Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Working on the Dark Side

Rainy Day Traffic is a 6x6 oil done by Shirley Fachilla and is much darker in tone than it may appear on your monitor!
Nope, this is not about joining the forces of evil. It’s about whether a painting would be classified as mostly dark or mostly light. Why does it matter? Actually it matters for at least a couple of very different reasons.
The first is that the darkness or lightness of a painting sets its mood. 
Paintings that are light in value and color have a happy feeling. For instance, the Impressionists with their light values and colors produced a lot of joyful paintings. [See this prior post.]
But paintings that are dark rather than light tend to be moody, edgy, mysterious. Rembrandt’s Night Watch, though not really set at night, is certainly dark. It made members of Capt. Cocq's military company seem both seriously heroic and involved with great and mysterious things. By the way, it also revolutionized group portraiture which prior to Night Watch had the look of an elementary class group photo.
Secondly, putting a painting solidly in either the dark or light camp gives a painter a great compositional tool as well as an effective technique to pull a painting into a harmonious whole. An artist who often used darkness to achieve these goals was John Singer Sargent. He wrapped his subjects with darkness whether they were heiress, actress, author or child.   

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Lure of the Exotic

 Home-Grown Exotic is a 20x24 oil done from life by Shirley Fachilla.

So what do you find exotic? Surely, it all depends on your point of view. To Georgia O’Keeffe, New Mexico must have seemed quite foreign after New York and before she adopted its red rocks as her new home.
The Impressionists, of course in their love affair with Japanese art, found it to be delightfully different not only in technique but in subject matter as well.
Remington’s cowboys were as strange to his collectors back East as the harems of Delacroix were to the Frenchman who bought his Romantic canvases.  
And for Europeans, the vast landscapes of the American Hudson River School , like Asher Durand's Progress, must have seemed worlds away from their safer, more comfortable scenes.
What do I find exotic? Our very American model who came in gypsy gear and seemed a world away from the usual… and was so fun to paint.  

Friday, February 15, 2013

Such a Narrow Focus

A Long Lunch is a 20x24 oil done by Shirley Fachilla.

I painted the woman’s face more than a half a dozen times. Such a challenge! It was a lesson in values and edges, one that I’m still very much learning.
[For the art meaning of value and edge, please visit my Artful Definitions page.]
You see the woman’s face is shaped by a very narrow range of values. Because it’s completely in shadow, there are no highlighted planes to give it form and drama.
I tried to follow Peggi Kroll’s advice and create form with color changes rather than value. I tried to follow Carolyn Anderson’s advice and pay close attention to my edges.
I love rim light, highlights and significant value shifts so for me it was no an easy task.
I should have studied Sorolla’s Maria at La Granja before my first attempt. Maria’s entire figure is in light shadow, all beautifully done.
Of course, my woman has her own narrow focus; all aimed at her lunch companion. I wonder if he aware?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Painting in my Comfort Zone

Waiting for the Cue is a 24x20 oil done from life by Shirley Fachilla.

I missed more than a month of painting. That’s the longest time I’ve gone without a brush since I began painting seriously about nine years ago. I so missed it. I found myself imagining paintings, redesigning paintings, then finally looking over my paintings and those of others online.
Waiting for the Cue is the first painting done after my hiatus. It felt so good, and it went so smoothly. Of course, I was painting in my “comfort zone.” All painters have such. It’s the subject, the composition, the lighting, the medium that you understand the best.  
My comfort zone? Employing an almost full value range, from very light to very dark; painting from life; using a single figure as my subject; having a strong directional light source to illuminate that subject; and using high chroma sparingly to make things pop.
Knowing what you can do comfortably is a good thing. But tackling the techniques you find harder is the way to grow. I’m doing some of that now… if I can incorporate some of these new skills in my comfort zone, I’ll share them with you.   

Is it too early to send an invitation?

Pieces by (clockwise from left to right) : Susan Harlan, Janet Garner, Shirley Fachilla, Mike Martino and Topper Williams. So many ...