Thursday, August 4, 2011

Working on another commission

Wrapping up the final version of a painting for Vintage Hill Cellars, Spokane, Wash.
The view is Sentinel Gap on the Columbia River, Maybe a bit south of Vantage, with some foreground changes for the composition.
This one presents some interesting challenges, such as I have in effect never been there. I culled a bunch of reference images from websites of the vineyards Vintage Hill goes to for their appellations, I live in a similar climate zone. I've driven through the area, and even lived in Spokane as a child, but never been in the vicinity at this time of year, time of day.
I also don't have recent contact with a grapevine, so I'm reaching back to some well-aged memories of my Grampa's grapevines, and the batches he brewed in his basement in big glass carboys.
This is the third and final version. The first and second were acrylic on paper, and acrylic on canvas respectively, but this one is a full-sheet watercolor on 140lb Fabriano Artistico cold press.
Signed it this morning, after five months of work developing the composition and doing the studies and trials.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Heroic trees, looming skies

I've had a few images of this Laguna Beach pine beckoning from the reference picture files for a while now.
Yeah, it's one of those twisted tortured pines just begging to be painted standing up against towering clouds, bravely standing alone after the storm has passed.
So this is a first pass at the subject, and I think it calls for a bigger sky, less foreground.
Look up the work of Robert Marchessault. He's done a series of heroic trees against a huge sky with an appealing balance of detail and atmospheric mystery, contrast and soft blending of values. This one is a bit of a nod to his style. "Kumada" comes to mind.

Well, well, what have we here?

Socal tree scene for your consideration tonight:
I've had a run of palmettos in my sights for a few months now.
I successfully transitioned through one of those
quick-run-grab-the-freakin'-camera-BeforeThisGoesAway!!!! -moments. Went a little slack-jawed there, must have been the margarita.
Anyway, its another blazing sunset with those palms that are as common as fashion accessories in LA, this one dripping down the sky in gobs of blazing yellow, orange, pink, violet out of the deepest indigo to the east. So ends another day in paradise.
That's the setting for the source of this one. I decided to use the series of images for a Sierra Watercolor Society painting challenge. The society meets every other month, members can bring in work that answers a challenge: this one was a complete painting, dry paper to signature in under an hour.
This one is almost a formula. Very striking, but not really complex.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Coast Guard Art Program

The Coast Guard Art Program has accepted this painting!
"Fishing Vessel Mar-Gun Aground" 22 x 30,
watercolor, Dec. 2010
I was accepted into the program last summer, considered several compositions for a submission and finally settled on this one last fall.
Lots of delays, digressions, procrastinations and interruptions later, I started it in early December.

This has a limited pallette, obviously, but just the same there are a lot of subtle warm and cool grays all through it. Those rocks were tedious.

I have a dual personal connections with this subject. While on active duty, I was stationed at the
National Strike Force Coordination Center for a year. The Pacific Strike Team was one of the three Operational Units with which I worked. I was also stationed in Kodiak, Alaska for three years, and have been to St. George Island, where this vessel ran aground. While in Alaska I was the Coast Guard Public Information rep for the western part of Coast Guard District 17, and reported many of these kinds of incidents to the media. This one had a happy ending with no one hurt, and the eventual salvage of the vessel.

Follow the link above to the Coast Guard Art Program website.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Shakin' it up

Here's a new one, new in a lot of ways. It has been quite a while since I've posted, because I just haven't had much to say. Last year I cranked out a lot of work at first, then in summer cut back to do larger stuff and concentrate on marketing, and in the fall started thinking/studying/planning work in different media.
Here's a first look at a new acrylic I have started.
This is Fremont Pyramid, Pyramid Lake, NV, in the morning looking south. It will be 24 x 32, on canvas temporarily mounted on board.
Google Earth: "The Pyramid"; "Anaho Island"
I'm looking at this one in five zones, rather than the usual three. Each is distinct, and needs a specific treatment: far and near background, middle ground, far and near foreground.
Centers of interest in order of precedence are the pyramid and island, the little peninsula below, the Squaw and Basket in the upper left middle ground, and finally the shadow area on the lower left.
I'm working up the far foreground now. The middle ground work is pretty much done. I'm also in the middle of a radical change in treatment for the background, due to the way acrylic handles.
Acrylic is different. Kind of midway between watercolor and oil, it has some aspects of both, and a few quirks all its own.
For instance, watercolor allows these big wet flowing washes, and nice smooth gradations from paper white to a dark-dark if you time it right.
I haven't figured out how to do that with acrylic. Thin, transparent glazes are possible, but achieving a graded wash with acrylic is beyond me right now. Acrylic dries so fast that blending a nice smooth gradation from one value to another in opaque color is tough too. That water took a long time, and I think it will need a few more glazes to give it some depth, although the lake really is that milky turquoise.
I'm in the process of making a big change in the far background. I painted it first in apparent colors, kind of a gray blue, with a touch of violet, but it just never seemed right. Now I'm gambling that I can make it look more realistic by repainting the background range in the color it would be if I were close, then I'll use a blue glaze to fade it into the distance.
Anaho Island is in the near background and is just a touch grayer and bluer than the Pyramid. I painted the two features with the same colors, but the island has a thin blue glaze over it that worked perfectly to set it back a bit into the distance. So I'm not totally crawling out on a limb with the background mountain range.
What acrylic does allow, and this is the critical property for choosing this medium, is that I can overpaint light on dark. Those shadows in the near and far foreground are finicky because the whole area is a jumble of jagged rocks, sand and sagebrush.
One more note: I think that wierd dome shape in the nearest foreground will go away. It looks cool in my reference photos, but it just doesn't fit in. Likely will become foreground rocks, sage and grasses.