Friday, December 30, 2011

A Pastel Portrait Sketch

Pastel Sketch on Grey Paper
Here's another sketch from one of the weekly drawing sessions I've attended over the years. Most of my sketches from these sessions are done in charcoal pencil so I can focus on values. One main focus I have while drawing from life is learning the visual anatomy of the head and how that varies from person to person. Every once in a while, though, I like to break out the pastels or oil paints for a color study. Color certainly needs to be studied and practiced too, but it's easy to get caught up in the fun of color and neglect more important matters of drawing. For me, regularly doing monochromatic drawings helps the color studies.

For more about drawing sessions, go to "Labels" on the side bar and click on "sketching" or "drawing."

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas!

High Valley Winter,  9" x 12" Oil on Canvas Panel
Can't let Christmas Day pass without wishing everyone a merry Christmas! 

The painting shown above was done last winter in a high mountain valley in the Wasatch Mountains. When the snow flies and some think of getting away to warmer climes, I head up into the high mountain valleys for some wonderful opportunities to paint snow scenes. I love snow painting!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Winter's Night Painting Tale

8" x 10" Oil on Canvas Panel
Today, December 21, the Winter Solstice happens where I live. For some of you it might be on the 22nd...I think. Figuring out the timezones for this event is beyond what I want to do with this post, so my advice is – celebrate both days! Of course for some of you it may already be the 22nd. Somewhere I read that daylight will officially be about 9 ¼ hours long. Or maybe I should say short. It's the night that'll be long. With a tip of the hat to the longest night of the year, I thought I'd write a post about plein air painting – at night! The painting above is about my third attempt at painting outdoors at night and was done a winter or two ago in Heber Valley near Midway. The musical term “nocturne” is also used for these paintings made on the shady side of the planet.

Last January I was tramping around on some ridges by Goshen Valley looking for likely paintings. These hills are dotted with juniper trees and sagebrush. The snow that covered the ground had a slight crust to it's surface. Just below the crest of a sand hill, I set up to paint. Several deer were browsing in the fields below or wandering along paths through the sagebrush. After completing the painting I hiked up onto higher rocky ridges to scout out sites for possible future paintings.   

It was well after dark when I began hiking back down. With many years experience hiking at night, and snow on the ground, seeing my way was easy so I left the flashlight in my pack. As I neared the sand ridge, a full moon rose from behind the Wasatch mountains to the east. The moonlight cast a pale blue-purple glow onto ribbons and patches of snow between dark shapes of junipers. Deep blue shadows stretched from tree to tree.

There have been nocturnes painted by others that I have enjoyed very much. The night has been a part of my outdoor experience perhaps nearly as much as the day. For a while I've wanted to try my hand at nighttime plein air painting but suspecting it would be difficult, put it off. The opportunity provided by this night could no longer be resisted, though. Setting up a pochade box and strapping on a headlamp, I was going to try.

It was while into this painting that a chorus of coyotes struck up their wild harmonies. The coyotes' songs seemed to come from several directions at once, all around me. As usual, the coyotes sang for only a short time, then left me to the quiet of the winter night.

Farther into the painting, I heard the sound of footsteps in the crusty snow approaching from behind! Quickly turning around, the headlamp beam revealed only the tree directly behind me. Stepping around the tree I looked for the source of the footsteps but saw nothing. The footsteps had been too heavy to be a coyote. Most likely it was a deer that bolted once it became aware I was there. Mountain lions have been known to pass through this area, but I think the footfalls of a mountain lion would have sounded different. That is if a mountain lion cared to be heard at all!

More or less completing my first attempt at a nocturne, I packed up my gear and hiked down the sand ridge as the full moon rose ever higher in an indigo sky. I thought about how I was out in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of winter, in the middle of the night, surrounded by coyotes, while some unknown large thing walked up behind me. Then I said to myself,

“Man, I gotta do this more often!”

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Holiday Exhibits, and That Santa Cat!

Riverside Cottonwoods in Winter, 11" x 14" Oil on Canvas Panel
There's still time to catch an exhibit or two of my paintings! Here's where you can see them:

Hope you can get out and enjoy one or maybe even more of these exhibits!

Now to leave you with this warm, fuzzy and festive holiday image:

OK, maybe the cat's warm and fuzzy, but not too festive. Merry Christmas anyway!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Cowboy Sketch

Charcoal Sketch Approx. 12" x 9"
For several years I've been attending portrait drawing sessions once or twice a week. These sessions along with other drawing sessions, plus sketching on my own are how I've been able to develop drawing skills to any degree. The sessions have been very important to me. Without them, I wouldn't learn how to to draw. No amount of painting will make up for lack of drawing because drawing provides the structure that supports the painting.

