Saturday, July 10, 2010

More Buildings, More Perspective - and a Video!

"Red House on School Street" 9x12, oil

For this week's plein air workshop, we had a bit of fog. Nothing serious - if you went out for a walk, you could always feel your way back home - and it usually lifted by mid-morning. One such foggy morning we drove across the border to paint in Lubec. We began down by the water at the old McCurdy Smokehouse complex, but it was chilly, so next we headed up the hill where it was warmer. Amazingly, when the fog lifted, every trace of it vanished, leaving behind a clear, beautiful blue sky. You can see that sky in the painting above.

I liked this scene not just because of the sky (and the red house) but also because of the perspective. It's not an angle you see painted often. Usually, to avoid what they see as a drawing challenge, novice painters will avoid dramatic perspectives and choose something simpler, such as the side of a barn seen straight on. But I actually find it easier to draw a dramatic perspective. It's like drawing a caricature as opposed to a serious portrait; it's easier to exaggerate a prominent feature than to get it "just right."

Even so, I found it important to measure angles with my brush. If you try to just guess at the angle, I guarantee you'll get it wrong. It's important to use your brush handle as an angle-measuring tool. Hold it out with your arm extended, match the brush angle to the angle of, say, the roof line. Then, after locking your wrist and elbow, swing your hand to the canvas. Locking your joints will preserve the angle of the handle so that you can see exactly how the angle should be drawn on your canvas. Do this for each of the major lines, and do it whenever you're in doubt.

By the way, I put together a short (2 1/2 minute) video about my Campobello Island plein air painting workshops. Take a look!


Ed Terpening said...

Yes, using the brush to capture accurate angles works beautifully. I also load the brush and hold it up to my subject to get accurate color.

David Carroll said...

Michael, the interplay of red and green is captivating. It is a dynamic that is well-balanced by the draw of the street up the hill, with the slightest touch of turquoise at the top.

If this painting is for sale, please let me know. David

Michael Chesley Johnson, Artist / Writer said...

Thanks, David and Ed! Ed - yes. I will send you an e-mail.