And so it begins…
I’ve been so encouraged by the many comments I’ve received encouraging me to put together my own book on how I paint with gouache. I can already tell it’s going to be a slow process, but the challenge comes at a good time.
If you’ve been following the blog in recent weeks, you know we’ve made some changes. We’ve removed all the paintings from their frames and stored them in tubs. We donated the frames to an art materials recycling company. We’ve counted roughly, and believe we are hauling around over 250 pieces of artwork, primarily gouache landscapes. Why not store them somewhere? Well, we still have our festival tent, and a couple of tables, and we are prepared to do the odd small shows when they present themselves.
Meanwhile, I’m beginning to look at what might be incorporated into a book. There are a ton of paintings already done, of course, and I’ll be taking new photographs of many of them. I’m editing and adding to the “Painting With Gouache” section in my blog. There will only be minor changes in the blog text, but I’m working on major edits to include in the book. At the moment, I’m looking at a small format. I put a small book together a few years ago on a self-publishing website, and was surprised at the quality and detail I could get in a 7″x7″ book.
One thing I’ve realized is that I need to do more “demo” and step-by-step images. I experimented with that today, working on this little painting of a scene just up the road from where we’re parked in the motorhome.
Since I hadn’t painted in a couple of weeks, it was kind of fun to work on this little piece, playing with the details, and taking a lot of photos as it progressed. I’ll have to play with the explanation and narrative as well, but at least I’ve found some kind of starting point.
Continuing my explorations with charcoal. This portrait is based on a photo by a facebook friend, taken at a colonial reenactment at the Wolf Creek Grist Mill in Loudonville, Ohio. Judging from some of the photos I’ve found online, I’d like to visit the mill the next time we are in Ohio. I’m very much in a learning mode with charcoal, and I suspect I’ll have to try some different paper surfaces to get exactly what I want in a portrait. This one was a fun challenge.
I’ve been toying with the idea of a book for quite some time. I wrote “Becoming A Painter In Only 45 Years” several years ago, ending it with a couple of gouache paintings. I’ve wondered if maybe it was time to follow up.
I’ve been spending some time on my art blog, especially the Painting With Gouache section. The last time I updated that was in 2009, and I continue to get comments from people who say it has been of value to them. As I’ve read through that section, it has occurred to me that my experience over the last few years has made parts of it out of date, and there has been additional experience in regard to using gouache while living and working on the road, and while painting outdoors.
I use gouache in a completely different way than other artists, and have done some paintings that I feel very proud of. There are also many pieces that remain somewhat unfinished… not finished enough to be included in my showcase site, but still good examples of how I work. All of which begs the question:
What kind of book should I produce?
A simple coffee table book of paintings would be a nice vanity publication, but even if I use a self-publishing site like Blurb, I suspect the price of a large sized book wouldn’t attract a lot of buyers. After reading through my Painting With Gouache section, and the many interested and interesting comments related to it, it occurs to me that something along the lines of “how I use gouache” highlighting a lot of my sketches and studies as well as finished paintings, might be of more value. And it wouldn’t have to be coffee table size either.
At this point, it’s all just in the thinking stage. Such an enterprise will take time, probably months, maybe a year, because I intend to continue enjoying life and painting and drawing along the way.
Let me know what you’d like to see. More important, let me know if it’s something you’d buy, or might recommend for students.
I’ve been writing lately about the large volume of artwork we’re carrying around. Just because the number of festivals we’ve done in the past two years has dwindled to virtually none, doesn’t mean I’ve stopped producing art. Every week sees new drawings, sketches, studies or paintings. Most of it remains unframed, of course. But we originally loaded the motorhome with tubs of framed work as well, ready to be hung in our festival booth, with plenty of backup inventory. It’s been six months since our last art market show. While we definitely sold art at markets and festivals, the income derived no longer justifies the physical toll that loading and unloading, setup and teardown was taking on our bones and muscles. Selling the ProPanels over the winter was a major step. It signified a definite requirement for change, change in the way we sell art. Now it’s time to take another step.
The sheer volume of framed work we have stored in the motorhome is just too much. It’s a lot of frames. And that translates into space and weight. Since we no longer have the means to display framed work, taking up that space no longer makes sense.
Over the next few days, we’ll start removing most of the artwork from the frames. We’ve been in contact with Mitch Cohen, Director of Houston’s First Saturday Arts Market. Our association with Mitch goes back several years. His involvement in the arts in the Houston Heights area assures that our frames will be recycled back into the local art community and be put to good use. We did a similar thing prior to moving into the motorhome, with an overflow of frames going to a student art association in McKinney, Texas.
We’ll transfer the frames to Mitch next week while we’re in Houston. And we’ll put smaller work into tubs and larger work in a portfolio, which we’ll store under the bed. We’ll begin to find other ways to sell, and if a piece needs to be framed, we’ll do it on a piece-by-piece basis.
I’ve decided to shift gears for a while, and do some serious drawing. Here are two portraits that I’ve started in pencil. I’ll do more work on them, but for now, I’ll let them sit while I experiment a bit more. These are both on cold press illustration board, mainly because that’s what was lying within reach. I’ve found some gray paper stored away, and will see what I can do with that. Meanwhile, these are the result so far of just working on getting my touch back.
