Old One

Early last summer, or late last spring, I visited a park with a friend. It is in Los Angeles, above the 118 freeway, so if you frequent the area you might recognize the photo (below) and the painting (above).

It is the kind of park I like – open, easily accessible, and then winding away from the city into the canyons beyond. Since my friend cannot get too far, we never have gone deep into the canyons, but perhaps one day I will go further than I have. It has some lovely tended areas and then wilder areas, but what I particularly enjoy are the oak trees.

This is the view from the pathway returning to the city, and this tree never ceases to find a soft spot (hopefully a sharp spot with good focus in a camera!) when I visit. I think we all have trees or buildings or places we enjoy revisiting.

More pointillism, more gouache.

To the Lighthouse

A bad reference to Virginia Woolf’s novel, which is an interesting read.

This painting is a dedication to lighthouses worldwide. They have saved so many lives by letting sailors know of treacherous waters. Add to that, lighthouses are often found in spare and rugged places, all of which make for dramatic and wonderful photos and paintings.

I have often thought I would like to live in such a place, hearing the waves crash, watching the light circling through the night, and, of course, the sound of fog horns. Throw in some seal barks and sea gulls, and I would be pretty happy. Sleep could be a challenge though.

I made up this painting, amalgamating lighthouses and buildings from various images. My goal was to practice shading, such as moving from a sunlit side to the shadow side, using pointillism techniques. You can see this on the conical shape of the lighthouse as well as on the buildings. I have tried to give a sense of cliffs and housing sunk down a bit behind the green of the grass. Morning or evening light for the sky, or an intimation of fog and filtered sunshine is also attempted.

As I work more in pointillism, I realize that this helps me tremendously in sorting out colors. As far back as I can remember, mud has been my most famous by-product in painting. It could be that this is something I really need to use as a primary technique, though I am thinking of doing a pointillistic painting in gouache, and then re-wetting it to blend the colors applied in dots.

Now, on to other adventures!

A Winter Morning

Still dreaming of snow and winter, but honestly glad not to be in the northeast! More snow dumped in 24 hours than was dumped all of last year. That is a lot of snow! Nothing like snow up to the roof, no electricity, and wondering how you are going to stay warm. When I was a kid, we burned oil for fuel, so heating the house wasn’t an issue as far as I can remember, but I do remember a few times when my youngest brother was in diapers, and there was no electricity to heat water. Frozen pipes, too, but that is usually easily solved by letting the water run gently through open taps.

I am continuing using gouache and Pointillism. Something in me just loves this, and I have started looking beyond Paul Signac and into contemporary artists. The graphic quality of Pointillism and the colors keep drawing my eye. Also, I am getting more “aware” (for want of a better word) of color interplay by using dots and mushing colors together.

Meanwhile, today in California it was a chilly 68F and I had to wear socks in the house.

Dreaming of Snow

Our cold winter thus far has hit a low of 64F or so in the past several weeks. No snow, certainly; sadly, no rain, either. Perfect for the next fire season, which is becoming a longer and longer annual event.

So, I dream of snow, and pull up memories of living in upstate New York, hiking for miles across woodlands and farms in the early morning or early evening. The light slants, the air mists, and a winter wonderland becomes a magical world filled with rivers and creeks, trees, and trails left behind by others.

Santa Paula Ranch in Winter

California is filled with open space and ranchlands; in fact, according to the US Department of Agriculture:

Over a third of the country’s vegetables and two-thirds of the country’s fruits and nuts are grown in California. California is the leading US state for cash farm receipts, accounting for over 13 percent of the nation’s total agricultural value.

So, California is far more than rich people, Los Angeles, and movie stars. Where I live, agriculture is a major industry. It is around little towns and large suburban areas that you find ranches, for flowers, avocados, citrus, strawberries, and vegetables. Here, a view of a ranch in Santa Paula, taken from a train ride several years ago. The original photo is below.


 

Le Port au Soleil Couchant, St. Tropez – Paul Signac Study

I really love this particular painting by Paul Signac, Le Port au Soleil Couchant, St. Tropez.  The colors and composition draw my eye in so many ways.  My study is above, and the illustration I used is below.   Unfortunately, its color is rather flat and muted compared to other versions I saw.  This image was the best I could find to download and share here.

