Front porch special!

Blue Porch on 1st Street.

Blue Porch on 1st Street. Oil on panel, 6×6.

Yesterday, we were invited to paint the historical part of Georgetown by the Heritage Society.  Georgetown proper was founded in 1848!  Much of the down town features homes, buildings and architecture from the early 1900’s. The weather was great already warming up into the 80’s and the last of the Georgetown poppies were gorgeous.  It made it quite challenging to pick just the one spot to paint.

So I settled for walking just beyond the town square and discovered a lovely little spot to paint.  I chose to work smaller on a 6″x6″ panel to be sure I could finish most of it while on site.  Then set to work out an interesting composition within the square format.   I love the dynamic juxtaposition of blue green porch with the vibrant red-orange poppies.

I am happy to say that I am very pleased to have captured the bright morning glow and shadows surrounding such a lovely place.  Even better to have it displayed next week in part of the Heritage Society exhibit as part of the Heritage awareness month.

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The Value of a painting?

August 2, 2011

Really now, So what’s in the value of a painting?

Well truthfully there are 2 parts to that.

  • 1. the $$$ someone will trade for an intrinsic item of interest.
  • 2. the light and dark that compose the painting.

For now I’m particularly interested in the Value definition that describes the light and dark of a painting. The human eye can see all the subtle gradations of light as it illuminates an object.  Painting a recognizable object on a flat surface requires relating the values as they describe the object in space.

Since I have been away from my studio for a spell, trying to sort out other details, my paintings have been drying and cooking (sort of).  So the next time I get to start a painting around here I have to go back to a clean slate and fresh mixed paints if I intend to maintain clean paintings.  That actually requires mixing 11 distinct values of gray from my white and black.  The outer most (1) being closer to white, 5 being the middle range, and (11) black the last on the corresponding gradation.  I limit my scales to 5 when working plein air.

Gray Value Scale (11 steps)

Why?  The gray-scale establishes a consistent means to measure and test the lightness / darkness of any additional color mixtures I want to paint with.  This allows me to establish credible depth within a flat surface and limited plane.  Color or hue is all relative to its surrounding environment.  But the value or lightness / darkness of yellow measures differently when compared to blue or red.  Not to mention the infinite possibilities we can create from mixing pigments.  The more variations you have of a single color (hue) the more depth ranges you can create, even within a monochromatic (single) color study.

Color value mix. Oil samples.

But why do I mix new paint? As paint ages it dries and oxidizes.  It looses it’s luster and wetness and frequently darkens in value (especially common with oils and acrylics).  This is why I find it critical to mix fresh values regularly when I paint.   This provides a fresh clean scales to judge my other mixtures against or even more importantly try to match against.  Notice that I have taken a few extra steps for checking the relative light or dark of mixing colors by adding a piece of middle gray under my glass palette as well as a few small strips of the value scale to check against as I mix.

Taking the time to mix clean accurate values will take you r paintings a long way to helping push the contrast and add more visual interest without overloading the colors.

In the end it’s always about achieving a readable balance when we are painting –  regardless of subject or style.  It even is applicable to abstracts.   So next time you are looking at a painting, photo or cartoon that grabs your attention see how many different values you can distinguish and consider if it really does add $value$ too.

Comparison Color Tests

June 20, 2011

Golden Open Acrylics: Artisan WS Oils: Traditional Oils.
Colors & ranges mixed only with primary colors and the addition of white.

This past spring I began having major health complications.  My throat was always sore and raw. My tonsils & adenoids were inflamed but had no contributing sinus drainage accompanied by regular ear and headaches.  After a battery of strep and allergy tests the doctors concluded that I was suffering from Chronic Rhinitis.  The determined that extended exposure to the medium and turp I was using.   I need to switch from the caustic oil paint solvents & turps to a less volatile paint medium that is safe for me to breath, even with significant air flow.  Breather masks have little positive effect on the denser particulates associated with paint solvents used in oil painting, it can in fact only concentrate the particulates in the filter of the breather masks.  But rather than jump ship into the blind I wanted to find a comparable safe solution to avoid any back pedaling in my paint process.  I especially wanted to maintain the integrity of my preferred paint palette as much as possible.

All paints vary in consistency, color saturation and pigment gradations.  They vary even more between different manufactures much like any other  pharmaceuticals or food products. So I determined that I needed to try a couple of different options and test them.  The tests are comparisons between 3 different paint formulas: Winsor Newton traditional oils, new Golden OPEN acrylics and new Winsor Newton water soluble oils (cleans with water) no solvents required.

Winsor Newton traditional Oils.

Winsor Newton traditional oils: color swatch gradations.

Winsor Newton Artisan water soluble Oils.  *mixed without added medium.

Artisan water soluble Oils. Color samples.

Golden Open acrylics. *mixed without added medium.

Golden Open acrylics Color samples.

The gradients help determine the pigment saturation levels for each paint sample. Some manufacturers use more binder and oils to suspend the ground pigments resulting in a weaker pigment a weeker true color.  Others add stuff and that can often yield muddy colors if you don’t know what you are working with.  Here I selected only the R Y B Primary pigments and mixed all Secondary and Neutral color mixtures + 5 gradations.

Still life comparison between Artisan Oils (left) and Open acrylics (right).

Still life: WN ws oils (left) vs Golden Open acrylics (right).

Thus, far I am really liking the results from the water soluble oils.  Still researching for any posted health effects with the new formulated oils. The Artisan water soluble oils are pigments suspended in a modified linseed oil base that became available in the past few years. They clean with soap & water rather than solvents.  They offer a rich thicker consistency even without added mediums and decent working time, but cleaner.  Plus the added benefit of painting on top of traditional oil under paintings.

The Acrylics tend to dry too fast even with the suggested extenders. The acrylics also dry thinner and still change 2 values darker after dry. So you end up with a thinner darker painting as it drys and ages.  Could work for under painting or if you really want to maintain the canvas texture in you work. But I found it more frustrating to come back to a darker paintings than I started.  Not always good when you start out in the field and return to the studio to finish a painting.

A significant part of Art is science, the other half is psychology and a bit of practiced skill. Testing is what gets consistent results. Sometimes even artists need to do diligent testing and research to determine the logistics of our preferred medium.  For my preferred style of painting, the Artisan paints offer  what I’m looking for, a thicker creamier body to the paints.  Each individual has a different need and preference, so remember to really test for effectiveness.  I have started further explorations to see if the paint holds true in value and range over the next few weeks.  All 4 paintings from this past week are ws oils.  Stay tuned for other tests and updates.