Welcome to M.E. BAILEY ART . . . .
As an art instructor, I don't wish to hide the fact that I crash and burn often. I will always be learning. So, it all gets shown here . . .good and bad. Every painting we do counts in the learning and experience process. The failures actually are much better teachers than successes. Every piece made is a teacher. That's the fun of it: the challenge to learn.
Join in and comment or email me, if you would like.
Sunday, July 27, 2008
The intense work, that's what. I am giving a workshop in San Jose in two weeks. While I have given this workshop before, I have spent the last 8 days, minimum 6 to 8 hours in the studio (from very early morn) till I can't stand any more. I have been overhauling, inspecting, re thinking and rewriting every moment of this workshop so that it will go off without a hitch.
It's all about color. Now you can *talk about* color or you can learn by *doing* color. Every ten minutes is planned !!! I am at the point now where I must paint some examples to show so that the concepts are understood. . . . . . . .and I gotta tell ya . . .I am learning a TON! . . .again!
Thanks all you folks who have sought me out to give me the "Arte y Pico" award. And I really mean it when I say "Thanks" . . .I am flattered and pleased that you find my work both well done and helpful in your own quests to improve. Five elections in eight days is really nice, however, due to my shedule right now, I cannot reciprocate and pass it along. The last time that I was "tagged" I found myself embroiled for three hours plus to seek permission and get it all done. So, while I am flattered, at this time I need to concentrate on getting my work done . . .why the pressure? Our daughter is getting married this coming weekend and visitors are coming from everywhere. If I am not done soon, I will be 'in the soup', so to speak.
So, please, bear with me for a few more days till I can post something . . .
In the meanwhile . . .you gotta know we are excited about this weekend . . .and gaining a son!
Monday, July 21, 2008
- Gathered together some of the big "blotches' of ice plant to form a single large shape.
- Attempted to create more of a green dominance in the ice plant to set up the red contrasts.
- Worked on temperature variations throughout the entire piece.
- Related one cliff face to the other via color and value.
- Reduced the sweetness of the background trees by graying them considerably.
- Attemted to set up more of an atmospheric sense in the entire painting via gradations, intensity modifications and reduced value contrasts as the viewer moved back into the picture space.
- Warmed up the forground cypress bush from cold alizirin crimson to a warmer harmonic of colors using alizirin as a base and adding yellow and green for warmth.
There are plenty more things . . .and I noticed that I don't think particularly clearly when I am unsure of what to do next . . .this painting was entirely from a sketch without photo references or being on the site.
This one has been waking me from slumber, too. I just had to get it done!
Saturday, July 19, 2008
I was firing on all cylindars as I painted away . . .stuff was going together on the canvas rapidly. Within 2 hours, I was ready to call it quits, load up the car and head out. So, we did.
Getting to the car, I pulled the painting out to look at it in the shade. Wham !!! It hit me that my mistake was one I should have seen coming . . .in fact, I KNEW BETTER !
I had overdone the darks and mid-tones. So much so, that the dark shadowy areas were nearly black. Areas and shapes that should have been in a dark middle value had accelerated to the dark side, too! When you paint in the direct sun, the colors appear more washed out . . .the painter naturally compensates without consciously seeing that every mark is much darker than they should be. I have done this countless times and cuss myself for falling into the trap again.
The second mistake was not paying attention to color temperature as a means to show light and shadow. Again, I knew better. Instead, I was slamming the darks as pure value tones.
I awoke that night in the middle of the night and almost sat bolt upright in bed . . . .(why do realizations have to appear in mid sleep in the wee hours ? Why ?!!) . . . .I was visualizing what I should have done . . . .I should have used more blues to indicate shadowed areas . . . .cool out of the light and warm in the light (on a sunny day) ! sheeesh! How long does it take to make this a habit ??
The last mistake was to ignore the mistake. This morning I awoke telling myself to ‘git into the studio and fix it!” This little compulsion is the part of me that others call ‘self discipline.’ I don’t call it that. I HAD TO SEE if I was right in my mid snooze epiphany.
I think I was. I won’t again work sans umbrella . . . .and I’ll be more watchful of color temperature instead of absolute value. Clearly, Mistakes are the best teachers . . .if we pay attention.
Friday, July 18, 2008
oil on canvas panel, 12' x 16"
Some days are just too good to be true. And today was one of ‘em!
After sorting around in some of my painting haunts, I took a flyer today and knocked on the door of a property owner who had previously denied me access to their private beach and sprawling ranch property on the coast. Today, my buddy and I were welcomed and encouraged to go ahead and paint where ever we liked.
Mind you, in California there are VERY FEW beaches without human footprints on them. This place had N O N E ! What an amazing treat to be standing knee deep in native grass and actually not wanting to go onto the beach because it would disrupt such undisturbed natural perfection.
A small creek comes to a pond there on the beach and reflects the water and wind beaten bluffs. Mind you, the wind blows there all the time. So, it was paint with one hand and hold the umbrella and easel with the other! Save for the wind, my buddy and I decided that it would be a most perfect day if two naked women just happened along for us to gaze at while they sun bathed and we painted.
