in construction, and thence, subtle in gradation. My skills are lacking in this arena.
To begin, I found a portrait on Pixabay. From there, I imported it in PS and applied an “artistic” filter, using the “cutout”, keeping defaults. I then printed out the photo, sized to 5×7, and gridded it out to a correspondingly sized piece of paper.
Once done, I chose gouache as the medium to use – already out on the desk, and easy enough to use without making myself crazy. First done was all the darkest values on my drawing.
I just lay down the black in most of the areas that looked darkest to me. I missed a few areas, but since gouache is able to be applied over previous layers, I was not too worried. Also, as this is the first time I have ever done this, I was not too concerned about perfection – the experience was more important.
From there, some white was mixed in with the black to produce the second darkest shade. Truthfully, I did not mix in enough white as it was nearly the same shade as the black when it dried. That is the nature of gouache – it dries darker than it goes on. I had to lay on a second and third layer.
Next, the third shade of grey. This I tried to push into being lighter than I thought I needed. From there, the highlights as light as I thought I needed. Again. the white was really a light grey that dried rather darker than expected.
Finally, I increased the white, using titanium white instead of zinc white (the former being more opaque than the latter) and did some touching up and adding of detail.
This is the final image. The paint is cracking a bit as it is really thick in some areas. Given this is 5×7 or less, the detail is not too bad, but I wouldn’t like to have this a portrait of myself! The goal of doing values is what is key here – light to dark, catching the face. Much room for improvement, but what I set out to do – a value study – worked out.
I plan to use this method with PS to do more portrait studies. Tools like this aren’t cheating – they help you see what is in front of you more clearly. Gridding the photo onto paper helps keep proportions relatively correct. I would like to do this on a bigger surface with acrylic, perhaps limning in only the white and black values, and from there adding the different shades of grey before moving into a final white.
For the past several weeks I have been immersed in painting classes – 2 or 3 a week, and too many hours to count. I finally decided I was doing more than was good for the rest of my life, and decided to cap it to a few hours a day. That balanced things out as I was getting rather nutso.
This is based off a Pixabay photo of trees and snow, at sunset or dawn. I am not sure if this one is “finished” yet, but think it is done enough to scan and put online. It is acrylic paint on a piece of 11×15 watercolor paper. I decided to use it as the paper is 100% cotton but the sizing is not good. As I bought the paper a long time ago, I cannot return it.
One thing about painting in acrylic, you can paint on a lot of different surfaces. I like the feel of paper beneath my brush more than a canvas panel that I have gessoed. Maybe it is because I am used to its surface texture, but there is more of a connection there with its surface – smoother than a cotton canvas panel, but with some tooth. I do plan to learn more about oils later this summer but need to play with it a lot more and figure out where to paint as oil solvents, while now often odorless, are still volatile and not exactly something to be breathing in a closed space.
As I work on learning how to paint I also explore different artists. Right now I have been looking at a lot of the Russian artists of the Impressionist variety along with ones from the 1930s, such as Nikolai Timkov and his fellow painters. Impressionists and more modern painters appeal to me because their sense of color and brushwork, as well as subject matter, are more to my liking than any other era. I like abstraction, too, so a bit of all of these appeal to me. Strong graphics, elegant composition, good colors get my eye. Art is really a personal thing anyway. What I want to hang on my walls may be nothing you would even consider . . .
All this painting is also making me think about brushwork. It expresses so much. Smoothly blended or broken? I think the next exploration will be broken brush strokes and trying to choose a color and put it down – paint it and leave it, as Ian Roberts is telling us!
Today I refilled my gouache palette with colors, and then some more colors. I threw in some retardant, too. And I tried to paint. Gosh, it is amazing how you have to reacquaint yourself with something!