into the small passages with color ideas

two oranges (2)

Drawing two oranges on the still life table this morning using oil pastel, looking for color changes and for ideas about how to complicate the passage of the Big Painting that has the two oranges in the foreground.

I had it on my “to do” list to make a study and I think I’ll make some more.  I am just looking at color passages, exaggerating some of them, thinking about my pal Bonnard.

I ate half the still life

apples two jade background (2)

Sometimes for fun, or just to get started for the day, I’ll do quick drawings in Neopastel.  This time it was apples.  To add to the fun — and for my own perceptual interest — I also drew without my glasses.  I have fairly profound myopia.  It’s interesting to observe the much more generalized forms of things as they appear in my uncorrected vision.  Color looks a bit different too.  Not that it changes hue or anything.  It’s just that it gets similarly clumped into masses, ones that are a bit different from what I see when the acuity is there.

apples two

This second one I did very quickly, without glasses.  I had to get up for something going on in another room of the house.  When I returned the light was completely changed.  Sometimes it changes very quickly.  So it’s en plein indoor drawing — one deals with all the fluctuations.

apple 1 (2)

And then there was one!

More Memory Lane

Spring cleaning is a time of perpetual surprise.  I found this in the attic, this picture that I forgot I had even painted.  The sentinel tree lives at a nearby wildlife preserve.  I did this, I’m guessing, about twenty years ago.  I’ve done a lot of landscape drawing this year and some landscape painting.  But in looking for something to compare/contrast with this picture, I decided to use a drawing I made last spring.  It was one of the first really fine days and I took off during lunch to draw a little at my regular place.

It’s a bit of “apples and oranges” since the media are completely different.  But looked at as merely images, I’d say that I’ve gotten a lot weirder as I mature.  At a certain point in life you get comfortable  — finally — and then you can really let your hair down — and let your tree’s branches go wild.

[A little black speck to the right of the top of the sentinel tree is an ant.  He had the nerve to crawl on my picture as I was photographing it.  Filing that under “everyone’s an art critic.”]

Seeing in black and white

A lot of books teach painting by emphasizing awareness of tone in pictures.  When we look out upon the world, we see colors and yet color can be either dark or light.  What tonality is to color can be partly discovered in drawing: which is to say that when you draw with pencil or pen, obviously you are eliminating color as a factor; and having eliminated it, you have to discover something else to organize the image — line, texture, masses of light and dark.  In painting, though, the dark/light element is still there — only it is hidden “under” or inside the color. 

 To discover how much your perception of tonality makes itself felt through color, artists can photograph their paintings in black and white.  If the image is still strongly organized and legible, then you used tone in your colors.  If the painting is hard to understand in black and white, then it probably relies very strongly upon color effects alone.  A great work of art might go either way of course.  Many impressionist painters, for instance, were little concerned with tone.

So, having strong tonal elements is not a necessity in making a wonderful painting, but it’s good to know how to see tone and to be able to decide whether to be painting tonally or not.  And I always forget how easy it is to take black and white photos with digital cameras.  I almost never use the black and white feature so I tend to forget that it’s there.  But it’s a good tool for testing your pictures to see how strong the tonality element works in particular images.

One setting of my camera defaulted to black and white today when I started my photo session, and I was astonished seeing the picture I was photographing transformed into monochrome.  Here’s the picture below as I photographed it previously for this blog.

Seeing it in black and white at the top of this post, I find that it’s more dimensional than I realized, and some of the dimension was captured by patterns of light and dark.  Don’t forget that you can use your camera not only to document your work but to explore it as well.

I went wild with this feature today.  Here’s the other comparisons I made:

Naturally for studying the effects of black and white in my pictures, I wanted to compare apples and oranges.