Monday, March 24, 2014

Aerodynamic Painting

They say, "March comes in like a lion, but goes out like a lamb," yet so far this month, it's been mostly like a lion. In fact, there's snow in the forecast this week! Nonetheless, this past weekend brought a brief warm up, so I ventured up to Pennsylvania's Black Moshannon State Park to do some plein air painting. As I get started in the new medium of oil painting, I'm seeking out some familiar subjects to help smooth my learning curve.

My field easel, suspended underneath the tripod base.
When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.

In later posts, I'll share some photos of my plein air kit. I use a field easel from Artwork Essentials, and most of my oil painting set up fits into a standard L.L. Bean backpack. Unfortunately, I left one key item out of my kit this past weekend: The cleat that secures my easel to its tripod base. Unable to mount the easel on the tripod, I was forced to improvise by suspending it underneath the tripod and then sitting down to work. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because the March winds were roaring heavily this past weekend, and my usual approach of standing at my easel to work would not have been very successful against the strong gusts. Could this be called aerodynamic painting? Hmm.

Shown above is an 8" x 12" field study in progress. There was still a thin layer of ice on the bog and there was even some snow left in the woods (although that didn't stop a tick from climbing onto the head of one of our dogs, argh). It felt good to get out, and once March finally tip toes out like a lamb, I'm looking forward to more outings during the milder days of April.

Monday, March 17, 2014

At Square One?

Two years ago, I updated the look and feel of my portfolio web site, During that process, I folded my pastel painting blog directly into that web site. But over the past few months, I've begun to add oil painting to my body of artwork. It seemed like resuming my entries at this place on the Internet, the original site of my art blog dating back to 2006, was the best way to share my journey in this new medium. I'm very excited about this new endeavor. I have so much to learn, and I've already learned so much, too. It's wonderful to add something new to the mix because I love to continue challenging myself.

Oil painting color mixing charts on the floor of my studio.

To get things started, I want to share a snapshot of the color mixing exercises that consumed the last six weeks of 2013 for me. Following the conclusion of my art shows for 2013, I dedicated the last six weeks of the year to just focusing on this simple but elusive exercise of mixing all the colors in my oil painting palette with one another. Each of the charts shown here features 2" squares of flat color mixed along a 5-value spectrum. The charts were done on Arches paper, primed for oil paints.

This color chart idea is not my own. It comes from the excellent book, "Alla Prima: Everything I Know About Painting" by Richard Schmid. Now in a second, expanded edition, I highly recommend this book to any artist who wants to master a painting medium, whether it's oil, acrylic, or watercolor because the concepts he covers in this book are universal and valuable.

Sometimes I feel like I'm starting at the proverbial "Square One" with this new medium. I can realize my ideas and vision much more quickly in pastel, so creeping along in a sometimes painstaking fashion with oil painting can be a real test of my usually impatient self. But I know I'm not really at "Square One." Ten years of pastel painting have lead me to this point. I'm ready for a new challenge, and I have experience in problem-solving, composition, color choice, and subject choice to help me with this medium. Moreover, I've taken some really valuable workshops over the past couple of years with artists including Kenn Backhaus, Peter Fiore, and Kim English. So it isn't Square One. And even all of the squares on these charts won't make me feel like it, either (!)

Philly Night
Philly Night
Original Oil on Linen, 6" x 12"

As I get rolling with oil painting I'll be doing small studies. One of my first pieces, "Philly Night" (above) is a 6" x 12" original oil on linen. It captures a gorgeous summer night vista down 13th Street in Philadelphia.

Stay tuned for more new works in this medium as I complete them. I'm still figuring out how I want to incorporate these works into my portfolio web site where I've shown my pastels exclusively to this point, but in the meantime I'll share new pieces here as well as on my Sarah Pollock Studio Facebook page.