Friday, February 22, 2013

Suspicious Painters

Winter Roadside Willows, 6" x 8" Oil on Panel

This month I've been getting out to paint more. The weather is slowly improving as Winter occasionally shows a better mood. I'm also finally over a nasty sinus infection. The painting shown above was done in Heber Valley earlier this month, but I've also recently painted closer to home.

Last weekend I was painting at a local lake. After finishing the painting and loading everything into the car, I was about to drive off when a DWR (fish and game) truck pulled up and stopped, blocking my way. The officer walked over to my car and said,

“What cha been doing this evening sir?”

“Painting.” I answered.

“Painting!” he said, sounding surprised. He then looked around. “Well you picked a good spot for it.”

After a brief conversation, he let me go and drove off, no doubt on the hunt (no pun intended) for nefarious ne'r-do-well poachers.

That incident reminded me of another time a few years ago I was stopped by the cops:

After spending a day painting in Goshen Valley I was headed home. It was dark by the time I turned east onto Route 6. Somewhere between the small towns of Goshen and Santaquin, I looked in my rear view mirror and saw a large Ford truck grill very close behind my little suv. Then red and blue lights started flashing. A glance at my speedometer assured me I wasn't speeding. What on earth could be the problem? I pulled over.

“How ya doing tonight sir?” The deputy asked as he approached my open window.

Now, I don't get pulled over very often, but that question always annoys me. I want to say, “I was doing fine until you pulled me over!”, but of course I don't. To be fair, I think cops ask that question because people who are drunk or guilty can't answer it normally, tipping the officer off as to what kind of wacko they might have just pulled over.

I lamely replied, “Um, OK.”

“Where are you headed?”

“Home.” I answered. I suspected the next question would be about where I'd been and what I'd been doing, so I decided to head it off. “I was painting in Goshen Valley.”

“Wow! You get around!” he exclaimed as he swung his flashlight beam into the back of my car and saw the easel. “I thought I've seen this car before. I saw you down at the state park.”

“The state park?”

“At Utah Lake.”

“Yeah, I've been there.”

The deputy seemed fascinated that he had pulled over a painter. He asked if I knew my license plate lights weren't working. I didn't know. He told me I should get them fixed when I got home. After quickly looking over my driver's license the officer let me continue on my way. The next day I fixed the malfunctioning lights.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Sketchbooks - Sketching Buildings

Man-made structures aren't usually what set my pencils or brushes in motion. Nature's "infrastructure" is far more attractive to me. I believe there is more to explore in the wild - but, of course, buildings, roads, bridges, and such are also an important part of my life. 

Painting landscapes allows for a great deal of flexibility. Unfortunately, some painters think that flexibility allows them to be sloppy. They might schmeck paint onto a canvas without much skill or care, hope to luck and call the result their "style." We're not talking about the difference between "loose" and "tight" paintings here. This is about learning to put the right marks in the right places, regardless of whether your painting style is loose or tight. Like drawing portraits or the figure, drawing man made structures requires greater care. If you get the perspective wrong, the whole thing looks out of whack. Draw people and man made structures well and you'll also have control over a landscape painting's design. That, of course, requires a lot of practice, especially a lot of sketching. More sketching means less schmecking.

The sketch at the top of this post is from when I lived in Pennsylvania. The second sketch is of the house I made the other sketch from. The owners moved and asked me to house sit for them until they could sell their house. One day I sat warm and cozy on a bench by a window in the house shown above and sketched the wintry scene shown at the top of this post.

The family hired me to make four paintings of their Tudor home. One for every season of the year, all from different angles, and each including different members of their large (and wonderful) family. The image shown above is one of the preliminary sketches for that project, drawn on location. There were preliminary sketches made from every angle, color studies, and oodles of detail sketches. I also used photographs for reference. Unfortunately I didn't photograph the finished paintings and no longer have the other sketches to show you. 

In the sky above the house you can see the ghostly image of a cat. The cat distracted me as it crossed the yard and I began sketching the cat in an available blank spot on the sketchbook page. The cat left before I could get very far with it's sketch, then I remembered why I was there and got back to work sketching the house.

The wintry scene shown above was sketched from the kitchen window of my former home in Pennsylvania. I don't always have to sketch winter scenes from the cozy confines of a warm house, but if one's available, why not?

The pen and ink sketch shown above was made in a pocket-sized sketchbook. My back was up against another building, preventing me from moving farther away from the subject. That resulted in the extreme perspective in this sketch. It's sketches like this that help you figure out how to make better sketches.

The building my back was against was the Springville Museum of Art, which has since doubled in size. The outdoor spot I made this tiny sketch from is now indoors.

The last sketch (shown above) is of a house in Utah I lived in for a little while. One day I dragged a kitchen chair to the corner of the yard, sat down and made this sketch.

These are only sketches and I never took the effort for things like mapping out exact vanishing points, but the sketches still required extra effort, and I learned a lot by doing them and others like them. Like I've probably said somewhere else on this blog, every sketch you make helps you with other sketches, and contributes in positive ways to your finished works.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Young Navajo Woman

18" x 12"  Charcoal on Gray Paper
This is another of the portrait sketches I did a few years ago at the weekly drawing session. The model is a Navajo woman from the Four Corners area of Utah. Another of my favorite models to draw, her eyes are among some of the most fascinating I've ever drawn, set as they are in a face that is one of the most enjoyable I've ever drawn. Those people who run the drawing sessions sure come up with some great models from time to time, and I'm grateful they do.

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

This is also my 100th blog post. I think I'll celebrate by unceremoniously pressing the "Publish" button. Many thanks to everyone who has followed and read this humble blog! I hope you'll continue to find things to enjoy - and things that are useful here.