Leonardo da Vinci

Where the spirit does not work with the hand there is no art.

--Leonardo da Vinci

Friday, January 27, 2012

Painting a Sunny Winter Scene

Winter Clearing
My trips to The Burnt Bridge Creek Greenway have harvested some great reference material to use in my studio work; the composition i used for Winter Clearing is one of my favorites. The numerous scraggly bushes, twisted trees, and killer colors are warming to my soul in the cold of winter, and i am hopelessly drawn to their power.
I have been gearing up to paint more in larger format and i feel this view of the fields, through the bushes and trees and on to the background hills, lends itself well to a larger forum to do its speaking.
Something occurred during this painting that i wasn't expecting though..... the scene depicted here was actually a bit overcast. While putting pigment to panel, i found myself using colors that would indicate a brighter day, and strangely enough i found it working for me... so i just went with it. This brings up an interesting thought: At what point does a painter recognize that something is working or not working? And what do you do with that? This leads to the big question....when is a painting finished?
I think it's critical to be self-aware; but that is not enough.... One has to be able to trust their own instincts, and then confidently act upon them. That might include shutting it down before a painting gets overworked. It might also mean that you revisit a painting after a period of time with a fresh set of eyes.
I know i'm not alone, when i say it's a struggle knowing when a painting is finished. It might be the hardest thing about painting, but no one can tell us when a painting is finished. That is part of the struggle and learning and growing process that must take place from within and will ultimately make us better painters for it.
I will never claim to be a great draftsman when it comes to painting. I will never have all my i's dotted and t's crossed. The important things i want to show up in my work are emotion, depth, texture, and passion. And, i think that's why people connect with art. They acquire a connection deep in their soul, with a certain piece of art, and that's when the inferno begins.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Painting the Snow

First Snow
Tuesday evening after arriving home from a meeting with Northwest Oil Painters (around 9:00), i grabbed a bite to eat as the first serious snow of this winter started to stick on the valley floor. As the snow began to accumulate, i decided that i was going to go out and paint my first plein air snow scene; which happens to be something i have been anticipating for months. So, after i wolfed down my grub and chatted with my wife a bit; around 10:30 i loaded up my gear and walked down the block to go find my snow scene and paint it.
I knew i wanted Old Evergreen Hwy in the painting, but trying to layout the composition was a challenge. I landed on the corner of our street where the hwy makes a slight bend and has a couple street lights and some interesting trees. And of course the fresh coat of snow makes everything come to life.
There wasn't much traffic, but a snow plow did manage to get my attention as it rumbled by and obliterated the soft tracks. And my poor umbrella only collapsed once leaving my palette even more sparkly with a snowbank of its own.
I managed to stay warm and fairly dry the entire time, except for one thing........my hands. Holy Cow! My fingers were so cold that when i started packing up to head home, they couldn't even break down my tripod. I had to put on some gloves and work the knobs with the palm of my hand. I know what you're thinking, but i am NOT wearing gloves when i paint, at least not chunky work gloves, i need the dexterity.
I arrived home at 12:30 and tried to shake the snow off everything as best as possible and began the warm up of my hands. I was so wired from the experience that i did not go to bed until 2:00 - even though a full day of work was only four hours away. I say that, not to complain, but to explain the depths of what a painter will do to capture a moment in time - and i wouldn't have it any other way.
This nocturnal experience of plein air painting left me craving more snow - the fleeting and tranquil beauty it brings when it graces the valley floor is futile to resist.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Painting the Sun

Filtered Sun
During my New Year's Day plein air painting excursion to the Burnt Bridge Creek Greenway, i came across this scene. The painting i did that afternoon was a thumbnail shot of this composition which turned out nice, but when i saw the sun filtering through the clouds, i instantly knew that i wanted that in a painting too. So, i took some photos and my three paintings for the day and headed home with the anticipation of creating a painting with another dimension in it; the sun.....
I completed this painting in pizza painting like fashion with a layering, texturing, and making-breaking-making again mentality, over the last couple weeks and it was a joy to create.
My favorite thing about this painting is the sun. I have never painted the sun or the moon before, but i have been wanting to for some time. Now, while the sun and moon are ever present, they are not always paintable subjects for me. So when the sun became paintable to me, i was really excited to give it my rendition and add that wildcard element to a painting.
I don't often see the sun as striking as it was on that day. It was totally there, but as if i were looking at it through welding glass and it just became a glow in the sky which was simply beautiful, understated, yet powerful; I love those adjectives. It's difficult to describe, and i think a rare occurrence, but when i can use the words beautiful, understated, and powerful in the same sentence, then i have come upon something truly unique that speaks to me in the poetry of a brush putting paint to panel.
I hope you enjoy the Filtered Sun as much as i enjoyed painting it.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Progression of a Flag Painting

I have been working on a series of flag paintings; i thought it would be fun to have you walk with me through the progression of one of them. Currently, i have completed six paintings in this series, and more will follow.
So here we go.....
Initial sketch on tanned panel. Laying down my darks and blocking in shapes getting ready for white. As i lay in the white stripes the flag starts to take shape. Finishing off the white stripes and putting down the initial background sky.
Old Glory IV
Final touches include: adding more dimension to the sky, popping in the stars, and strengthening the pole.... there you have it! A celebration of Old Glory living and breathing, and i am quite happy with the outcome.
It is fun to do a progression like this - we can look back and maybe bring ideas and thoughts of how to do something different to a future painting. For me, i really like the way the lone flag looked against the tanned surface of the panel - without a sky. I think it gave a rustic feel to the flag that i really like, so i did one and you can view that version by clicking on the Flag Paintings link: http://michaellindstromartist.blogspot.com/p/flag-paintings.html
Any thoughts that come to your mind?