Posted on May 29, 2009
Quarter Imperial Sheet
© adam cope
The tonality is pretty good in ‘M’.
Two colours only. Ultramarine Blue, Burnt Sienna.
Watercolour Portraits Using the Direct & Indirect Methods
Posted on April 8, 2009
Here’s the last painting which had a strong tonal theme of black tree-trunks/white blossom.
Using Photoshop elements to help painting
It’s more stormy with the white blossom more dramatic. But it wasn’t exactly like that whilst painting ‘en plein-air’….it was more like the first greyscale…. sometimes it’s difficult to break off from copying ‘mes petits sensations’ (Cézanne – meaning enregistering the optical data for each little glance, each little staccato perception bounced back).
Do I have a problem getting my tonal values right?
As a colourist, I tend prioritise colour over value. Heighten, exaggerate the colour. I like very much the simplicity of what the english watercolourist Trevor Chamberlain, said – ‘I’m basically a tonal painter with colour laid over the top’. Could I say that I’m basically a colourist with a high tonal contrast laid over the top? This is probably too intellectual? The truth often eludes recipes & descriptions & I find that no two paintings unfold in the same way.
Or maybe it’s a badly exposed jpeg?
Maybe I should do some black & white oils?
Maybe I should use one eye for colour & the other eye for tone! LOL (in fact that’s morre or less what scientists are saying about rod & cone receptor cells in the eyeball).
Off to paint in the orchard now, with a nice bright but overcast light today, with no shadows & little tonal contrast. No more blossom.
Posted on March 25, 2009
Ébauche or Lay-ins in Plein-Air ‘Alla Prima’ Oil Painting
Large size Oil on Canvas
81 x 65 cm (approx 32 x 26 inches)
© The Artist.
Example of a lay-in prioritising line
Paul Cézanne left a lot of ‘unfinished’ paintings ? weither they were abandoned or left aside or just never pushed to resolution or abandoned in a state of despiar by the artist we will never realyy know. His diaries tell us not. However these half-finished paintings are a great testimony to his working process. They taught me to paint in oils, simply put. I used to spend hours looking at them in wonder. Looking for clues too. What a great gift he left to us artists who follow behind.
A lay-in has alot of painterly charm because at this stage, you aren’t concerned with descriptive details & little, fiddly fine brush work. You are roughing-in the overall masses.
A lay-in in oil should follow the ‘fat over lean’ rule (thick paint over thin paint). Note how diluted with turps the paint is (a great advantage of plein-air is that the artist isn’t intoxicated with fumes whilst shut-up in an atelier).
For this large size painting, working quickly with the changing light en plein-air, the surface was fairly quickly covered with the intial lay-in.
The lay-in phase comes after the conception phase (where you have the idea or see the painting in your mind’s eye) & the composition stage (where you work out what goes where & how if fits together).
I find that getting the major relationships between the colours painted early on in the lay-in stage is essential to how a painting fits together as a whole, as a set of harmonics. It also estabilshes the quality of the light, the timbre & feel of the place. Getting this clear early on speeds up the painting process, which in plein-air painting can be something of a race against the sun’s movement… if I had a euro for every time I’ve heard ” the light’s changed”.
In a lay-in, you kind of bring the whole painting-up at the same time all together, rather than finishing a bit here then finishing another over there (as much as is possible). Try & keep an eye on how the whole fits together. For such large oil paintings, done in one session ‘alla prima’ en plein-air, on location, on the spot, you really do need to have an idea of how the painting will/might unfold.
NOTE : Not every painting unfolds in the same way. Just as in cooking, different meals, different recipes require different approaches.
‘Karst Landscape’ – unfinished state
Large Oil on Canvas
81 x 65 cm (approx 32 x 26 inches)
© The Artist
Posted on March 15, 2009
mixed media in watercolour painting
The term ‘mixed media’ should be mentioned here as well. But then where does mixed media ever stop? Motor car engine & pencil on paper?
Definitions can be troublesome.
Interesting that the paint manufacturers & merchants use another set of defintions to those of art societies etc.
transparent & opaque watercolour
The debate between transparent & opaque watercolour has been going on for centuries.
