Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Start of a New Series

It's just one so far but hopefully the first of many to come.  I've decided to start a series of small charcoal drawings for a couple reasons.  First, to develop my skills with the medium.  Charcoal is a relatively new medium for me but one I'm finding to be possibly a very good match for my temperament and for what I want to express and how I want to express it.  At least for now charcoal is my primary medium and I think doing a series of small studies of various subjects will help me develop my skills with the medium a bit more efficiently than tackling nothing but big projects.  Second, to test different materials, primarily paper.  Possibly the most difficult thing, I'm running into materials wise is finding the ideal surface to work on.  Charcoal is coarse grained so it needs enough tooth in the paper to hold those particles but I also enjoy detail, especially on vehicles which is hard to get on toothy paper, the studies will hopefully help me to find a paper that is a happy medium.  Without further delay here is my first study in this new series;

art drawing charcoal nature evergreen tree forest mountain

"Nature Study No 1"

7" X 5", charcoal on paper

This small drawing is based on a photo I took during one of my many hikes in the Wasatch Mountains.  This is actually just a small part of the photo and it is very simplified compared to the photo.  I also changed the value pattern somewhat compared to the photo.  There were some very bright spots in the background, I subdued them.  I also darkened the tree trunk some near the top so that column of light tone doesn't take you eye right out of the picture.  I used mostly a reductive technique.  Reductive means I applied a base of charcoal to an area and then removed charcoal to create the light areas.  Larger light toned areas such as the tree trunk were kept light from the start. I used a kneaded eraser, poster tack and a Tuff Stuff vinyl eraser cut to a chisel point to remove charcoal. The paper is Arches 140 lb hot pressed watercolor paper. I think this paper is about as toothy as I'd want to use, but I might try some that are more textured just for experimentation.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Tractor in Charcoal

Okay, I've shown you sheds and barns in charcoal, I decided it's time put some wheels on it.

art drawing charcoal tractor farmall agriculture abandoned


12" X 16" Charcoal and watercolor

A vintage Farmall tractor sits abandoned in a grassy field looking towards a stand of cottonwood trees being looked over by a distant hill and backlit clouds.  These old Farmall tractors are scattered all over rural Northern Utah.  This one with it's unusual configuration and attachment is part of a collection in Wallsburg.  I haven't been able to figure out what those things do that are mounted just behind the fuel tank, but there sure are a lot of levers and linkages involved.  The field is more or less from my imagination, the trees from another reference photo taken somewhere in the Heber Valley and the clouds from yet another reference photo taken in some rural area.
I didn't know what I was going to call this drawing until close to halfway through.  The composition along with the use of charcoal created a mood.  I couldn't put my finger on it at first but as the drawing went along it came more into focus.  This lone tractor sitting in a disused field seems to look off into the distance with longing for the days when it could have been put to use to till that field, now it just sits all broke down, a shadow of it's former self and can only wistfully recall those days long ago.  Yes, I just anthropomorphized a farm tractor.  Yes, the tractor is just an inanimate object, but at one time in the hands of an operator it was very animated, and did a lot of work achieved a lot of constructive aims.  Can anyone look at a scene like this and not project some kind of human emotion on it?  Haven't we all felt at one time or another similar to how this tractor must feel if it could feel?  I remember showing my Mom my first abandoned truck painting and it actually seemed to make her a bit sad and her first comment was, "It just seems so lonely.".  She must be getting used to my style because when she looked at this one she didn't have that reaction but she did look at it a good bit.
I never really intend to get philosophical with my art though I do want it show the beauty of the subject and to evoke some kind of emotion, without meaning to I think this drawing took my intentions a step deeper, or maybe I'm just getting soft in my old age.
Now for the nuts and bolts.  At 12" X 16" this is the biggest drawing I've ever done, and is about as big as I can comfortably work on with my current drawing table.  I've tried drawing at an easel several times but I just don't have enough control for that plus it hurts my shoulder more, so 12" X 16" may be as big as I get, we'll see. I started with Arches hot press paper in a block, (I don't really want to stretch paper.) and after a light and simple graphite sketch I applied some subtle watercolor washes.  After the washes dried the rest was just straight up drawing using charcoal pencils, stumps, tortillons, and erasers.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Spring Painting Outdoors