Just as in sports or music, drawing requires practiced hand-eye coordination. The best basketball players, for instance, don't just read a how-to book and immediately go out and win a NBA MVP trophy. They have to spend a lot of time in practice learning, developing and polishing basketball skills. They study and practice the game. There are many fine books which teach drawing skills, but then the student of drawing has to figure out how to apply the book learning. That takes practice, practice, practice. No matter where a painter is in his or her career you should never stop improving your drawing. If you're not building drawing skills you're loosing them. Sooner or later that will show in your painting.

Developing good drawing skills isn't easy but needn't be drudgery. Finding a drawing session that provides a place to work and models for a reasonable fee allows the painter to network with other artists, get feedback, and join in the energy of a group of painters all developing their own drawing skills. And if someone brings snacks it's even less drudgery! Yum! (Thanks everybody!)

From time to time I'll post on this blog some of the portraits I've drawn from life at these drawing sessions, but for now it's time for me to saddle up and ride off into the sunset. Wish I had a horse!

For more about drawing sessions, go to "Labels" on the side bar and click on "sketching" or "drawing."

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Holders for Small Painting Panels

6" x 8" Panel Holder
Most of my pochade boxes hold two or three painting panels. That's usually enough for a day's worth of painting for me. For painting excursions lasting several days, I carry extra painting panels in panel holders. These same panel holders are also used for transporting wet paintings back home. Pictured above is a holder for 6" x 8" panels. The picture below shows how the panels slide into groves in the holder and are kept separated so wet paintings don't smear against each other.

6" x 8" Panel Holder with Two Panels
Here is a painting panel holder for 9" x 12" panels:

9" x 12" Panel Holder
9" x 12" Panel Holder with Three Painting Panels
I also have panel holders for 11" x 14" Panels. I have a few of each of these three sizes. They can be built to hold from one to a dozen panels and even more, Depending upon the painter's needs. I made mine rather slim so I can fit them into my day pack. That way I can fill up one panel holder with the day's wet paintings, return to the car, drop off the holder with the fresh paintings, grab the next panel holder full of new painting panels and head out the next day for more painting.

The three narrow sides (including the ones with the grooves) are made out of pine. The front and back are 1/4" Baltic birch ply. I considered using 1/8" Baltic birch but decided that was not strong enough for something that will be thrown into a back pack and have to take rough handling out in the field.

Besides size and the number of panels, another difference between the 6" x 8" panel holders and the larger size holders is how I cut the groves the panels slide into.

Closeup of 9" x 12" Panel Holder

The grooves in the 6" x 8" panel holders were cut with parallel sides. The grooves in the larger holders were cut with tapered sides (see above photo), creating less contact with paint on a finished wet painting. The tapered grooves can also be a little deeper allowing for differences in panel sizes between different brands of painting panels and still hold the panels securely. It's important that the wet paintings are held apart and do not come in contact with each other. I think the tapered groves are better, but the straight sided groves still work well enough.

Lids could be made for the panel holders to keep objects from accidentally falling in and messing up wet paintings inside the holders. I'm probably asking for trouble by not having lids for mine, but I'm not terribly worried about it and I can make lids for them any time.

Any two same size panel holders can be doubled up to hold larger size painting panels. The holders are then secured together with rubber bands. Have extra rubber bands on hand.
  • Two 6" x 8" holders will hold 8" x 10" panels.
  • Two 9" x 12" holders will hold 12" x 16" panels.
  • Two 11" x 14" holders will hold 14" x 18" panels, if I ever paint that size.

12" x 16" Panels Being Slid Inside Two 9" x 12" Panel Holders.
Two 9" x 12" Panel Holders Held Together with Rubber Band
12" x 16" size panels are starting to get a little big to fit into my pack. Sometimes I need to find another way to carry them. For the 16" x 20" and 18" x 24" painting panels I have a different kind of panel holder, but that's for another post.


My painting panel holders are pretty bland looking, but they suit my purposes just fine. You, however, can fancy up the ones you make with stickers or paint or whatever you like. Maybe paint a copy of your favorite Monet or Degas on them. Or maybe a reproduction of a French Rococo painting, if you're into that sort of thing. Perhaps something like the lovely couple with house scene shown above. If you're into abstract art, Karl Momen on your panel holder would be cool!

At this point I'm too busy painting on panels to paint on the holders.