Thursday, January 28, 2010

Gaviota Bluffs

Still on my quest to paint the bluffs along the coast. One thing I've learned from this last painting...bluffs are hard to paint up close, hahaha. I suppose that is why most artists tend to paint them at a distance....many painting them at a very generous distance too. The bluff nearest the viewer here took most of the work and there were some very frustrating moments painting that area. Painting bluffs require a very loose approach which for me doesn't always come easy. I guess I like control and it is almost best to let that control go out the window and concentrate on just massing the color into the basic shape. Still, doing any detail after that takes less's like approaching the detail with a loose brush and a "heres a take that" attitude, hahaha. I'm' glad I hadn't started this painting doing that foreground bluff first because I probably would have wiped it down with turpentine. Sometimes it is best to leave the hardest part for last so all of that other good work will force you into finishing it.
Here is a demo as the painting progressed.....
The sky...easiest part. I block in my white and blues letting them slightly overlap and then fan it till it looks good to me. I left the tree area unpainted at this point. The distant landmass is just a darkened mix of the blue sky color.

After that I added the basic distant bluff color and then added the foliage. I get the colors close to what I want but I'll go back in later to adjust it near the end...greying down the greens and adding little specks of white here and there to suggest detail. A while back I used to try and paint these sections as finished sections but I've found it is easier not to waste all of that time and to allow myself to dial in the colors once the painting is just about completed. It's easier to tie in the fore,mid and backgrounds together as the painting is in that almost completed stage. Now I begin blocking in the foreground bluff and then using a knife to apply thicker textures of paint and small details. I will go in and smooth areas with a large brush switching back and forth between filberts and flats. It was a chore here and I'd go so far, stop...go check my email or eat and then come back for another look...or another beating, haha. I didn't like that right top corner of the bluff and lowered that area. Eventually it came together and got to a point where you say "this is it. it's time to take the lessons learned on this painting and move on to use them in the next painting". That is how I usually end a painting. You see where you concourged and where you were just along for the have to stop and really study where you were just along for the ride so you can make improvements there. Ususally, you can't really see the answer to the problem there because if you could you'd get out your brushes and fix it. So, you just take a good look, think and make yourself try that area in another upcoming painting. You go look at other artists work to see how they handled it. I don't subscribe to the theory that if you paint paintings like a machine gun spits out bullets that somehow you will suddenly one day do it have to actually stop and think. You have to be intellectual and figure out what is going wrong. Call an artist friend and ask how they handle it. Get out your art books and read...look...and paint again. Hey, they aren't always going to end up a masterpiece but you give it the best try you can...each and everytime you paint. Keep doing that and you can't help but get better. I'm happy with this one and think it will enable me to one day crank out a masterpiece.... "Gaviota Bluffs"

22" X 28" Oil on Canvas


Carolyn Jorgensen Potter said...

Thank you so much for posting your work-in-progress. I really appreciate it, and I learn a lot from it. :)

Suetois said...

Same here. I really enjoyed reading about the stages this painting went through--how and why. I agree about the need to think and understand why some things work and others don't. I almost always love my paintings right after I finish them. After looking at them and thinking about them for a couple of days, though, I can see the flaws. Then it's a matter of trying to figure out why something didn't work, if it can be improved, and how to do that. I know some artists think that this sort of intellectual analysis is over-rated, but I think it's truly improved my technique and continues to do that. Lately, I'm trying to figure out why various compositions work. I just find paintings and photos I enjoy and try to understand why that's the case. And of course if someone will *tell* you why they do things a certain way, you can really harvest some great Ah-Hah! moments.


Ron Guthrie said...

Hi Carolyn - Nice to see you in here young lady. Glad you like the WIP or Demo...I've always liked seeing those. Hey, look up John Budicin's website...he has a great demo on one of his plein air paintings there.

Hi Sue - Same way here....wait a couple of weeks and it's like someone turned a light on, hahaha. It really does help to view your work and do it with a skeptics eye...I don't know what you would call that that makes your brain see differently a few days later. Would be nice to be able to adjust it though, hahaha.

I think volumes of books could be written on composition. There is a good video on it by Ian Roberts called "Mastering Composition". Well worth looking into. He basically shows you some very simple compositional "standards" for painting...the "S", "L" or fulcrum...the Mass etc. Then he shows good examples of them. If you keep to just the few he shows you could do an awful lot of paintings with correct comps.

Marian Fortunati said...

Another interesting and informative post!!... I like Sue's comments too.

I was painting rocks and the sea today and found that too is difficult... Think I'll go back and re-read your post... maybe some of the info will sink in....

Ron Guthrie said...

Hi Marian,
I want to do the subject with good results but I'm not all that confident with seascapes right now. I remember starting out with landscapes and the early ones were learning trees, bushes, depth. Seascapes present a whole new set of things to be learned.

Maybe when you're not comfortable with something you just tend to create your own barriers that have to be eventually chipped away. It's that point in painting that is very frustrating. It's very easy to just say "no, I'll go back to my comfort zone". I'm going to try and balance between landscapes and seascapes, or at least Marine Art, for a while and see if things start to happen. I know one learn nothing by stopping.