Like I said, some days are just too good to be true. What are the odds that our wishes came true? Today the lottery would have been in our favor, if you get my drift. We were blown away, but not by the wind, that is for sure!
And the painting came out well, too !!!! (Only in California, right?) HA!!!
Thursday, July 17, 2008
But . . .that is not what I came here to discuss . . . this time it is color. As you can see I have been doing some color gymnastics in the last few weeks and am excited about making some unusual color choices. However, I am concerned about this piece and the colors I chose . . . .that is why it is still on the easel. So, I am stirring this one around in my head . . . .and pacing . . . . and scratching my head. I think the colors in the cypress trees, in this case, are wrong. I am not sure if it is the value of the small, bush like cypress in the foreground, or the violet / ‘periwinkle’ color of those in the back ground.
I am attempting to set up some extreme aerial perspective here . . . .and much of it is working . . . . .but this painting is rattling inside of me for some reason. . . .and I can’t quite put my finger on it yet. I would be most interested in your toughts.
Monday, July 14, 2008
Saturday, July 12, 2008
As you can see from the last few posts, the cliffs came into play again with a series of sketches and some oil paintings that threw an entirely different bias into the paintings. That bias was one of using a highly limited palette and avoiding the reality of the color on the site. The last post spoke about how my watercolor technique sometimes leaks into the oil painting process.
The tree shape in the composition is really the center of interest as driven by the value contrast . . . .and the unusual color of a deep crimson base (rather than dark green). It was this palette choice that pushed me to wonder if I could (or should) attempt something similar in watercolor. When painting those trees in oil, the darkest coolest version of that red is laid down thinly first, then the progressively lighter values and warmer tones laid over each other until the sense of a lit solid volume becomes apparent. In watercolor, however, it is exactly the opposite . . .painting first the light then working backward to the darks. Watercolor is (to me) dazzlingly beautiful when it is wet, especially those rich darks! I find myself getting carried away by them and often go too far and put too much dark into the composition. Then, the painting has to be rescued.
This painting, similar to the last few compositionally, was the test to see if I could do something similar with watercolor. The trees came out okay, but they don’t have the density of pigment that the oils have. ( I am not dissatisfied, just pointing out a difference). The foreground in this watercolor is a good deal less forgiving, however, than the oils. With the oils, the strokes themselves indicate what the textures and abstract indications of the foliage might look like. In watercolor, that doesn’t happen. Those textures and patterns have to be created . . .. . again working from light to dark. . . . . .and, for me, that is no easy task. Because the foreground shape is such a large shape, something had to be done to keep the internals of that shape entertaining yet supportive of the rest of the piece without attracting too much attention. The colors had to harmonize with the rest of the piece, yet be subordinate to all else, too.
As a result, this piece took quite a while longer to paint than a typical alla prima oil painting like the last few. Each layer had to wait for the last layer to reach bone dry before proceeding. And those layers were sandwiched in between other goings on in life . . . .but that’s another story.
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
This means that strong decisions about where one is to put the light values and how one will structure and compose the dark passages must be made in advance of the painting.
I learned early to make value sketches. You’ve seen some of these the last few posts. I cannot help doing it at times. It is nearly a pastime in and of itself.
As in watercolor, when the painter concentrates their thoughts on how the value patterns will be structured, minutia is omitted. The painting boils down to good shape making and a sound pattern of value. And the result is strong, simplifications of a scene. That is, I suppose, the art of it.
The last few paintings have been made directly from my sketches without referring to the subject at all.
I guess my watercolor discipline is leaking into the oils. . . . .and I think I like it. There is a directness and a freshness that I think I see in it. More will tell. So, suppose I better paint some more, eh? :p-)
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
I don’t wish to appear as though I do this in every painting . . . .but I do notice that when I do, the quality of my paintings goes way up.
The answer is preliminary sketches and sketching to explore possible ideas.
It seems that when I really sit down and concentrate on composition (where to place various parts of an image on the canvas and how big and at what directional attitude), I get great results. Or, as I focus on making decisions about values (what will be dark, what will be light and what will be medium value . . . .and in what proportions), my work becomes simpler and stronger and the painting is executed with much more confidence. I have a greater, more positive sense of what to do next at the easel.
So how much is enough? One sketch? Hardly! Two? Doubtful. Three? Perhaps, but surely there are more alternatives than thaaaaaat ! I really don’t know how much is enough.
This much, however, I do know: when I am prowling through many alternatives and truly thinking about what the overall feel of each composition, some of the sketches will leave me lukewarm . . . . . .and one or two will bark out at me and yell “choose me!” That choice really shouldn’t come because one is tired of sketching and willing to accept any alternate just because “I want to paint, not draw.” There is emotional and mental treasure in being excited about proceeding with the ‘right one.’
The above sketches are all developed (17 of them . . .. and more coming) over a few mornings. One jumped out at me, yesterday (see the previous post), and I painted it. Today, after sketching for more time yesterday and this morning, I see that I have a few more possible good paintings in these. . . . and I am chomping at the bit to ‘get at it.’
