It has been incredibly difficult to find any time to paint over the last weeks. My job is especially time consuming right now and I’m trying to pick up the slack with the household stuff while my wife goes through her therapy. I forced myself to turn off my laptop for the weekend and holed up in our garden with my pochade yesterday.
6″ x 8″ oil on linen panel
One night, as I was trying to complete some stuff for work, I had a DVD of Scott Christensen playing in the background and I stopped working long enough to jot down a few notes from what he was saying. He was about to do a study and he was talking about the kinds of light one needs to be aware of when painting. He quoted both John Carlson who defined 4 types of light based on lightest to darkest – sky, ground plane, slanted planes and uprights. Then he mentioned John Singer Sargent. Sargent has always been a hero of mine, in fact I first picked up watercolor after seeing some of his but I’ve really never read much about him beyond some biographic material. Sargent defined these 5 types of light: light, shadow, midtone, accent (this can be either the lightest or darkest accent) and reflected light (either reflected up from the ground or down from clouds, for example). Christensen stressed that it was important to know what type of light you were painting at any given time. I wrote these notes in my sketchbook so I would have them to remind myself to think about it next time I was out painting.
Scott also talked about why he uses a limited palette of the primaries plus black and white and some greys premixed from the primaries and white. When I first started painting plein air, I used a similar palette but, over time other colors have crept in so I decided that, next time, I would go back to the limited palette for simplicity’s sake, if nothing else.
When I was out in my garden doing the above study, I got involved with trying to find something to paint and to get my canvas in the shade and my palette out of the dappled sunlight and all the things that one has to think about when painting outside and completely forgot about the notes I took but I did remember to use the primary only palette. In fact I didn’t have any black in my pochade and was too lazy to go back up to the house to get it so there was no black either.
The painting is a study of a little hemlock tree. I don’t think I captured anything of the character of the tree. I struggled with everything about it and consider it a complete failure except for one thing. Using only 3 colors forced me to produce something that was pleasing from a color harmony perspective. I can’t really take credit for it, Scott Christensen did it.
My assessment of my current PA painting skill level is that I really don’t ‘get’ foliage. I’m much more comfortable painting something man made and subordinating trees and shrubs to supporting roles. I guess that means there should be a lot of foliage painting in my immediate future.
Some artist bloggers note what music they’ve been listening to or what books they’ve been reading and I’ve always enjoyed reading that and have found some great writers and musicians from such notes. I just finished Charles Bukowski’s Factotum, which was a very bleak read but for some reason I really enjoyed it, (maybe because I’m not him!). I came across a young musician who I really like a lot, Nico Muhly. I’ve been listening a lot to his album “Speaks Volumes”. He has led me to some other wonderful music I may write about as well.