The weather was a bit iffy.  The air was quite breezy, however it was also quite warm for the season, well into the 80's.  Pockets of storm clouds were threatening, but alternating with pockets of intense sunshine.  All in all far from ideal conditions for painting outside with acrylics, I packed up my gear and headed out anyway.
I knew exactly where I wanted to go, it was a spot I saw while on a "sketch and walk" over a month ago.  The trees were still bare then and much of the landscape was still a bit brown but now the foliage is nearly full and everything is very green, we've been having a lot of rain lately, a lot.  So, even though the weather was far from ideal I saw an opening in the rainy weather and dove in.

art painting plein air nature tree path trail park

 "Spring Walk"

14" X 11", Acrylic on panel

This little scene is by the banks of the Jordan River in Murray, Utah and is part of the Jordan River Parkway.  The Parkway is an endless source of artistic inspiration and my favorite section, the Murray-Taylorsville section is a very short drive from my home, even walkable without a backpack full of gear.  I really liked how the seldom used pathway meanders through the grasses and wildflowers and ends at the large tree, it made for a near perfect composition, I embellished very little.  I spent a few minutes in the studio making some minor adjustments, but the painting is at least 95% painted on location.
I took my larger plein air set up that uses a tripod easel but figured out a way to pack it all into a backpack rather than the huge tactical duffel I usually use.  This meant using a handheld palette but the tradeoff was worth it and it actually worked quite well.
I did get rained on just a bit and the wind was a bit of a handful to deal with at first but later settled down, overall it was a pleasant plein air painting session. The forecast is for continued unsettled weather, no telling when I'll be able to get out with the paints again but that's normal for this time of year.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

More Experimentation With Charcoal

After a short return to painting I decided to revisit charcoal.  First I did this small drawing;

art drawing charcoal wheeler farm shed barn agriculture


"Wheeler Farm Shed"

Charcoal, 9.45" X 6.92"

Small works are a good way to get lots of practice with a medium in a relatively short time so these first few charcoal experiments have been on the small side.  However, at least for me drawing still takes considerably more time than painting.  Working small also allows me to try different kinds of paper, in this case I used Stonehenge which I found to have a little more texture than I like but I made it work.  The drawing showcases how charcoal is good at providing strong contrasts.  The subject is a shed at a local working historic farm owned by Salt Lake County.  I took a little liberty with the scene, in particular I added a window to the shed.

I have to admit I missed color a bit so I wondered how to put color in a charcoal drawing without having the color compete with the charcoal.  I decided to try an experiment, this is the result;

art drawing charcoal abandoned shed hay shelter landscape rural


"Soon Forgotten"

Watercolor, charcoal and pastel, 7" X 10"

I started with Arches hot pressed watercolor paper for this one.  After lightly outlining the composition in graphite I applied watercolor washes in various subtle colors.  Once the  paper was dry I started drawing using the charcoal.  Every now and then I decided it needed a touch more color and used pastel pencil but I was always careful to keep it subtle.   I still wanted this to look like a charcoal drawing, just with a bit of color.  To finish I splattered a bit of watercolor in the foreground to add texture and interest.  The subject is a scene that used to exist in the lot next to where I live.  Unfortunately the owner sold the lot where he used to keep sheep and horses to a developer who promptly leveled everything, (why couldn't they have at least saved the apple tree?) that was nearly two years ago, the lot is still empty.  Luckily I took photos before the lot was cleared, so I guess this little drawing is a tribute of sorts.  I really like how this turned out, it has a bit of a tonalist look. I'm sure I'll be experimenting with this process more.