22 August 2019

The New Water Jar

3600Times change and some of my painting habits have changed with it. I'm using bigger and more brushes as I explore the joy of painting acrylic. Washing these brushes in the old jar got a bit messier and soggier than before because they're larger and require a bit more vigorous of a wrist to get rinsed and clean.

Well, actually, messy, I don't have a problem with as the older I get the more feral I become. Soggy, though, I don't do. Anyway.

My Brown Eye Girl came up with a suitable, and larger, jar. Allow me to introduce you all:

Same former product, same brand (Hy-Top was what WinCo sold before they didn't). Bigger chest, smaller neck: should corral the sloshing water a little better.

Please, people ... celebrate appropriately. Thank you. 

The Daily Paint By Number: Beach Chair Trio Progress Report #3

3599Checking in with my current PBN project, PaintWorks' Beach Chair Trio, we find things going quite quickly actually, but since I'm splitting my time between three projects, it goes about as quickly as the big one.

The painting in warm colors is the fun part, really. I'm also letting the sharpening of my manual dexterity sink in, really knowing it. I want to capture my own artistic evolution in a knowing way and this is another reason why doing this is more personally exciting than the other times I tried to reinvent myself as an artist. This is the reason this one, I think, may just stick and take me places I should have been some years ago.

There are big tracts of single colors here, though, so doing one color takes up a lot of painting space. That's also kind of fun in its own ineffable way.

19 August 2019

50 Small Paintings #4: Deep Blue Sea

3598The next painting is an exploration in a simple gradation. In its simplicity it suggests looking out to a placid, sunlit sea.

The first step was to sketch in the shoreline and horizon with a mixture of unbleached titanium and yellow ochre. It was then a rather simple matter of gradating upwards, starting with a mix of titanium white and light blue permanent, leaving a sliver of canvas showing through, then applying successive horizontal strokes of the same with an increasing proportion of cadmium blue before the preceding strokes have wholly dried. This strikes me as a way of a sort of blending on the painting, a dash of alla prima. 

The work is finished off by adding in a sky of the same white/blue mix we started with, leaving a bit of canvas peeking out to suggest a cloud in the distance, and filling in the shore unbleached titanium. Comparing the finished work with the photo in the book, I find myself okay with it generally but a tidbit unsatisfied with the smoothness of the gradation. The author suggests attempting this several times if one is not satisfied, but I'm satisfied enough, for now.

... the scene of the crime:

14 August 2019

Eggplant With Peppers: Progress Report 2

3597After falling sloppy in love with the first three of 50 Small Paintings I've let the "Eggplant with Peppers" still life stay on the shelf. I took it down and did a little something.

Here's the painting, now:

I wouldn't say I'm in striking distance of simultude here. Maybe same area code, is as close as I am right now, and I didn't do much: the white/cad yellow mix on the inside to suggest the cut edge of the big yellow pepper, and the addition of some color to the small yellow pepper to give it some dimension and visual heft.

Up close it looked like ass. I grew a little frustrated and stepped back.

When I stepped back ... it kinda looked better. I kinda liked it.

Vision seems to work this way for me, and maybe for you too: you take a close look, a real close look, and you see all the little parts. They don't suggest a whole, they only suggest themselves. You step back, though, and the diminished level of visual acuity of those details which occurs naturally ... nobody, no matter how eagle-sharp your vision is, can see every detail when you step back ... causes as sort of visual blending to occur. That, and your peripheral perception provides the framing context which reaches into these visually-blended details and knits them into the visual whole. This causes the whole brain to do a gestalt thing, and this connects what you see into what you know, identities map, and it achieves a level of sense. It's not exactly what a pepper would look like, but it makes sense as a valid interpretation of one.

So, going into that prolix mishmash, I was pretty sad about this. I hadn't done much and it didn't seem to do much good but all of a sudden it all fell together.

Clear as mud? Thought so. Next, I'll be trying some highlights.

12 August 2019

The Little European E On The Paint Tubes

3596I'd always thought it was a European thing. Turns out I was right, not quite in the way I'd thought, but right sure enough.

There is a symbol to the right of this text; it is a minuscule "e" drawn in a peculiar style. I've seen it on art supplies, specifically paint tubes, for a while. It has to do with a standard for prepackaging weight for products and it turns out it points up a subtle yet significant difference between Europe and the United States of America.

This is what they call the "estimated sign". It is a European standard. Without belaboring things too much, it appears in the same visual field as the weight or volume of the product and it means that the contents won't, on average, be less than the number you see, and for those that are slightly less, that slightly-less will be within an expected tolerance.

The European market, then, is what they call an average fill market. In America, though, that packaged weight is the least you will expect to see in all cases, and for that reason they say that America is a minimum fill market.

The language behind all of it makes even my eyes glaze over; the specifications, as well as the precise specifications for even drafting the symbol can be found on the Wikipedia page at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Estimated_sign. They are intimidatingly complex.

A slightly less abstruse reading can be found at the page https://www.ceway.eu/cosmetic-product-labels-estimated-symbol/, published by CE.way, a consultancy that provides market-oriented regulation and testing advice to the cosmetics industry. It makes the highly interesting point that, while you may see the 'e' on prepackages sold in the USA, since it's for products shipped from withing the EU to within the EU, putting the 'e' on your USA package imported to the EU means little or nothing, especially when one takes a moment to think about making a minimum-fill product jibe with standards for average-fill products.

So why do it? For the same reason any American affects something European: style. It lends an air of sophistication.

But that's the story behind the 'e'.

And that, as they say, is a thing you know now.

