Thursday, October 2, 2008

Lois Griffel Workshop - Day 3

The fall foliage can be near-incandescent in Acadia National Park this time of year. I know of many good painting spots on the carriage trails, which were constructed and landscaped by Rockefeller a hundred years ago, but they can be difficult to reach unless you're on a bike or, like Rockefeller, in a horse-drawn carriage. The north end of Eagle Lake, which is one of the best spots right now, is just a short hike from the car.

Lois had us line up along the shore and gave us suggestions for painting the fall colors. Most helpful was to paint the most brilliant trees just as dark as the duller ones around them. That is, although you underpaint them with rich color, you keep the color dark, saving the light for later. It's so tempting to make them not only rich but also very light - and usually too light -- right off the bat.

Here is my morning "start":

And here is Lois':

I should mention the palette that Lois has us using. As many of my readers know, I use a limited, split-primary palette of six colors. Lois recommends something like the following. I say "something like," because the exact colors aren't as important as the temperatures. So here's what I have on my palette this week: Cadmium Lemon Yellow, Cadmium Yellow Light, Cadmium Yellow Deep, Cadmium Orange, Cadmium Scarlet Red, Thalo Red Rose, Alizarin Crimson, Thalo Violet, Ultramarine Blue, Cerulean Blue, Viridian, Thalo Green Light, plus two earth colors, Yellow Ochre and Burnt Sienna, plus white. That's 14 colors! The palette of my little 9x12 Guerrilla Painter Box barely has enough room. Here's a photo of the palette:

As I paint, I don't really care what the name of the color is so much as I do the temperature. If I need a warmer color, I just move clockwise around my palette until I fight the right degree of warmth. This "color wheel arrangement" of color has 14 steps of temperature change, whereas my usual palette has only 6. Think of the difference between playing scales on a piano with 88 keys, and then on a piano with, say, all the white keys removed, leaving you only the black keys.

By the way, it's important to clean the palette thoroughly between "first notes" and "second notes." First notes are your first lay-in of color. Second notes, which typically consist of complements to the first notes, are the second application. (There are also "third notes" and beyond.) You don't want the second notes contaminated by any remnant of first notes on the palette. Cleaning the palette between first and second notes helps minimize the mixing area required for the painting.

I have one more comment regarding application of paint. I find that I may use a brush on one painting but a knife on the next, mostly out of frustration with the brush. Hawthorne and Hensche had their students use only the knife, mostly because the knife makes it is easier to apply rich, clean, complementary notes over wet paint. I found this to be very true. Laying down these notes with a brush requires constant cleaning and, if the paint is stiff, lots of medium, plus the delicate skill of a surgeon.

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