Monday, April 20, 2015

Just Can't Stop

I just finished yet another palette knife painting.

art painting acrylic palette knife landscape tree

"Lone Tree"

12" X 16", Acrylic on panel
Original - $200

This painting is based on a photo I took in the small rural town of Fairfield, Utah.  I've now started collecting alternative painting tools, including quite an assortment of palette knives.

art painting palette knives acrylic colour shaper

I haven't used all of these yet.  I used four of them in this painting including one of those odd Princeton rubber shapers, the one that looks like a spade.  I used that tool for most of the grass, probably not the way that Princeton intended.  The last palette knife on the right is one I just bought Saturday and I used it to add most of the foliage detail since it's narrow and has a rounded tip.  I probably used brushes on this painting the least of any painting so far.

I thought you might like to see what my palette looked like at the end of this painting.

art painting acrylic palette messy used color

I did have to clean it off once at the end of the first session, so this is how it looked at the end of the second session.  I use a Masterson Sta-Wet palette box but I don't use the sponge or paper. Instead I have a piece of glass in the bottom that's painted a neutral gray on one side.  I find glass much easier to mix on plus it's very easy to clean off using a razor blade scraper.  I used to use folded up dampened paper towel to set my paint piles on but I always had mold issues no matter what I did so now I don't and I don't really find the lack of moisture to be much of a problem, I just mist my paints every few minutes with an atomizer.  Notice how I keep my palette "attached" to the front of my easel.  I have a couple hooks screwed into the back of the easel and just let the lip of the box catch them.  Gravity is enough to keep everything in place and stable.  I learned this trick watching a DVD by John K. Harrell, though he uses a butcher tray for his palette.  Since the palette is just sitting there, not really attached it's easy enough to unhook it and put the air tight lid on to preserve the paint.

 For those artists that are curious here are the names of the paints I use starting from the left and going to the right, these are all Liquitex brand.  First is titanium white, then cadmium yellow light, cadmium yellow medium, yellow oxide, burnt sienna, cadmium red light, cadmium red medium, ultramarine blue (red shade), ultramarine blue (green shade) and cerulean blue.  I don't normally put cerulean on my palette but for some reason I thought this painting needed some.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

First Hike of the Season

Okay, I'll admit, it wasn't much of a hike.  I just went to a trailhead for the trail at the bottom of Little Cottonwood Canyon and hiked down to the creek which took all of 5-10 minutes, going back was uphill though so it took a little longer.  It was nice to get up in the mountains and walk around even if I wasn't very far up.  We had a dry winter and the peak of the spring runoff is probably a month off anyway so the creek wasn't very full but that allowed me to walk to parts that would be difficult or impossible to get to under different conditions.  I took my sketchbook and a pen along.  I decided to try a little experiment, to plan out a painting without any real intention of making a painting, at least not at this time.

art sketch plein air pen ink nature landscape mountain

I did all these sketches on one sheet and didn't even use the whole sheet.  First I did the tiny thumbnail composition check in the upper right, no details just large value masses.  Then I enlarged the thumbnail a bit and added a little detail for the upper left sketch.   Then I did a larger sketch, though still only about 2" X 3" with even more detail and some compositional adjustments.  Will I attempt a painting of this?  I don't really know, but it was a good exercise. 

I wondered around a bit more and decided to do this little root study.

art sketch pen ink plein air nature mountain nature

Obviously there was no intention to make a finished piece of art with this. Doing little sketches like this is important for two reasons:  #1 it's just good drawing practice.  #2 is that it's good observational practice.  I'm always amazed at what I don't see until I really look, and the best way too really look at something is to do a sketch of it.  There was a part of this little scene that I thought was a rock until I got to that part of the sketch and then realized that "rock" was actually another part of the root that had turned under and so was darker.  I'm betting this sketch is looking like just a jumbled mess of lines to you, but for me it was invaluable observational practice, looking at this sketch recalls all kinds of visual details in my mind.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

More Palette Knife Fun

I couldn't resist getting out the palette knives again tonight.  As a challenge to myself I took it even further. First, I painting a more complex subject, an old, abandoned truck.  Second, I did more of the painting with the knife this time, besides the truck I also did the grass primarily with a palette knife, though some of the grass was done with a rubber tipped color shaper to add some variety.  Altogether I think I used brushes to complete this painting less than any other acrylic painting I've ever done.  The brushes were mainly used to tidy of some of the lines on the truck and to add some details.  I found this poor old GMC flatbed truck in a salvage yard in Nephi, Utah.  My many thanks to the owner for letting me wander around to take photos, I'm sure you'll see more paintings from me based on those photos in the future.

art painting acrylic truck GMC palette knife flatbed

"Ol' Blue"

11" X 14", Acrylic on panel
Original - $160

I do however have a confession to make.  I actually started this painting some time ago, back during my first palette knife craze, I got frustrated with it and put it away.  I got it back out tonight and couldn't for the life of me remember why I was frustrated with it, I really had no problem finishing it.  Were my expectations just a few months ago different?  Have my skills grown that much since then?  Or was my general mental state that much different? I don't know why but finishing the painting that not so long ago caused me great frustration presented no problems tonight and was a fun and exciting experience.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Playing With the Palette Knife

I decided to explore the technique of applying an underpainting using a palette knife further tonight.  My previous paintings using the palette knife were scenes that were made up mostly of natural elements, I decided to give a man made structure a try.  So that I wouldn't stretch myself to the breaking point I kept the painting small and the subject dilapidated.

art painting palette knife acrylic house abandoned vegetation

"Gone to the Trees"

Acrylic on panel, 8" X 10"

I tried to make the underpainting more complete than I had in the other palette knife underpainted paintings, I was able to pretty much completely cover the whole panel and the painting almost could have stood as is at that point but then I spent another hour or so with brushes tidying it up.  I was careful to not get too tidy though, I still wanted to maintain the looseness and texture of the underpainting so I mixed my paint using the palette knife to make sure I had a lot of it and so even the brush applied paint was heavy and added it's own texture.  I think I'll continue to explore and develop this technique, it may even become my primary style.

I found this little abandoned house being reclaimed by nature in the small Utah town of Fairfield.  Fairfield is located pretty much in the middle of nowhere but it has the claim to fame of being the largest army base in the country for a short time way back in the mid 1800's.