You can read about it in the nineteenth century, especially in England, where the use of new, improved binders & vechiles (increased soulbility) plus new artistic visions made one school of usage of watercolour go transparent because it could go WET. Really wet. Wet washes.
For me, I think an important dividing line is transparent/opaque. It’s precisely the transparency that appeals to me because it’s the solubility & wetness made visible.
It’s also rather difficult. Transparency, as in the political sense of the word, means that you have nothing to hide. You can’t cover over your mistakes.
But then again, opaque pigments. For instance, bismuth yellow is a fabulous 21 century pigment, the bright yellow of pollen on stamens, & it is opaque. However for a real understanding about opaque/transparent, it is necessary to understand the point at which maximum saturation of colour is achieved in watercolour. For instance if you use it straight out of the tube, it dries really rather dull. It needs to be diluted to become alve, as it were. ie WET to be transparent to be colourful. Whilst acrylics & tempera are wonderful medii in their own right, they don’t quiet share so much as watercolour this transformation upon dilution.
You do occassionally see artists describing work as ‘transparent watercolour’.
Posted on February 16, 2009
A5 sketchbook double-spread
© the artist
‘Le Havre, Port d’Europe’
Posted on January 8, 2009
Sunset 3 Jan 2009
Oil on MDF panel
30 x 40cm (approx 12 x 16 inches).
© The Artist.
Painting of the winter sun hanging a in clear sky
Plein-Air Paintings of the Sun by Monet, Turner & Levitan
Claude Monet’s Impression Sunrise
“The sun is set against the dawn, the orange color against the gray and the vibrant force of the sun against its motionless surroundings. To many spectators, the sun undulates or pulsates slightly. Why is this so? The sun is nearly the same luminance as the grayish clouds. Notice how the sun nearly disappears if you remove the color. (Click painting to reset.) This lack of contrast explains the painting’s eerie quality. “
Adam says : OK that’s true but this sensation is heightened by the fact that red is the one colour that really ‘disappears’ when you strip the chroma out of it. Red is tonally ‘weak’, somewhere around a lowish mid-tone. Vagrant, the tonal value red is difficult to judge as the fire’ in it’s chroma is so vibrant. Try the above exercise with a yellow sun & it’s less startling. Anyone tried it with a green sun? 😉
JMW Turner – The Scarlet Sunset
Watercolour and gouache on paper
134 x 189 mm
The Turner Collection. Tate Britain
Issak Levitan – Haystacks. Twilight.
Oil on cardboard.
The Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia.
Posted on January 4, 2009
oil on panel
30 x 40 cm – approx12 x 16 inches
oil on panel
- badly exposed
- has a wonky colour cast
- that has been overly-distorted in photoshop etc
- that a crazy discordance with the colour profile of your computer screen
I miss two photgraphic lamps (it’s a bit early in the year for letters to Santa Claus isn’t it 😉
Taking photos in daylight means taking photos in variable light, which is not always (rarely!) the optimum 55 K & thus gives wild colour casts… unless you wait for the right light. But then you can forget about real-time blogging.
Which one of the above paintings seems to you about right, given that you don’t know the original painting?
Retouching Plein-Air Paintings
- Can you see the retouching?
- Has it improved the painting?
- Which one seems the most ‘real’?
- Which one has a unifying ‘illuminant’ (coherent set of ligh/colour conditions)?
- Which one keeps closest to the artist’s to the orginal impression of the scene? Does it express the orginal seduction, the thing that me you want to paint the scene in the first place?
- Which one works best as a picture?
- Should a plein-air piece be finished on the spot or can it be developed at a later date in the studio & allowed to evolve into something different?
- Need a plein-air piece have ‘finish’ or can it exist/be exhibited as a kind of sketch with ‘rough’ finish?
How much you retouch/develop plein-air paintings is a debate central to plein-airism.
I consider the above painting as ‘finished’, especially as it’s part of a recent series of sunsets – Five to date, three more to be blogged over the next few days. Stay tuned.
