Monday, November 22, 2010

Class 8— November 18—Final Critique and Class Potluck

Sidewalk Fall, gouache on Somerset Black Velvet, 4" x 5.5"

I missed the critique this session because of my mother's final illness and death, but my wonderful students went ahead and held the potluck and a group critique! What a great bunch you are. Thank you so much, from the bottom of my heart.

I've posted a painting of my mother and aunt on my Art and Faith blog. Some of my students will recall Mom taking classes a few years back. She visited the class critique last year, enjoying the camaraderie and food. She never failed to ask me how the class went each Thursday, and inquired if there were people she knew there, too. 

We plan a gathering next Tuesday, November 30, to celebrate her life. I'll send out details in a day or two. If you knew Mom, I'd love to hear your memory. Thanks.

Details on the January class are on hold for a while, as we sort out some things.

Meanwhile, keep on painting!


Friday, November 12, 2010

Asymmetrical Square class results

Pastel, on buttercup yellow Pastelmat, 7x7"
This was an interesting class, building on classes we've done before devoted to square paintings, but taking us a bit farther along in understanding asymmetrical balance. Above is my painting, not really done as a demonstration but painted during the class time.

This photo, taken from Google Street View, shows you the static and dynamic balance of symmetry versus asymmetry. In the first composition, I placed the division of land and sky directly astride the horizontal center line and the road on the vertical center line. There is almost no variation from right to left sides. The sky has little color, value or shape variation, as most of the clouds are horizontal.

In the second photo I simply rearranged the elements so that none of the major shapes land astride the center or one-third axis lines (see illustration.) The shapes of the foreground triangles are all much more dynamic, and the clouds arc in a gentle circular motion that leads the eye back into the center of the piece.

The challenge was to try to compose a painting where the major shapes avoided these too-static axis lines, and utilized more dynamic balance--without allowing the eye to slide off the page anywhere, of course. I saw some wonderful work beginning in class that I'd love to share with you.

Barbara Clark, oil on black gessoed panel
Kris Gorman, pastel on Wallis paper
Barbara Funke, pastel on Wallis paper
Diana Stauffer, oil on panel

I can't wait to see how these look when they're finished.

Looking good. Keep going, gang!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Class 7— November 11— Asymmetrical Square

The directional thrust of a square painting is challenging, so today we’ll look at how to make an asymmetrical composition in a square piece. You’re welcome to work from life, if that helps you, or find a photo that you can recompose into a square composition. 

What is asymmetry? The 'a' at the beginning means 'not', thus asymmetry is not symmetrical. Symmetrical means balanced, a mirror image that is identical on each side, thus asymmetrical literally means "not balanced", but in art terms it indicates a composition that has achieved balance without using identical elements on each side. 

The easiest picture is the see-saw. 

Just as the larger person on the see-saw has to move closer to the center to achieve balance, so in composing you find that larger and smaller elements must be arranged carefully to achieve that same balance. Often the larger elements need to move nearer the center, too--but there is no formula! 

What I want us to play with at this class is the idea of using some simple elements in the square format to achieve a balanced composition that's interesting. This requires you to do some planning. Look over these paintings and choose the ones you feel are most balanced, asking yourself why you think they work or don't work. Are any of them symmetrical? Any asymmetrical? In other words, do you sense the balance, despite the fact that the composition is not equal top and bottom, or side to side?  Which ones have rhythm, yet keep your eye from going off the page anywhere?

Now here they are in grayscale reduced to poster shapes. Analyze the simple shapes, their relative size and what you think is effective from the standpoint of the underlying abstraction.  

In class we'll discuss the compositional elements, their weight, balance and movement, exploring what is working and why, plus you'll carefully compose from life or recompose your photos. 

One other tool you might like to have is this grid. Feel free to copy and print it out, or take a square piece of paper and fold it in thirds, then in half both ways, and from corner to corner both ways. This grid will give you some key intersections to pay attention to as you compose.

To bring:
  • A square sheet to paint on, perhaps more than one, if you want to experiment. Any color is fine. 
  • Find some objects, if you enjoy painting from life, or bring a photo or photos that you can compose into a square format, if not square already. Recomposing will be part of what we explore.
  • The grid.
  • Last week's painting.

See you at class on Thursday.


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Lost and Found class results

I saw some wonderful work starting to happen today at class. My demo was done in gouache, working upright on the easel, which I don't do at home. It felt fairly awkward! I didn't finish but I think it showed the basics of massing values and finding or losing edges. Everyone wanted to see how I would paint that wire whisk, so I threw it in there using a few strokes and painting the negative shapes.

gouache, 9x7"
The most important thing to keep in mind when doing this kind of a study is to mass values. We started with some sketches like these:

Then my talented students launched out using all kinds of objects, looking at the shadows, overlapping things, seeing the hard edges and looking for the soft transitions. We massed a lotta values today, and played with paint and pastels.

Above, Catherine found the afternoon sunlight inspiring. I wish I had gotten a shot of the painting near the end of the class! Beautiful colors...

And this one is Barbara Clark's pastel, early in the process, showing the persimmons and lime she used, as well as the stage.

And here is a later shot, still not finished, but quite striking:

I worked on another piece, just to keep the brushes wet. You can see the leaf on black paper and my painting on Somerset Black Velvet paper. It's still unfinished, and was wet when I shot this:

It was a fun day, taking a few into new realms of drawing and painting the still life.

Good work, gang! Keep going...

Monday, November 1, 2010

Class 6— November 4— Lost and Found

Edges are compelling! Today we’ll work from life, drawing and painting some simple objects that overlap one another. We’ll use “lost and found” edges to sculpt space and move the eye through the composition. Bring three small objects and a background for them, your sketchbook and drawing tools. 

I really recommend keeping the objects simple, so that you aren't trapped into painting something shiny, reflective, see-through, or overly complex, which will distract you from the issue at hand. For instance, let me show you some photos and help you see what might work, and what could be distracting, depending on your experience. I DO NOT want you to work from photos, but from the real-life objects on the table in front of you, so don't let my photos confuse you!  

This is too complex:

The shiny bowl is complex with all its reflective surfaces. The glass is more complex, not only because of the the reflections but because of the distortion it causes. The front object (a salt shaker) has a complex pattern that distracts from its shape. 

This one is better because the simple colors, shapes and contrasts let you see the objects and their relationships:

And this one is good because the wood is flat and non-reflective, and the objects are simple, understandable (but fun) shapes:

I want you to bring some kind of a background to put your objects against, such as this:

I had a box that worked, but you could tape together two pieces of cardboard or mat board. The paper is taken from the ad section of the newspaper--cheap, large, convenient--but you can use anything.  Keep it simple (you can use colored paper, if you like.)

NOT draped fabric, or anything printed or complex, such as this:

What we'll be looking for are edges, those places where objects overlap and form one large shape of the same or similar value. I want you to squint like crazy to see these soft and hard, lost and found edges in and among your three objects, so it really will pay to keep it simple.  (I posterized these in Photoshop to show you the value shapes--but you will do this visually in the classroom!)

If you've painted a lot of still lifes and are competent at doing complex objects, have at it. Otherwise... KISS (keep it simple, sweetheart.)

This list of what to bring:
  • last week's palette shift paintings to show
  • three small objects 
  • a background 
  • your sketchbook and drawing tools
See you on Thursday,