There had been a class I had taken which had individuals using little squares of construction paper to mass together light, medium and dark values. This exercise was to help us see as artists and be able to create visually interesting paintings. The class was excellent, and I am so thankful that I was able to attend.
There is a lot to consider when creating a painting. I was incredibly intimidated when I decided to retry this path. It’s frustrating and can be a bit harsh if you don’t have a thick skin.
The creative process can be brutal. Winston Churchill, no stranger to battle or painting, called the process of painting a “battle royale”. The battle is between the artist and painting and only one can win.
Take the example of just arranging the three separate values of construction paper mentioned above. Now imagine that you need to consider these things in a painting and you haven’t even gotten to the color yet. Don’t forget about variation within your shapes, the hard and soft edges, and the all-important “glow factor”. Keep all this in mind as you work to strengthen your focal point.
Remember the essence of warm and cool within the colors and shapes of massed values. About those shapes, make sure they are all different. No ice cube trays!
Painting is so difficult it makes you wonder why anyone would want to do it.
This is a follow up post to “A painting a day part 2”
I was researching reference photos from a prior trip to use for a landscape painting after doing still-life for awhile, and was feeling pretty frightened. Did I even know how to paint atmospheric perspective anymore? What if it sucked!?
Well, again, I came back to the thought – it’s only paper, it’s only 9×12, it’s just paint. You can do it over again, it’s small and won’t take up months or even years of your life.
You can do this.
Right. I had my thumbnail sketch (always do one!) so that I would have my main darks outlined. I reserved my dark shapes throughout the painting. I started with the hardest, darkest soft pastels on the black Mi-Teintes paper (wrong side). I layered slowly, using very light pressure. I took my time. I wasn’t going to finish this in one day, one week, and may not even do it in a month. I was learning how to SEE again.
Slowly, it happened. The painting took form. I could see it coming into focus with each lightly applied layer. And finally, I could use the softest pastels for the punch of color in certain areas, while reserving the black of the paper for my darkest areas, and it was done.
This painting took me a bit longer than a day. I’m happy with it, and I have learned everything I think I could learn from this painting. Even though I am not officially producing a painting every single day, I am producing a painting as often as I can, and my work is definitely improving because of it. I used to produce maybe a painting every month or 6. Now, I am producing around 3 per month. This is huge because it means I am not avoiding the process of painting.
I feel like I am painting on my own terms and most importantly, without fear.
I did this sketch from a photo taken while my husband and I were on a whale watch tour around Vancouver. I had to minimize the Cascades because they were in the middle of the page. I’m not completely sold on the drawing for a painting.
This painting of a scraggly tree at Red Rocks was my reintroduction into soft pastels.
I took a class with Jane Christie called “Paint Fearlessly “. She is a fantastic pastel artist from Evergreen Colorado and a great instructor. While I don’t believe this painting to be a masterpiece, as I am sure it’s going to take me some time before I can get there, this painting broke several barriers for me.
First, it had been SO long since I had drawn or painted that I didn’t even know if I still could. Second, my brain was so unpracticed at seeing as an artist, I didn’t know how to look at objects anymore. Last, I was afraid of the discovery process itself and what exactly it would reveal about my capabilities or lack thereof.
Frankly, I was pretty terrified that this huge piece of me was lost forever.
This class was the perfect remedy. We didn’t dive into drawing or painting right away. Instead, we were taught how to see.
What does that mean?
It means, we spent a good hour looking at paintings done by the greats in monotone and discussing where the light, medium and dark values were placed. It’s not as easy as it sounds. Then, we were given white and black construction paper squares and a mid-tone piece of paper. Our task as individuals was to place the squares according to value onto the paper in a way that would give you a focal point. Again, not that easy. The 3 values have to be different shapes and sizes when massed together.
Then we could start painting from our reference photo. I strongly believe this class and the exercises we did before painting helped to set me up for success. Jane came by and gave me some really helpful feedback as well. Without this class, I feel I would be approaching the painting process in an undisciplined manner.
And the class delivered on its promise. Previously, I was creating chaotically. I’m now painting fearlessly because I know the steps involved to create impactful visual art.