Monthly Archives: May 2015

Using red gel to determine values in your paintings

Sometimes using a piece of red gel (acetate)-  as in lighting gel – will help you see the values of your subject and painting better.  This seems to work best with landscapes as the red gel counteracts the greens, just leaving the values.

I’m not quite sure where I came across this idea but I always carry a piece of red gel with me.  You can acquire leftover pieces from most theaters in your area, even some universities. They use the gels to color the lights for the stage. Or you can buy it new on Amazon.com or at a theatrical supply store.  If you use a viewfinder, there is even a really neat gismo which you can buy at www.pictureperfectviewfinder.com which has the red gel built in, along with some value markers and different size openings for standard painting sizes.  Try it.  You’ll like it.

Piece of red gel, about 4 x 6

Piece of red gel, about 4 x 6

Folded over Picture Perfect View Finder showing the red gel and composition grids.

Folded over Picture Perfect View Finder showing the red gel and composition grids.

The Picture Perfect View Finder

The Picture Perfect View Finder

Back side of the viewfinder

Back side of the viewfinder

Landscape without the gel

Landscape without the gel

Landscape with red gel showing values

Landscape with red gel showing values

Using the red gel to look at computer photo

Using the red gel to look at computer photo

A landscape painting with the red gel

A landscape painting with the red gel

A landscape final version showing the values in the photo on the computer

A landscape final version showing the values in the photo on the computer

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The value of temporary art

I spent today, Mother’s Day, gardening.  Last weekend I planted our considerable vegetable garden with the help of my granddaughter.  Today, I concentrated on flowerbeds, planters and hanging baskets.  The humidity was equal to the temperature so it was a hot, sticky day here in southern Indiana.

As I was dividing some ferns for the hanging baskets, it suddenly struck me how fugitive all my efforts were.  Why am I doing this? I asked myself.  Just because I love the results.  I felt as if I were channeling my mother and both grandmothers, who were all great gardeners.  A nice sentiment on Mother’s Day.

This led along a winding path of thinking about temporary art.  Many artists have made their reputations with creating artwork which isn’t meant to last.  Being the practical person that I am, I have always been a little skeptical.  But just as Christo’s art events to swathe bridges and canyons in fabric, and Gonzales-Torez’s piles of candy in museums are temporary art, so is planting flowers.  We do it for the sheer enjoyment and beauty.

My flowers will bring me great joy this summer until they are gone with the frosty fall.  That’s enough.  Isn’t it?

Plein air painting with acrylics

First of all I will admit that I am not an expert in acrylic painting.  Yes, I’ve painted watercolors for over 30 years and have tackled oil painting for about ten years.  But I’m pretty new to acrylic painting.

I got into acrylics painting artwork last year when I had some commissions which needed to be completed quickly.  Mainly I was looking for something durable but which dries more quickly than oils.  And after my last foray at a multi-day plein air event last month where I seemed to get Titanium white all over everything, I thought acrylics might be a good idea to try.

I have a beautiful little pochade box which I purchased last year but have never used so this was to be my designated acrylic box.  (For now.)  I loaded it up yesterday morning and drove out to a place down the road that I’ve been eyeing for a future painting site.  It was so peaceful and I arrived just before the sun arose.  I will say that the hardest part was attaching the quick release to my tripod, but after several attempts, I finally got it.  Not too thrilled as it wiggled a bit but otherwise it worked.  Then I unfortunately sat on my only plastic water container and smashed it.  Humph!  Artist ingenuity jumped up and I cut the bottom off a bottle of water.  Worked perfectly.

The next test was the new mini Stay Wet palette that I added too much water to the sponge.  The paper palette wrinkled a bit but I could work with it.  Lesson here:  try new equipment at home before you hit the road.

Here’s a photo of the beautiful rolling fields that I was trying to capture.  I find that I really only have two hours to make a go of a painting before I lose the light but this was enough.A sunny early morning photo 1000

And here’s a photo of the field painting at the time I packed up.A sunny early morning photo - 2-1000

When I got back home, I wasn’t quite satisfied with the colors or composition of the painting so decided to work on it some more.  You can see where I lowered the clouds to emphasize the dawn.  Then I pushed back some hills and brought forth some of the sunny highlights. A sunny early morning painting2-1000 I’m not totally satisfied with the overall painting but I usually have to live with them for a while.  It doesn’t seem to have the personality of the scene I was trying to capture but barring that, isn’t too bad.  What do you think?  Which one do you like best.

So, lessons learned from my first acrylic plein air painting adventure.

  1. Test out new equipment first before you take it into the field.
  2. Be adaptable.
  3. Acrylics are nice in that they dry much quicker than oils but are more opaque than watercolors.
  4. And….don’t sit on your water container!