Thursday, July 31, 2008

Mckinley Workshop Day Four

These are the two paintings/sketches I did on Day Four. The one on the left is of Southern Sister Mountain from Sparks Lake, Oregon. The one on the right is looking slightly northeast from the other view. Neither of the paintings photographed well because I tried to do it in deep shade. I have tried to get them closer to reality with Photoshop. You be the judge on which one you like best.

McKinley Workshop Day Three

On Wednesday, day three of the Richard McKinley workshop, we drove north to Smith Rock State Park, Oregon. The place was awe inspiring wherever you looked. Painting rocks had me really excited because I love to paint rocks. This place just about did me in. There was so much to chose from. Talk about a pastel artist in the Dakota warehouse! (Dakota Pastels is an online pastel artist's mecca located in northwestern Washington.) I had a really hard time, so set up in the shade near the parking lot and decided to attempt this view. First, I had to do my thumbnail sketches. Before too long, I got totally lost. Never a good sign. However, I persevered, and came up with a plan. Once I got the small sketch done, I put in on the larger paper. Everything was fine up to that point.

One of the techniques Richard teaches is using an underpainting. I have talked about this before, and have had good results before. I figured it would work out fine. That is until all my carefully placed sketch disappeared. I realized I had only done underpaintings on pieces that did not require detailed sketches. I should have gone with my first instinct to just start the painting. But, I was a good little student and did the wash. I nearly cried when I realized what I had done. Then, I decided to try and paint the painting anyway. Such a disaster. One of the first things Richard said was to expect to paint my worst paintings in the workshop because it was a learning experience. Well, this was my worst painting ever. Fortunately, we stopped for lunch and to watch a painting demonstration.

By the time I got back to the easel, I decided to wipe out what I had, and start all over. Pastel is such a forgiving medium. My paper ended up with interesting tones upon which I redid my sketch. Of course, it wasn't as good or as fresh as my original, but I made it work. As I started to build up the colors, I started having fun, finally. I still struggled, and as you will see, I have much work to do, I think this painting now has potential. I will carry it with me until I get back into my studio in seven week.s and I will work it some more. Here it is, warts and all.

Monkey Face

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

McKinley Workshop Day Two

Today we met on location at Green Lakes Trailhead about 27 miles west of Bend, up in the mountains. It was incredibly beautiful. There were three mountains nearby. There was a full stream and wonderful meadows. During Richards demonstration, we were visited by a beautiful little doe. Fortunately, the weather was much cooler, so we all had more energy for painting. There were not so many bugs in the cooler, overcast weather.

Today, Richard talked about aerial, or atmospheric perspective. This is where the artist takes into account knowledge about light waves, refraction, and distance. Here in the northwest, we have quite a bit of moisture in the air, so things that are in the distance become lighter and more blue. The artist has to take that into account to help the viewer see those distances. I am still struggling with that, but I understand it better now.

There were so many views to choose from to paint. Several of the group painted Broken Top mountain. Several chose the meandering stream. A few of us chose the wonderful meadows filled with wildflowers. I worked very hard on my painting, trying to put all my new knowledge to use. I am still struggling with the wall of trees in the distance. I think they detract from the overall painting. Unfortunately, the photo of this painting is really not good. As all artists know, the camera does lie, especially about values. My meadow has many more values than this photo shows.

Tomorrow, we are going to a place called Smith Rocks State Park. I do love painting rocks. Maybe I will have less of a struggle tomorrow. Moving from the studio to pleine air is much tougher than I expected.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Richard McKinley Plein Air Workshop

Richard McKinley demonstration
Dillon Falls, Dechutes River, Oregon
Photo by Miki Willa

Today was the first day of our plein air workshop with Richard McKinley. In the morning, we sat in a classroom where he gave us an overwhelming amount of information. It was great. I learned so much about composition and simultaneous contrast. Two of my goals for this workshop revolve around those two skills. My other goal is to learn to see with my own eyes instead of through the lens of a camera. I really think that if I can develop this skill, it will make me a better studio painter in the long run.
The class time ran a little long, so we didn't get to our location until after 2:00. I have to say it was quite beautiful. It was also hot, dusty, and the bugs were very hungry. We were forewarned so had umbrellas and bug spray, but I found it quite distracting. I really don't like bugs too much. I kept the bug spray with me at all times and kept reapplying until they left me alone. It didn't stop them from doing fly-by stunts a la Top Gun. By the time I got my thumbnails done, I was ready to pack it in. I really wanted to do a larger piece, but that will have to wait until tomorrow.
Richard is a great teacher as well as artist. I am really looking forward to the rest of the week. Tomorrow, we will be travelling to a river trail system in the mountains surrounding Bend, Oregon called Green Lakes Trails. I am looking forward to a full day of painting. I will post what I do whether successful or not. After all, this is a learning blog.
Below are my thumbnails from today. The first one is line directions. The second is shapes. The third is first impression of values done in pencil. The fourth is done with grey tone markers after consulting with Richard. The last one has a bit more detail. I did take photos, so I may be able to do this one in the studio when I get home in seven weeks. Did I tell you we are on a seven week plein air road trip? Stay tuned. This is only the beginning.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Virtual Sketch Date