There are a number of things I like about this painting. The graduation of colors in the sky, from the blue in the upper left corner and its movement through the spectrum to green, yellow, and orange. The sailboats provide a visual dance, from the one in the center of the painting, and the especially delightful one further back on the right. That one, for some reason, just expresses joy to me. I used to sail a bit, and that one catches me in particular – the keeling over in a good wind is a grand experience! Finally, the reflections from the center sailboat along with the ones to either side, moving in to the dock. There is a sparkle and liveliness throughout the painting, and the usage of Pointillism really brings home that brilliance of the Mediterranean clime.

My own progress through this painting took a bit of time and tactical consideration. From earlier paintings I learned that an under painting of the primary colors for the section to be painted produced good results, as well as provided a structural basis for the painting. This requires a good drawing to get perspective correct.

Above, you can see the basic under painting, using colors close to the final one.

The first layer of dots goes down, and in many instances I simply used what I had on my palette, straight out of the tube. As this is gouache, even when the paints are dry, I can mush colors together on the paper if I want.

I work on my drafting table and use a large monitor to see what I am looking at. Out of range of this photo, to my right, is my Chrome Book set up.

My second layer of color was done by using a smaller brush than I used to lay in the first layer of dots. And what color did I use? White! Tap, tap, tap. I felt like a woodpecker.

Finally, the painting is close to finished. More layers of dots and various colors.  Little details were added at the end, such as the flag on the mast, the gaps in the top sail which show the sky beyond, the people in the boat, the rigging on the boat moored to the left, the upright lines on the dock in the right mid ground (more moored vessels?), and after the photo was taken, the lines on the right mooring bitt.

The takeaway here?  More understanding on using color, and the strength of a good composition.  Signac provided both, but copying brought home some lessons.  It is hard to say what I am learning here, but I do know that my hardest lesson continues to be not making mud.  Separating colors out from others – specifically, not blending them (too much) – is easily done in Pointillism.  I wonder how this will impact my future work and practice.

On to finding another Signac to study!

Under a Summer Sky

More Pointillism!

This painting was done on a larger sheet of paper than my earlier ones as my sketch book was filled and finished with the painting of the other day. I began with a thin wash of gouache, putting in the basic colors of the sky, fields, house and trees. From there, I began the dots. And more dots. And even more dots. Paint went from thin to thick, and thin again. Dots were bigger and smaller. The closer I came to the completion of the painting, the more I began to use the paint to shape the different areas of the subject. I tried to use some complementary colors in shadows, such as red in the shadows of the trees, and bright yellow to enliven the lavender. Altogether, this painting took about 3-4 hours to complete (I lost track of time), but in the end, the dots were worth the effort.

I think I could live here.

Storm on the Prairie

Strange weather afoot – rain, wind, tornado.

If you have never lived on the prairies or traveled through the vast middle section of the U.S., you have missed some majestic land and sky. The weather can change in an instant, you might see it coming, you might not. Flat, lonely, filled with a terrible beauty.

Gouache, of course!

The Bridge

Take a look at this!

NOT a landscape!

This is really unusual for me – buildings and people intimidate me. However, by painting nearly every day I am gaining confidence in my abilities.

Also, the use of extremes in light and dark are another oddity for me, as well as the limited palette, the colors of which were primarily cad yellow and violet of some variety. White, too, along with some sienna, ocher, and ultramarine.

Painting really means learning a lot of things: how to use color, composition, brushwork. It is here that using a wide, flat brush to paint the buildings rather than my usual preferred rounds that I was able to achieve 90% of the painting. I was rather surprised by myself, and the result.

The View of the Seine at Herblay – Another Signac Study

As mentioned the other day, Paul Signac was known primarily for his Pointillism – the application of colored dots in painting to convey depth and light. Signac’s work is very graphic and structured, but he also used the same approach of color to produce paintings more of an Impressionistic flavor. The one below, The View of the Seine at Herblay, is the study for my practice piece above.

The first painting I did using Pointillism as the “style” I started by just laying on dots!  With a bit of paper to cover, only using dots became time consuming and tedious.  Thus, with this piece, I laid down broad swaths of the primary colors, essentially blues and beiges before applying dark colors for the leaves and reflections, and from there began the dot process.  As gouache is never permanently dry, I could go back in and lay in colors on top of others, as well as mush them together a bit.  Squishy good fun!  A firmly pointed round brush did the trick, using both the tip as well as the side of the brush.

Close looks at Signac’s painting show he did merge and blend his colors, as I did. I expect this was a quick sketch or a practice piece, or just a casual plein air painting for the joy of being outside. His other works that are more Pointillisticky have a very different quality. I think I will attempt to copy one of those in the not too distant future.