Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Sarasota Plein Air Workshop - Day 3

"Beach Pine" 9x12, oil

The threat of thunderstorms and high winds didn't deter us from our goal today - Coquina Beach at the south end of Anna Maria Island. Bad weather wasn't expected until afternoon, so we figured we'd be able to get out there and back before the action began. Our luck held out, and we had a good morning. We made sure to stay on the lee side of the island, since the white caps were kicking up on the west side and we wanted to avoid any umbrella-induced disasters.

Coquina Beach has a wonderful natural area, complete with hiking trail, that lets you explore the water's edge. Mangrove and sea grape, herons and pelicans, and lots of shells characterize it. A couple of the students painted a great blue heron that posed rock-still for nearly two hours. A passerby asked them if they had paid the heron to pose.

For my demonstration, I chose a view of an Australian pine among the dunes. ("What, no water?" one student asked. No, because I'd need a much longer canvas to get my pine and the water in, too.) I wanted to show one method of avoiding shifting values in an oil painting. As most oil painters know, anytime you add a color to a particular mixture, you change the value, whether you mean to or not. It's so easy to get the much-dreaded "value shift" and to lose your design.

I analyzed my scene and came up with five distinct values. Using a painting knife, I pre-mixed piles of paint that matched those values. I had three values of green for vegetation, one light blue for the sky and then, for my lightest light, a sand color. The idea is that, no matter what other color mixtures you end up making, those color mixtures must match the value of one of these five piles.

Although pre-mixing paint can take some time, the painting itself goes much faster once you're done. The painting, as they say, almost paints itself. Just make sure you put the paint where you want it. For this demonstration, which depicts a slightly-overcast moment with no well-defined shadows or highlights, it went very fast. In 30 minutes, the painting was nearly done. Another 10 minutes go it to where you see it now. It is a good sketch that could be taken to the studio and fine-tuned or that could have a larger studio piece based on it.

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