Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Mutual Support - painting from the depths of hell

this piece was doomed from the get go...firstly it was revisited from a photo i had already used for a painting i did in all sepia tones. the original sepia painting was my favourite painting. a client wanted it, so i sold went bad from there and now there is bad blood between the client and myself. a huge bad taste in my mouth.
so somehow thinking i could revisit this photo, i tried again and only in colour this time and the horses would have more wind blown manes and stormy skies...sounds good no? there is an old saying i believe fits for everyday.
"plan your day, don't plan the outcome"
or in this case...plan the painting, don't plan the outcome....sheesh....understatement!!!
from the get go it was a struggle from the under painting being 'washed' off by the glaze of transparent red iron oxide to the palette seemingly changing from day to day. i had a buyer for this piece. it was yet to be finished and yet a client wanted it...just finish it and money was mine to be had!!
if ANYTHING was to be learned from this piece, it was this very important thing for me. an 'aha' moment...i am NOT motivated by money. there it was a huge amount of money dangling before me. the painting 2/3 done and the moment the money was there, the expectation, the pressure was on....i froze!!!
after 6 months of being frozen, the client withdrew his i was free!! free to finish when i wanted! so struggling along, and with the intent to get it done for the stampede western art show in july which i was juried into, desperate as usual for inventory, i abandoned i mean finished it!!!
...whew sure was hot down there in the depths of hell...or was that a hot flash?!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

riding a rhino in the rockies

noticed a voice mail on my phone from my friend Sue. amazingly, she was on holidays and was at home working on a painting of a reining horse...normally this time of year, Sue is embroiled in the throes of horse show madness at spruce meadows where she works. huh i i phoned her. the conversation went something like this...

what ya doin?...
painting...what you doin?...
thinking i need to come out and paint plein aire at your place...ya in?...
oh yeah, I'm in!

so i tossed my french easel, some canvases, brushes and various other bits of painting stuff into the back of the Dirty White Hoe (the Tahoe) with the hopes of attempting to paint the great outdoors. now Sue and Garth live in a wonderful log house in the east slopes of the Rockie mountains west of Calgary. the possibilities for wonderful landscape painting are limitless there...the vistas ridiculously hard for neophyte pleine aire painters such as ourselves..sue even more so than i. i have dabbling the this 'sport' a few times, but pale in comparison to others who excel in plein aire painting in this area, of the likes of Doug Swinton.

the rhino is an amazing beast. capable of taking us and our supplies out to premo painting sites, and offer us some protection or at least a quick escape from the mother grizzly that been sighted the day before, having killed one of the neighbour's horses to feed her two cubs....eep! it offered little comfort for speed, one's only hope that the noise from the rhino might afford some 'spooking' ability, cuz it sure couldn't outrun a grizzly bear...that i know...

we painted for an hour...a wonderful hour out in the most glorious of landscapes, one which i was feebly trying to capture on canvas. whatever. i had a beer, the company with sue was brilliant, and we were quite smug in the fact that we had made the effort, and we were out!! the paintings kinda sucked, but no matter...we did it.

...we zoomed the rhino back to the log house, where Garth had so thoughtfully BBQ'd us some t bone steaks and potatoes! after supper allowed for some story telling by Garth, a celebrated documentary film maker...tales of dysentery and Japanese funny, i laughed so hard i could hardly breathe. for such a serious documentary maker and journalist, his talents could very easily swing over to the comedic side of combat. such a brilliant story teller!!

Sunday, April 19, 2009


Finished this little painting today! It is small, 9 X 12" oil on canvas and took me about 20+ hours to complete. I'm happy I'm finished another one for my body of work for the Stampede Artist Studios show in July!
The horses in this painting were the Calgary Stampede roughstock that were part of the 2005 Alberta Centennial horse drive. The herd was driven into the village of Hussar and circled in the middle of main street. Over 200 horses, a living whirling, sweating, wild eyed carousel! I had the good fortune to be able to stand in the back of an obliging rancher's 3/4 ton truck to get the awesome reference photos I used for this piece.
It is my hope that the photos will speak for themselves as far as the progression of the painting goes. I don't really want to spend the time talking about each step individually...I think my time is better spent working on the painting part. So study them closely, compare and enjoy!
I did corrections on the negative spaces in the far background a few times to get it where I wanted it. I used toned down, grayed down colours and looser brushwork for the horses in the distance to imply space. I did quite abit of dry brushing on the main bay horse to bring up the detail and to soften the features of his face. His eye was corrected a couple of times with drying time between each correction. Being the focal point, he is more detailed than the rest of the herd.
I used Burnt Umber + French Ultramarine for the blacks, Burnt Sienna, Raw Sienna, Cadmium Orange, a tiny bit of Cadmium Yellow Pale, Naples Yellow, Alizarin Crimson, Cerulean Blue and Titanium White. I used a tiny bit of linseed oil for the fine detail, and used Res N Gel for the bulk of the painting when it was needed to work wet onto wet.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

All I mean All Done.

