Friday, June 11, 2010

Return to Lupines

"Friar's Head Lupines III" 18x24, oil

I finally finished the lupine piece today. It's a big one for me and good exercise. And I do need the exercise - I've got a whole pile of these 18x24 canvases ready to go!

Above is my scene on the first day. By the time I got set up, the sun had started to wane a bit, but as I was interested primarily in getting the painting only through the block-in stage, it didn't matter. When the sun was out full and strong, I took a few minutes to stop and observe the value and color relationships of my big shapes. Below is an intermediate step.

After about two and a half hours, I'd brought it to this stage:

I had a good feeling at the end of this session. Things were big and simple, and if it'd been a 5x7, I probably would have left it this way.

On the second day, the sun was even more fickle, but there were still moments when I could stop and observe. I was most interested in the lupines and trying to get the color right and also the shadows around them. After about two hours, I packed it in and went for a hike with Trina. The whole time I was hiking, though, I kept wondering if I'd gotten the color temperature relationships right. Warm foliage in the grass and cool shadows? Or was it reversed? One the way home from the hike, we stopped at the location so I could double-check. I was right - warm light, cool shadows - which saved me a restless night.

On the third and last day, I spent a little time in the studio making adjustments. I needed to punch up the light on the grass, put some richer color on the lupines, and cool the shadows in the grass even a bit more. You'll note that I changed the shape of Friar's Head in the distance; it didn't look "organic" enough. I also changed early on what is paved road to dirt. The scene called for a more, well, "organic" type of paving. I even made the road look wet, as if a rain shower had passed through. Here's the finished piece again, so you don't have to scroll all the way to the top:

It was a fun piece, and I'm learning how to do these larger, multi-session pieces without getting stressed. Rule of thumb: Each day get yourself to a comfortable stopping spot. For me, I can stop after the block-in and when I've made all my big shape adjustments (value and color) and spotted a few "notes" as a reminder for what my finishing accents should look like. For the second session, I can stop when I feel I've gotten the painting almost done - and don't want to mess it up!


Susan Roux said...

I rented a house to go paint lupines in Blue Hill Maine next week, but I fear I'll be too late. Spring came early this year...

Your painting is lovely.

Michael Chesley Johnson, Artist / Writer said...

Thanks, Susan. Yes, spring came very early this year! But, the lupines have just barely started, further up (or downeast) the coast. Come to Lubec!