Posted on December 22, 2008
8 figure (46 x 38 cm; approx 18 x 14 inches)
© adam cope
oil painting of sunset on longest night
Something amazing happened yesterday. The grey skies that have weighed us under this last month parted & THERE WAS LIGHT. It felt like rebirth. Longest night has passed & thankfully now we turn back towards the light.
Winter silhouettes of black (trees) against a colour rich, bright lit sky of clear winter colours, reflections in the river Dordogne.
Black in Painting
You will not be able to see this but the black in the painting is actually dioxazine violet with lamp black laid over the top. Most photography doesn’t register this difference in the low end of the tonal range. My Cannon EOS 400 D certainly can’t; it’s a bad camera with too many digital distortions in how it writes its files. Systematically underexposes & gets the colour wrong. The violet is a fine colourist complement for the yellows in the sky & doesn’t muddy the colours as black does. Like most colorists, I have a somewhat schizophrenic relationship to black. I prefer to ‘ break’ colours with their colourist mixing complement rather than tone down with black, thus arriving at a high key brighter palette, more suited for the luminousity of plein-air. Some call it a ‘chromatic black’ because it’s colour friendly.
Yet black exists in the visual world, as a colour in its own right. It exists in my mind’s eye, in my map of colour… “Black Bible Black”. The marriage of ‘The Dark Partner’ to ‘The Shining Bride’ (white) is essential to a good painting. That’s to say that the black & white relationship is the base of a good watercolour. And even in an oil, the black scaffold gives structure & immediate impact to an image, which is essential in the quick glimpse, short attention span of the web. Some mistakenly call it ‘Notan’
Posted on June 11, 2008
Some colour theorists confute the notion of warm & cool colours, saying it is far too culturally relative to be constant. Red in one culture is perceived as cool whilst in another it is considered warm. Weither or not scientists use the concept of warm / cool is up to them, IMO. As painters, I believe it to be essential. As painters, we are more concerned with how colours relate to each others rather than finding definite, all embracing, verbal linguistic definitions of colour. Getting them to ‘work’ pictorially….is what interests me.
Bruce Macevoy at Handprint.com boils it down to saying that warm colours are more colour rich than cool colours. ie they are more intense & more saturated.
The visual push-pull that happens between warm/cool is because they are opposite sides of the colour wheel & thus give a greater contrast than a range of colours that are pre-domoninantly cool or warm colours.
oil on panel
62 x 23 cm
Paintings built with adjacent colours are less contrasty & tend to give a more harmonious end-result. These colours are adjacent to each other on the colour wheel & tend not too clash, have low contrast & can have the contiguity of ‘good neighbours’.
Here is a painting built using a gamme of cool greens & blues, darks & the odds warm brown. The key is low contrast & the mood I find, is cool & calm.
Oil on Canvas
The next painting is cool. Adjacent blues & turquoises & greens play off against high whites & yellows. The key is higher; not all cool paintings need to be glum & gloomy.
Try placing a warm colour accent on the focal point. The orange stroke is warmer than the background & thus atracts the eye… ‘Jewel in the Crown’ was what nineteenth century ‘how to paint’ books called this recipe.
Again, placing the warmest colour on the focal point…
oil on panel
32 x 26 cm
warm or cool ?? : this is the question you need to ask yourself when confronted with ‘tricky’ not quiet greys or could-be browns or might-be greens, colours which are difficult to perceive & even more difficult to mix.
Posted on May 26, 2008
Bronze 32 cm
Robert Hainard (Born in Geneva, 1906, lived a long time in the French Jura & died in 1999) is sadly not widely known outside of France & Switzerland. He is rightly considered one of Europe’s greatest ‘artiste-animalier’ (animal artists). His book « Les Mammifères Sauvages d’Europe »(Delachaux & Niestlé) remained the key field-book for decades, both for art lovers & lovers of wildlife alike & even today, his images of foxes, owls, boar & all kinds of animals remains a true bestiary, a celebration of wildlife.
