Tuesday, 26 June 2012

More Summer Studies

(from top) Boat study done over at Regent's Canal over the Easter break; in-progress shots showing the general approach taken for the study, started from life and finished in the final sessions from photographs as the weather gradually turned from late-spring grey and drizzly to sudden-burst-of-mediterranean-sun over the weeks the study was attempted. The general key and temperature of the study still needs to be improved somehow- perhaps it would be a better idea to revisit and attempt a new study of the boat in summer weather to see how it may look.

Architectural studies- one of the Oxford Natural History Museum, the other a preliminary study for a project near King's Cross, Granary Square. Trying to understand the effects of golden hour lighting and learning to mass-in shapes more efficiently in a quick study. The drawing inevitably slips in a single session attempt though- go as broad as possible in terms of the block-in and don't expect in-depth turning-of-the-form and accurate drawings in one-shot paintings. It's part of the deal with alla prima, not everything is successful on the first try, and you can only attempt so much up to a certain level (it's like stopping short 2-3 steps into finishing a painting, perhaps the best analogy to describe quick studies).

Monday, 11 June 2012

Plein Air Anywhere

Two of the studies done at Occupy London that I was happiest with. Over Oct-Nov, I was working on plein air studies at the Occupy London sites over at St Paul's and Finsbury Square. It was... quite something- on one hand, having to paint with ALL of Square Mile and Central London converging down Temple Bar during lunch hour was... an interesting experience. Also, tents! And protesters! Many studies were lost because they were either: 1) keyed incorrectly (i.e. 'fruit salad and garish tents syndrome'), 2) have bad drawing, or 3) even badder composition (sad trombone sound). Around this time, I was researching on Russian painters of the Wanderers School, and was trying to assimilate and understand what went on in their sketches and studies (boss things, inevitably).

James Gurney in his book, Colour and Light: A Guide to the Realist Painter wrote on the advantages of working in overcast lighting outdoors (you see local colours of objects effectively without that annoying solar glare, sparkling, silvery light and sometimes uncertain weather conditions of this 'outdoors' thing). Using a more restricted and subdued pallette also helps (in these, I premixed a 'not-so-neutral grey' pile using Ultramarine, Trans. Oxide Red and white to neutralise more chromatic colours, and made sure that my darkest darks are still pretty chromatic (they're a mixture of the ultramarine, alizarin, and oxide red in varying amounts according to how cool or warm I want the darks to be). Spending more time on accurately drawing and assessing the shapes that I was applying was very crucial, as was taking the time to look closely and be as broad in terms of application of paint as possible (no small detail brushes just yet!). It was partly thanks to many failed past sessions at the site that these studies were working out okay.


On the subject of studies vs. 'pictures':

It is a mistake to make pictures too soon. The nearest a student is likely to to a picture is a careful study, and he will be as successful with this, if he makes it for the study of it... Imitation is the highest art; but the highest art requires the ability to imitate as a mere power of representation. The mind must not be hampered in its expression by a lack of knowledge and control of materials, and the painter who is constantly occupied with the problems he should have worked out in his student days, is just so far from being a master. He must have all his means perfectly at his command before he can freely express himself.

Parkhurst, Daniel Burleigh. (1903) The Painter in Oils: A Complete Treatise on the Principles and Technique Necessary to the Painting of Pictures in Oil Colours.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Summer Studies

Done last summer, various studies that survived and are hanging around somewhere in the studio. 

Hyde Park summer study. The drawing is quite off, but I learnt something valuable about covering the canvas as efficiently as possible, and learning how to see broad masses instead of individual detail. Will go back to the same location just to see how different a study now is compared to back then.


Regent's park vase study. Oil on card panel. This was interesting, first time working with a set of toned panels and working out-of-doors with supports larger than 5” x 7” (i.e. not a poster study).

 Trees at St James, gouache- messing around with some handling techniques, around this time, trying out certain things with watercolours as well. Recently saw a Newlyn school-ish watercolours at a Sotheby's public viewing- the soft edges and crazy-controlled technique was absolutely staggering, it looked like oils but done all in watercolours. Total boss-like handling, and something I wished to be able to attempt someday. The old adage that 'people who extensively use watercolours are either total amateurs or total masters' is so true. It's a reverse psychology thing- the less toxic the medium and pigments, the more difficult it is to handle!

Friday, 1 June 2012

The Hue Shift Bit, Part II

The real deal. Full pigment range, from left on the top most chart: Cad. Lemon, Cad. Yellow, Cad. Yellow Deep, Yellow Ochre Pale, Cad. Red, Terra Rosa, Alizarin, Trans. Oxide Red, Viridian, Cobalt Blue, Ultramarine Blue Deep. Things I missed out (or should've tried out): Cobalt Violet (in place of one of the warm yellows), Quinacridone Rose (instead of Alizarin), maybe branch out into oranges and darker blues like Prussian Blue or some Phthalo-containing blues and greens. This would push it closer towards a pallette approximating Sorolla's. Also, the red-oranges can be consolidated somewhat by using Burnt Sienna instead of the Red Oxide and Terra Rosa (but then again, I will lose the transparent quality of the Red Oxide).

In a way, doing these charts mean that you have to be very disciplined and rigorous with yourself. Clean everything and anything on the palette that could and would stain the mixtures, and always be sure what you are putting on to the chart squares at all times (that bluish green you see there? It's never going to be specific enough- just make sure that one batch leans towards blue, the other leans towards green, it has to be subtle but observable).

I guess the main lesson is to understand your palette of choice, and the nature of the pigments that you are using- here, student paints vs. artist quality (of differing brands) really shows in terms of the handling, tinting strength, and overall vibrancy. Some people will stumble across these same points through constant painting, which is entirely valid as well- the point is not to let these exercises dominate the fundamental skillsets of drawing and painting- they are means to an end, not something you do for 'Achievement Unlocked' street cred. 

'Colour' is technically relative to the lighting situation and even on the support you are using, there will be different factors and permutations affecting the 'local colour'- it's the understanding of subtractive mixing, temperatures of pigments and their mixtures, that is the key to this specific type of exercise. You will encounter the legendary Cadmium Salute and the Viridian Handshake (just don't wear any new clothing in the studio, it'll end in tears), and there will be foul language employed. But at the end of the day, the understanding you'll get will be somewhat worth it. And it will be seen that these colour chart exercises are easy- compare them with, oh, the Munsell colour chip matching exercise. Now that's in a completely different league altogether.