50 Small Paintings #2: Simple Sunset

3595The second of the series of 50 Small Paintings is "Simple Sunset". It shan't take long to see why.

It's a brief yet effective experience in using pure tube colors as well as layering them.

First, a fat stripe of Cadmium Yellow Light (Lemon Yellow had to suffice, since I, at that time, had no Cad Yellow Lt) across the lower middle. Then, a big stripe of Cad Orange overlapping that. Then, coming down from the top, Cad Red overlapping the first two. Below the horizon, Mars Black. Put a few bumps on the horizon to suggest distant clumps of trees, and a short horizontal stroke of Titanium White for the setting sun.

Once again, how effective and evocative this simplicity is! I, with just my meagre re-emergent artistic skill, have created a scene you can kind of melt into, that reminds me of slightly-out-of-focus, heat-distorted sunsets I've seen portrayed in film.

How powerful, this modest amount of technique is.

And at the end of it all, the palette. We drank water that day.

11 August 2019

50 Small Paintings #1: "Moonrise"

3594My Brown Eyed Girl is always on the lookout for compelling things that make me want to create. This is credit that must be stated. And, in her (so far) tireless quest to do so (much gratitude) she located, at the Mighty MultCoLib, a book by Mark Daniel Nelson, titled Learn to Paint in Acrylics with 50 Small Paintings. This book delivers exactly what the title advertises: 50 small works, most seem to be easily accomplished in a single sitting, each concentrating on introducing and giving experience on foundational skills in acrylic painting but each resulting in a charming little simple yet displayable painting.

It also touches on principles of design and display: the works are conceived in groups along common artistic themes so that they may be displayed together in harmonious groups or strategically against each other to create thematic contrasts.

I found a gold mine here and intend on doing all 50. And it has been rewarding, exciting, and fulfilling. There are more aspects to this work that I'll get into later, but, for now: the first painting.

These are all going to be done on 8 inch by 8 inch acrylic-primed canvasboard, the sort you find in every art store (the book specifies 5-by-5 and advocates exploring preparing your own grounds but 8-by-8 works just as well and I could fool about creating my own ground but I just want to get down to it (and the text is very accommodating about that as well)). Here in Portland we are blessed with more than one value-minded art supply store (mid-level acrylics and sensibly-priced canvasboard are in good supply at not only I've Been Framed but also Artist & Craftsman Supply), so exploring and getting an honest-to-goodness start on a painting practice is both convenient and not about to bust any budget.

So: ready, steady, go. Here we go down the road toward painting and illustration.

"Moonrise" means to introduce the aspiring acrylics artists to basic paint application and basic mixing. The only colors used here are Titanium White and Mars Black, and here's a view of the palette immediately after the work was completed:

For the record, yes, the big cracked cup had coffee in it, and the brushes were almost (but not quite) rinsed in the coffee more than once; some artistic traditions must be maintained.

First, the entire square was covered with a dark gray mixed from the two colors. Second, the dark mass of the hillside and skyline were added with pure Mars Black. Then, pure Titanium White was used to create the Moon and the reflection in the water (short, wiggly, horizontal strokes for that). As a finishing move, more dark gray was mixed and the sky and water were went over once again, to make it as opaque as possible and also to clean up the edges on the Moon and reflection.

The Moon was a little out-of-round: this was done with a #8 round brush and, as with the other non-PBN paintings I've been doing, working with other than the now-teeny-feeling #2 round has been a revelationary experience in and of itself. Scary and exhilarating.

This is the final result of the work, displayed next to the book (thoughtfully laid out so that you can do your work against the book and compare as you go):

Not too terribly bad, hey?

This gives some important experiences. Not only those mentioned, working with the paint, applying it, experience mixing (the final dark gray was lighter than the original dark gray, so I got experience in adjusting as I go) and dashing in lines with a paint brush to fill in, but a truly singular one I really felt for the first time: the experience of actually completing a real originally-created painting.

I've done it two times since. Those results will be up presently.

But, if being an artist hinges at all on completing the works one attempts, having a serious accomplished painting looking back at you, then I have graduated to actually, at long last being an artist in a positive way.

And I've done it two times since, three in total, and am about to embark on a fourth.

I can't recommend Mark Daniel Nelson's book highly enough just on that alone.

Progress on "Eggplant With Peppers"

3593Here's how the work on the "Eggplant With Peppers" painting is proceeding.

EWP, as will be recalled is the first project out of John Barber's The Acrylic Color Wheel Book, and is a project that acquaints (or re-acquaints) one with the basic ideas of arranging subjects in still-life, color mixing, glazing, and creating highlights.

The book, which hovers somewhere between moderate tyro and beginner masterclass, doesn't grab your hand and direct the brush so much as it tells you generally where to go and you take your chances. This is a positive thing, because by trying something you aren't wholly confident on yet seems, at this point, what I need to get experience and grow.

The opening moves were to fill in the simple veggie shapes with simple colors straight from the tube. The two yellow peppers were filled in with cadmium yellow, and the long and small peppers were a mixture of that yellow and ultramarine.

See the palette below:

The painting is a simple still-life and the shapes easy to fill in, the directions for the colors easy to follow. 

The challenge at this point came at defining the shadow in the cut pepper, which turned out a lot rougher than I'd hoped. 

The blue-gray color for the neutral background came out a bit more blue than I expected as well. The shadows, however, I find, are kinda convincing. Kinda.

I'm tabling this for a few days while I go on to the first three or four of 50 Small Paintings.  And what are those? Well, tune in for our next missive, which comes up...

Right now.