His woodcuts reveal a knowledge of animals in their natural habit that can only be gained by long hours of close observation in the wild. This is not something that you can gain from copying from a book, a zoo or a photograph. His sketchbooks trace a lifetime of nights spent bivou-wacking under the stars & of whole days spent hidden in the undergrowth, watching the faune. He saw his first lynx at the age of 73, after 48 hours under canvas. Slowly letting the animals come to you, rather than you going chasing after them.
Artists and Ecology
Here is the work of a man who is no stranger to animals. As fine as anything you might find in Grotte de Chauvet or Lascaux.
Je n’ai personne à rendre responsable de ma passion de la nature. Elle est le fruit inévitable de mon goût d’être pleinement ( I have nobody to hold responsible for my passion for nature. It is the fruit of my taste to live live to the full ) Robert Hainard,(rough translations into English by myself)
Apparently there are over 30 000 sketches that remain. Here’s one of beaver that I esteem to be of genius.
Many of these sketches are drawn ‘sur la vif’ or asd the english say ‘on the hoof’. Literally whilst the animal is moving about. Just look at the wonderful sense of life & movement that these drawing exude!
Anyone who has tried this will know that this is amongst the most difficult of drawing techniques. It requires great powers of summarising an good understanding about the animal’s anatomy as well as identifying the typical way the animal moves typically whilst doing a routine gesture. Obiviously an element of caricaturising the animal helps.
Blind Contour Drawing …. ‘Sur la Vif’
The recipe is as follows : pick out an obvious edge or contour & follow along it with the point of the pencil in your drawing. That’s contour drawing … a simple line that follows the edges.
Now for the really difficult thing: do this ‘blind’ , that’s to say without looking at your drawing. You need to be able to plot the drawing in your mind’s eye. Hold it in your head, let your hand find the correspondence ( I suspect it’s a sensual way of knowing the world).
The reason why blind contour drawing is essential for drawing ‘moving targets’ is that you often have less than three or four seconds to get it down before the subject has moved on. You simply don’t have the time to cross-reference the marks made against the subject.
Robert Hainard – The Artist & Ecologist
He was also something of a scientific naturalist, having gained much experience & years of close observation in the field. His love for animals pushed him into action. For example, he was militant in speaking out against the embankment project of the Rhone & was involved in achieving a wildlife protection reserve, albeit a small part of the river banks. Sadly today the Rhone is very badly polluted & ‘denaturised’. Someone recently told me that the government has forbidden eating fish caught in the Rhone from Lyon downwards.
Si le savant n’est que scientifique, s’il n’est pas du tout intuitif, artiste, poète, mystique (…), il n’est qu’une brute scientifique…S’il ne s’accroche pas durement à l’analyse, à l’expérience, à l’action, le poète est une brute poétique.
If the learned person is only a scientific, if he is not all intuitive, artist, poet, mystic (…), he is only a coarse scientist… if he does no stick firmly to analysis, to experience, to action, the poet is only a coarse poet. – Le Miracle d’Être. Robert Hainard, Edtions Sang de la Terre, 1946 (rough translations into English by myself)
Other than his artwork, what I admire in the artist & the man Robert Hainard is his outspoken words in defense of the enviroment, making him one of the forefathers of modern-day ecology :
La destruction de la nature, que je ressens à la fois comme un predjuice personnel et direct, comme un acte de vandalisme et comme un sacrilège, pourquoi leur est-elle si légère, indifférente pour beaucoup? Il se diront peut-être plus résignés, moins gâtés ou moins egoïstes. Mais combien peuvent avoir leur sommeil troublé par une perte d’argent? Ce n’est pourtant qu’un transfert de puissnace, a leur détriment il est vrai, et je n’oublie pas mon egoïsme conscient et organisé. Mais encore, c’est une perte de puissance toute abstraite, indeterminée, la plus part réparable qui soit. – Le miracle d’être, Robert Hainard, Edtions Sang de la Terre, 1946, pp.73
The destruction of nature, which I feel both as a direct, personal attack, as an act of vandalism and as a sacrilege, why is it to so many others so light & so indifferent? Maybe they find themselves more resigned, less spoilt or less selfish? But just how many can have their sleep troubled by a loss of money? But this is only a transfer of power, to their detriment it’s true, and I don’t forget my conscious & organised selfishness. But again, it’s a loss of power, abstract & indeterment & for the most part, repairable. — Le miracle d’être, Robert Hainard, Edtions Sang de la Terre, 1946
(rough translations into English by myself)
La Société. de plus en plus, s’intéresse au développement de l’individu. Mais c’est encore une ruse(…) Elle l’enrichit, mais de plus en plus elle dirige ces enrichissements. Elle lui prépare les cadres, les casiers où toute cette matière viendra s’emballer sans trouble et sans à-coup. La réalité concrète, la nature est toujours nouvelle, étonnante, bouleversante.
