Saturday, March 20, 2010

My feeble efforts on ' Winter's Last Light' pale next to this painter-Kim English of Pine, Colorado.

Look at this 7x12 sketch he did called 'Grant Street'.
Absolute mastery of colour and composition. And I'll bet he knocked it off in 30 minutes.
The total essence of plein air and why we all do it right?
Look at those colourful grays. I try and try and still can't even come close.
And a couple of nicks of his brush defines the hard edges of that distant steeple.

In my humble opinion Kim comes very very close to Sargent's handling of light ,colour and surface handling of his paint.

I had the honour and pleasure of doing a week's workshop with Kim at the Donner Art Workshops Ranch outside Taos New Mexico a few years back.
To watch this guy work made me feel like a piker and want to toss my kit.

Looking back at my notes, here's a few jewels of plein air wisdom he dropped on us
I hope they can help you as it did me:

-Spend time up front mixing all your colours first getting the correct colour and value-then paint.....not the other way around where we dive in waste time a musching paint around
-Keep the piles of colour on your palette squeaky clean- don't let other colours get in and muddy them
-always base the temperature of your colour on the light-not the shadow
-Remember you're painting 2 pictures- the object and your illusion of the object
-Paint shapes of things-not things..and make those shapes interesting to look at

Kim is a great teacher-quiet, patient and totally focussed on painting the light we see around us everyday.
Go to his web site and galleries that handle his work if you want to see , in my opinion at least, one of the top 10 painters of light working in North America today.


Today is the first day of Spring.
So I thought I'd say goodbye to winter with my first post.

I'll try regularly to post my work, painting trips I take, thoughts(mine and others) about plein air painting , and hopefully some learning for both of us about the craft and experience of painting itself.

This is a quick 10x12 oil sketch I did out of my studio window of my backyard after a heavy snowfall.(The only really heavy one we've had this winter in Toronto)!
Most of the time these quick sketches, for me at least, end up a dismal failure but on this one luck was on my side.
Let me say first off that I believe when you do a painting, you need to think it through first - as though you're making a movie and ask yourself-"what is this painting ABOUT"? And "Who are the main actors? "
I decided this painting wasn't about the trees, it wasn't about the shed and it wasn't about the snow- it was about the late winter afternoon's golden glow of LIGHT.
The fence, the trees, the snow and the shed are the main supporting actors.

I'm pretty happy(I'm never totally happy with my work) with the late winter afternoon feel of the raking light and the play of warm and cool that I saw.
It's not finished yet- I want to define the light on the left side of the foreground tree above the fence better , define the housing background behind my neighbour's tool shed and nick in the hard slivers of intense light that were peeking through the spaces between the fence boards-helping give the painting the rich golden glow I was after.

To help you, I've posted the digital shot as I saw the scene and a computer manipulated colour enhanced version so you can see my process.(I flipped the computer enhanced shot into gray scale on my laptop so I could get see those elusive values better).Remember, your digital shots, while far better at capturing the detail in scene much better than the film cameras, don't give you the colour subtleties in the shadow areas-just the shadow shapes.

More to come!