On the Edge of Field and Forest

Another winter day . . . snow, sunrise, warm and cold. Pointillism once more.

This time I laid in the background color, such as the blue of the sky merging into the gold of the horizon, blending them together with white. the same with the diagonal hedgerow and foreground snow. After that, I used a tiny, tiny brush, soft to the touch, and filled it with gouache paint I thinned down a lot.

The time to complete this painting was easily 2-3 hours (with time out for lunch and a nap, of course!). I think the color gradation, especially in the sky, has worked well with the usage of small points of color. I also tried to make the middle ground snow cooler and greyer than the foreground snow.

Ahhhh! It feels so good to paint!

Terrasse de Meudon – Gouache Study After Paul Signac

I must say, Signac does make a lot of cheery, colorful paintings! Not only are his colors great, but his compositions are often so interesting. Here, another study, mine perhaps more colorful than the original.  It is always hard to tell when you look at something on a monitor.  Even my scans are often off, needing some color adjustments before a final jpg is created.  Age can often cause colors to deteriorate in oils, too, as the varnish yellows and dims the original.

What really attracted me in Signac’s work below were the lavenders, greens, and blues.  So many shades!  Additionally, I really tried to look into how he juxtaposed colors, such as the oranges mixed in the blues and lavenders of the paved surfaces of the foreground.  The warmth of the scene in the middle ground plays a pleasant contrast to the cool, shady canopy of the trees at the top of the painting.

I am learning a bit each time I copy a painting in the Pointillistic school.  Colors are distinct from one another.  Even when a work is not a “dot” painting, I am beginning to get a better sense of color and shapes, contrast, and so on.  Much of this is just sitting around in my subconcious, and sometimes, with an original painting, it manages to escape.

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.

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.

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.

Cassis, Cap Lombard – Detail Study from a Painting by Paul Signac

After putzing around with attempts to emulate some of Monet’s Impressionistic paintings of Etretat, I muddled around and found the works of Paul Signac, a Neo-Impressionist and Pointillist. These two schools espoused dabbing, using complimentary colors and such to create a sense of light and movement. They are rather delightful to my eye – I am a magpie at heart – and the vibrant colors and energy of these painters fascinates me.

Here, I decided to see what I could do with a detail of Paul Signac’s painting, which you can see below. His rocks, or whatever they are, and their reflections in the sea caught my attention. My reflections are not very good. As a first attempt to try pointillism, I just started with making dots on the unpainted paper. In reality, the best way to start would have been to laid down solid areas of underlying color, and then build upon that with the dots.

If you look at Signac’s painting, you will see the use of orange and blue in the shadows – reflected light in the shadows. What I also found fascinating is his use of different shades of blue – ultramarine, cobalt, and cerulean in particular. Together with varying shades of orange, yellow, and ochre, he created the stone reflections. I found this very hard to do, but think I get the idea!

More to come. The purpose of copying or interpreting Signac’s work (and Monet’s) is to get a better sense of color. With pointillism, the colors are applied individually. Doing this myself, I begin to appreciate the purity of color when juxtaposed with another.