So happy to have finished this piece in a week and at how well it turned out. Especially pleased with how well the mane turned out, and of course that FACE! I wanted to capture that relaxed but abit on the tense side expression. This horse was in a pen at the Stampede Rodeo, and he and his pen mate were resting in the afternoon sun, both very aware of their surroundings. Not too worried, yet...but the tension is apparent in the tightness of the lips and nostril. It may not be visible on the monitor, but the eye is actually looking at the viewer.

Once the face was dry I dry brushed in a bluish violet, very light in tone into the face to pull out the highlights. Try as I might, struggle that I do with working wet into wet, I still resort to my *drawing* techniques with my paintings. I really need to forget trying to paint like someone else, and just work with what's best for me. I think this topic can be a blog all on its own...Hmmmm?

I am going to call this one "Almost Dun", because it is a portrait of a Buckskin, not to be mistaken for a Dun, which sports a dorsal stripe down the spine. So this horse is Almost a Dun. Time for some varnish, and a frame. Woohoo!

Anyhow, I can now shout those two favourite little words and do a little celebration..."I'M DONE!"

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The top photograph is the painting on my easel, with the two reference photos taped up next to the painting. The smaller reference photo on the upper left, is taped off to the same proportions as the painting. I tend to get *lost* in my reference if I don't do this, and I find it incredibly helpful to do this as my eye won't needlessly wander around. This smaller photo is also redder in colour than the larger one on the lower right hand side, and it is this one that I used the most. The larger one allowed me to see some details, that the smaller one didn't.
I painted in the horse's back, leaving the brushwork looser, and not as detailed as the face. This was painted wet into wet. However more detail in the face, including the wrinkles behind the jaw, are worked in over dry paint, allowing for more control. Try as I might, I find it really hard to work a painting start to finish while it is all wet. It gets outta control way too easily. I prefer to leave it when it starts to look good and let it dry. Rarely, I get it right the first time around, and I don't need to go back into it to correct problem areas. I have learned to be patient, stop just before things get out of control and let it dry.
The second photo shows the horse's face more detailed around the muzzle, the *varnish* marking on his face is toned down considerably with some dry brushing technique. The eye has been dealt with more, making it almost complete. The shadowed part of the mane has also been blocked in over top the reddish underpainting.
I just LOVE the ears on this horse! I am so proud of those ears, the way I handled the transistion from sunlit to shadowed areas...YEAH!!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Phase two of Almost Dun

In this next step, I have blocked in the darkest tones, and mid-tones beside one another on the muzzle, under the jaw and cheek. I used a darker mixture of the payne's gray and burnt sienna, and for the mid-tone lightened it with some of the perm. rose, blue and some white. I may have used a tad of the raw sienna...unfortunately I don't remember exactly what I did...I just mess around with the colours on my palette until I get what I want. I'm not afraid to try mixing various combinations of colour and then putting on the canvas. If its totally gross, I wipe it off.

With the two tones painted next to one another, I then clean the brush I'm using and scribble the two together, at right angles to the original brush strokes. Then if I want a smoother transistion still, I'll go at it again, blending at a right angle to those strokes. I like to work my paint from light to dark, or dark to light. I don't paint back and forth into the different tones, as it can result in mud.

Working into the face more, I started to use the lighter colours like the Naples yellow, raw sienna, and light blue, blending as I go. Buckskins can have some greenish weird colours happening and I constantly had to cross reference my photos to be sure I was on track. This particular horse, has some masking on his face, which created a funny looking dark streak across his cheek, but I couldn't *fix* it at this point. I try to be patient, and not overwork the paint. I let it dry most times, and clean thing up later with glazing or dry brushing or just painting out the offending area.
Its really a treat to see the little flashes of the warm colour peek out, that I toned in at the underpainting stage.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

"Almost Dun"

Just in case no one noticed, it has been sometime since I've posted anything on this blog. Not like I haven't been working on artwork. I have been. I just haven't had the mental energy to want to write it down. This painting was actually started about two years ago and has been collecting dust in the closet. It is a portrait of two buckskin bucking horses, in a holding pen at the Calgary Stampede rodeo. Once I got around to digging it outta the closet and get back to it, I was surprised that it only took me a week to finish it. It just seems to have *painted* itself.

I started with an under painting of Burnt Umber, Underpainting White and thinner on a stretched 12 X14" Gotrick canvas, and once it was dry, I stained the whole canvas with a thinned down wash of Transparent Red Oxide oil paint. This ground gives the painting a wonderful glow, and little snippets of this colour shine through the brushstrokes that follow . The underbelly of the horse in behind has been started. The photo shows the colour to be a greener than it really is.

The colours used in my palette included, Titanium White, Burnt Umber, Burnt Sienna, Raw Sienna, Cadmium Orange, Naples Yellow, Naples Yellow Pale, Permanent Rose, Cerulean Blue, and Paynes Gray.