We’ve seen a lot of beautiful and interesting places over the past year, but sometimes great subjects just show up in someone’s back yard. On our way back from last summer’s trip through Pennsylvania and Ohio, we stopped off in Pontotoc, Mississippi. Pontotoc is home to our artist friend Dot Courson and her husband, Jackie. You can read about our visit here. Dot and Jackie were wonderful hosts. They live on a fair sized piece of property, which is often the setting for workshops. This painting is from a reference photo taken there. In fact, their house sits just to the left of the central clump of trees. I finally got around to working on this painting in the last week or so. If you want to skip the progress photos, there’s a larger image near the end of this article.
I’ve had some requests recently to post more demo or progress articles. It so happens I took several photos of this one as it progressed, so here we go…
9×12, Gouache on Bainbridge Cold Press Illustration Board
DaVinci Gouache, Palette: ultramarine blue, yellow ochre, burnt umber, burnt sienna, yellow light (Hansa), titanium white; Brushes: a variety of inexpensive, well-used sable and bristle flats and brights.
Over the last few years, I’ve started paintings in different ways, but I keep thinking of the old saying “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” I always seem to come back to my old ways, beginning with a quick, rough pencil sketch. And I mean quick and rough, more of a simple scribble actually, that just gives me a feel for composition and mass. That’s followed by a rough block-in, identifying the darkest areas, the lightest areas, and the strongest color.
The image above is a closeup detail of part of the block-in. You can see the pencil sketch marks. The darks in this case are fairly thin, but not transparent. I have ivory black on my palette occasionally, but I rarely actually use it. Ultramarine blue and burnt umber make a nice black, and that’s what I’ve used here. The other color touches are primarily thin transparent strokes at this point. The sky colors are ultramarine, titanium white, and a touch of burnt sienna. The yellow at this point is yellow ochre.
Then I start working into a range of values, identifying highlighted and muted passages, and playing with color. There are times when I want to just stop at this point because I like the way the colors and edges begin to mix, but this is not the finish I had in mind, and, for better or worse, I wanted to pursue this one further.
Continuing to work with color, as well as adding “detail” into the trees and the overhanging branches in the upper right corner. This stage is a combination of thin paint and more opaque brushstrokes, being ever mindful of the light I want to maintain in the painting. Varying mixtures of yellow ochre, ultramarine, burnt sienna, and yellow light can produce a range of interesting blues, grays, pinks and even oranges. Painting continues to be very much a trial and error exercise for me, which is probably why I love it so much. Occasionally, the finished piece comes close to matching my original vision.
And then I spend time working with the greens. The light becomes a bit subdued during this process, but I’ll bring it back out in the final stages.
I’ve pulled the light back into the scene, and for now, we’ll call this one finished. Quite often Nell will say “Stop!”, and sometimes I do listen to her.
Above is an enlarged detail of the upper right corner, showing the brushwork and the way thin and opaque gouache tend to mix together on the painting.
And for those who think they need a big space to do competent painting, I submit this photo of the painting in progress in my indoor studio. The beauty of gouache is that it washes out of clothes, dries immediately, and can be done on paper or illustration board, which can be stacked in a plastic tub in just a few minutes. It’s an ideal painting medium for someone who lives and travels in an RV. I can comfortably paint up to 11×14 here, and if I want to paint larger, I simply set up the easel outside under the awning. Do I miss having a big studio with lots of “stuff” in it? Sure I do. But then we visited the studios of N.C. and Andrew Wyeth in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, and I realized that the ideal studio can never be large enough. Because I love our lifestyle, I have learned to make this work for me.
Art supplies are, for the most part, stored in this large tackle box. I do have a small brush wallet that I can carry with me, which holds a few pencils, pens and watercolor brushes, and there is a box of new gouache tubes recently ordered online that is stored in an overhead cabinet. The Easyl Lite paintbox works indoors as well as outside. The paintbox, along with some brushes and a few tubes of most used paint colors stay in a backpack when not in use.
When I stop working on a particular piece, and put away the painting gear, this is where the painting/sketch/study goes. This is the unsigned, unvarnished, often unfinished work.. There is an 11×14 (with the bent corner), but everything else is 9×12 and smaller. As of this writing, there were close to a hundred pieces of art in this little tub. Because I’m fairly prolific and Nell won’t let me destroy a piece unless I absolutely despise it , there’s another tub the same size that’s almost as full as this one. Those pieces are signed, varnished and packaged in reclosable plastic bags, ready to sell.
When we’re in a major city, we’ll visit one of the big art supply stores (Texas Art, Dick Blick, etc.) and stock up on illustration board, usually precut to 20×30. I have a Dexter mat cutting board and will spend a day cutting boards down to size, trying to maintain about a three month stock of boards ready to use. And, there is always a stock of several large sheets left uncut and stored in a portfolio in the back of the bedroom closet, just for backup.
We store these little tubs in cubbyholes, cabinets and available small spaces throughout the motorhome.
Hopefully, this gives a little more insight into not only how I paint, but also how I function as an artist while living in a 300 square foot home on wheels.