Society, more and more, is interested in the development of the individual. But this is again a ruse… It enriches him but more & more it directs these riches. It prepares for him the contexts, the tills where all this material will come & sweep him away without trouble & without comeback. Concrete reality, nature is always new, stunning, moving.
Le plus tragique, ce n’est pas le manque de nature, c’est qu’elle diminue. Je veux le renversement de la tendance. Et je veux non seulement le plus de nature possible, mais avec le plus possible de civilisation.”
The most tragic thing is not the lack of nature but that it is diminishing. I want to reverse this tendancy. And I not only want the most possible of nature, but also with the most possible of civilization.
Est-il sensé, pour maintenir pendant quelques générations un excédent démographique, de sacrifier (si c’était possible) toute vie sauvage, de défricher la Terre entière, de supprimer toute liberté, tout amour (car pas de liberté sans espace, ni d’amour sans choix) pour nous heurter bientôt, de toute manière, au bilan implacable : une vie pour une mort – eût-on défriché l’Amazonie, irrigué le Sahara, le désert de Gobi, urbanisé l’Antarctique ? Le pire fléau pour une espèce est la surpopulation. —Robert Hainard, Le monde plein, Ed. Melchior 1991. p35 (quoted by Philippe ROCH on http://www.pirassay.com/textes.php?id=11 )
These nightmarish thoughts, these darks thoughts …. are they true or are they chimeraic? Sometimes the words of artists are necessary to hear, even if they came from bad nightmares.
(Is it wise, to maintain for a few generations such a demographic excess, to sacrifice (if it were possible) all wildlife, to land-clear the whole Earth, to suppress all freedom, all love (because there’s no freedom without space, no love without choice) so as to send us clashing, in any case, against the implacable bottomline : a life for a death? Land-clear the Amazon, Irrigate the Sahara & the Gobi, Urbanise the Antartic? The worst plague for a species is over-population.” Robert Hainard, Le monde plein, Ed. Melchior 1991. p35 (quoted by Philippe ROCH on http://www.pirassay.com/textes.php?id=11 )
If an artist genuinely loves his or her subject matter then why shouldn’t he or she be concerned about it’s well-being?
Si j’aime tant ma vie de peintre, c’est qu’elle est à la fois immense et très centrée, car je vis la vie de la vaste nature, mais je la veux tenir entre mes mains par une conquête très âpre et personnelle. J’ai l’infini à ma portée, je le vois, je le sens, je le touche, je m’en nourris et je sais que je ne pourrais jamais l’épuiser. Et je comprends mon irrépressible révolte lorsque je vois supprimer la nature : on me tue mon infini.
For more on Hainard on the web :
This site also generously has an ebook online in french : ‘Le Monde Plein by Robert Hainard’
wikipedia.fr – Robert Hainard
Read more artists & ecology in this blog:
Artists & Ecology #1 – Festival Flore Faune
Artists and Ecology #2 – Robert HAINARD – how to ‘blind contour draw’
Artists & Ecology #3 – Constable, Corn & the Destruction of Hedgerows
Artists & Ecology # 4 – Paintings of Potatoes, Semances & Homage à José Bové
Artists & Ecology # 5 -Le Dropt, Castillonnés , a green corridor?
Artists & Ecology # 6 – No Space for Nature in the Countryside? Wendell Berry