What I learn every time I do spend hours (not just haphazard minutes in order to say “there. I did it.”) doing it, is that it becomes an end in itself and I find many possibilities with one subject (a tree on the edge of a cliff). Essentially, this is a shake-out process of evaluating and rejecting or selecting alternatives. I have known artists who spend (literally) years developing the same subject matter . . .it is called working in series . . .and series work is where we lose the insipid anxiety over details and explore our own notions and ideas. That is where the best, most creative work shows up.
The really cool thing about that sort of process (I know; It seems boring as hell. Believe me, it is not boring at all) is the excitement of discovery of what lies inside of me (you) . . . . . .. who knew THAT idea was in there? Wow!!
Answer: It’s never “enough” . . . .there is always just one more idea.
Monday, July 7, 2008
In every painting there is a concise division of the picture space . . . .or division of space as it is called. I spent a few hours this morning wishing I could do the same . . .then with pencil in hand, I began sketching and **designing** some landscape scenes. What do I mean by designing? Well . . . creating from something already known but fitting something into a divided space. The horizon of the water in this little painting is at a very critical spot on the canvas. And not by accident. The right hand edge of the cliff is also dancing on another division. Notice that edge and the left edge of the painting make a square? Can you see it? (Look at the sketches above. The marks outside the edges of each sketch show the lines on which these lie. See the bottom center sketch.) There is another imaginary square whose lower left corner touches the upper right corner of the cliff. The large square and that little square were set up first before any “Things” or objects were put into the drawing. These two squares came from the GOLDEN MEAN. If you want to know more about that, Google it, too. Mr. Stocks uses it a lot in his paintings.
That space division seems to be a highly interesting set of proportions to us humans. I have no idea why, but the concept has been around since the ancient Greeks put it to use. Once you know of it, you will see it everywhere.
So, I did around 10 sketches this morning trying to put the golden mean to use . . .and force fit a subject into it . . . .then, with the challenge of using only a few simple colors . . . . . .Alizirin Crimson, Ultramarine Blue, Cad Yellow Medium and White . . .I set about avoiding the typical GREEN tree. I really like the freshness of this piece. I wasn’t concerned with details or things. Just colors and space and how I would fit it together.
It was fun! Yes, I did struggle a bit in the sketching. The trick is to not give up. The stuff is waiting inside of us. We just have to find the access to let it out . . . .and sometimes it takes a while.
Thursday, July 3, 2008
As Frank Gardiner pointed out in his comments yesterday, the trees have ‘holes,’ too. They are important.
The lesson here is to study your trees carefully. The effort pays off in a great way; you have a memory of the trees and how they are constructed so that you can improvise on your canvas and get the idea across to the viewer. Look at a series of maple trees, or elms, or some of the pine varieties. Each has a distinctive shape.
The last photo here is of a series of cottonwoods near some farm buildings and a sketch of some different variations on the fan theme of a line of cottonwoods. Note, these trees often have multiple trunks, too. Interesting.
You may not be interested in cottonwoods. However, in building art about a subject, the more you can modify and create changes in the reality, yet retain the character of it, the more your own style comes to life. It is important to be able to improvise! That can only happen when you keep the core truth about the subject . . . .Jazz is the same exact thing: Improvisation around a melody. We still hear the melody, but the stylization is mezmorizing.
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
An artist who rocks my world, Gregory Stocks, is an expert at making tree SYMBOLS with a few simple strokes layered atop each other to build an overall SHAPE that belies the species of tree.
So, there are two words that any painter must learn to bury into his or her consciousness. Shape. And Symbol. It isn’t the branches. It isn’t the leaves. It even isn’t the color. It is the overall silhouette that makes the statement. It is merely a symbol of a tree, not the accurate depiction that makes it interesting.
As for making a painting entertaining and fascinating to the viewer, shapes must be unpredictable. As for that characteristic, symmetry is the enemy of a good landscape painter. The temptation to make the trees symmetrical can lead a painter straight to the confines of never escaping novicedom.
My recent trip to Wyoming revealed a variety of tree of which I wasn’t familiar . . . .cottonwoods . . . .they grow there among the sagebrush. They are a stark, often lonely, bastion against the wind and are torn into disarray as a result of their refusal to submit. No doubt, early homesteaders planted them as windbreaks. Their shapes are stunningly irregular and do not indicate their name in the least bit.
I thought some studying of their shapes might reveal some unifying characteristic among the singular representatives . . . .but no . . . . .not a hint of similarity that I can see. Each one . . .even groups of them . . . .seem to entice my eye and hold my wonder.
These sketch book studies are some of the many I did this morning. I used a ‘wet erase’ pen, whose purpose is for overhead projection (drawing or writing on acetate), then I wet the line with water. Interestingly, the black separates into variations of grayed orange and blue. (This pen was courtesy of Myrna Wacknov, an incredible watercolor portrait artist).
I’ll be doing some more studies of these trees . . .and may see what a few other artists are doing with them. Much to learn in so little time !!