5 x 4 colored pencils on Colourfix
Miki Willa
I did this for the July Virtual Sketch Date. This is the first time I participated. Once again, I have to applaud all the colored pencil artists out there. I find this a very difficult medium. Go to the Virtual Sketch Date site for more information and the reference photo. I cropped it pretty drastically before I started drawing.

Green and More Green

Green on the Green
9 x 12 soft pastels on Art Spectrum Colourfix
Miki Willa
This is the Green River in Flaming Geyser State Park, Washington. I did this one using a complementary color underpainting. I should have taken WIP photos to show you some of the amusing problems I had with this painting. When I thought it was finished, I stepped back with Tom and discovered that the river looked as if it were going to slide diagonally off the page toward the bottom right corner. I hadn't paid enough attention to my water strokes. Then I noticed that I had created a perfect formal garden hedge of flowers all along the river bank. The path was all one value from front to back. I decided to wait until this morning to fix all of this. A few carefully placed strokes with my handy-dandy foam brush took out much of the hedge and helped to fix the river. I found my favorite purple for the nearest part of the path. Then I added the strokes in the river to make it show movement in the correct direction. We were there on a very cool early June day when the river was still running high, and I think I captured both the cool weather and the full river.
The title? It was a very lush green place along a river named Green.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Dugualla Flats with tree

Dugualla Flats
9 x 12 soft pastels on Art Spectrum Colourfix
Miki Willa
I know the title of this posting won't get any hits, but I wasn't sure what else to call it. Besides, it took me quite a while to find the name of this place, so decided to use it.
This is a wonderful flat meadow between the main north/south highway on Whidbey Island and Dugualla Bay in the Puget Sound. The white mountain in the background is Mt. Baker. It is done from a reference taken in early spring several years ago. The photo was taken in the morning, thus the long shadows.
I did this painting as a demonstration on using a complimentary underpainting. I put orange under the green field, red under the distant tree covered hill, and dark purple/blue under the water. I did a blue underpainting on the sky because I have not been successful with complements under the sky yet. I used soft pastels and blended them with turpenoid (the stuff in the blue can, not the green one). I put the grazing cows in the far part of the field to give a sense of distance between me, the tree, and the water. I really liked this place. We had fun sketching there from the cab of the truck. As I recall, it was a cold, very early spring morning.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The color of haze

Sound View
9 x 12 soft pastels on Art Spectrum Colourfix
Miki Willa

I finally made time to get back to the studio this week. Since I still have several local monuments to paint, I decided to get the Mt. Rainier painting taken care of. I am not entirely satisfied with it, but I will try and explain my feelings about this Puget Sound icon.
First, some basic information about the mountain. Mt. Rainier is 14,411 feet high, making it the highest mountain in the Cascade Range. It is an active stratovolcano, and it has 26 glaciers. That is the most glaciers on one mountain in the lower 48 states. Parts of it are open year round for hiking and day trips.
When I first moved to the northwest during my college days, in the dark ages, I have been in love with this mountain. Of course, I am not alone in this love fest. It is a part of local lore as well as conversations. "The mountain is out today," is a great weather indicator. The goals of many local residents include climbing the mountain at least once in their lifetime. Many celebrations take place on the mountain, as well as few losses over the years. Going to the mountain for a day trip or a week long camping adventure is a must. Seeing the wildflower meadows in late spring is awe inspiring. The most interesting thing about this mountain is that it appears differently each day and each season.
On a recent trip to the northwest, before moving here, I took several photos of Mt. Rainier from the decks of the Bremerton-Seattle ferry. It looked so big and close in real life. When I got home and looked at the photos, I was disappointed that the sense of proximity and size were completely lost. When I decided to paint it last week, I decided to exaggerate those points. One important point is that the snow cover on the mountain takes on the colors of the sun at each point during the day. Late afternoon and early evening, the reflections are pinks and oranges. I wanted to include that in my interpretation. There is often a haze or low cloud cover masking the base of the mountain and the foothills leading up to it, which adds to the mystique of the mountain, I think. The haze is where I first got into trouble in the painting. I finally went to Daniel Smith's and bought new pastels in the light range, and that helped.
Finally, I am pretty happy about the mountain, but the mid and foreground need something. Any suggestions would be received well.