Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Landscape 911


We had gray weather for the beginning of Saturday's workshop, with the sky trying to clear after Friday night's rain (about 3.5", almost 9 cm). By the end of our session the sky had cleared and was a vibrant blue with some ragged white clouds.

One positive thing that Friday night's rain did bring was a nice group of puddles, strung out along the dirt lane where we were painting. Generally, everyone faced the farm fields. One intrepid painter, a fellow of inexhaustible good cheer, decided to make the puddles his purview.

The canvas was turned to be a vertical rectangle, and he essayed a curved road ending in a section with puddles. Initially, however, he didn't manage to keep all the puddle areas flat. And, of course, a puddle that isn't flat quickly empties. 

We spoke of taking a drinking glass, half-full of water, and tipping it until the water begins to leak out. All through the tipping the water remains dead level, just until it reaches the lip of the glass. The same is true of puddles. A slope can have a puddle but only if there is a sufficient lip on the downhill side to keep the water flat. It's not a very usual condition.

Thus the problem was to relocate the puddles onto the flat part of the road. By Sunday's end, it was looking pretty good.

This morning I was thinking about those puddles. I decided to make an oil sketch (16x20) of a scene similar to the one my friend was painting. Initially, it was just a linear lay-in.

After a bit, I added some masses in grisaille.

I like to do this part, making marks that will ultimately be revealed by subsequent transparent veils and obscured by opaque passages. It's about having something to paint into.

At that point I stopped and met with two of the participants in the French Workshop. We divided fresh tubes of all the colors on my extended list into three piles. Between us we won't use more than a third of a tube in our five sessions, and now we have lightened our baggage load quite a bit. We also spent some time making our traveling panels. As many of you know, I much prefer to paint on stretched canvas. But packing six or eight 16 x 20" (40x50 cm) canvases is a chore. They manage to be both fragile and bulky. So we used some PVA glue to mount our Claessens canvas to gator board. The pile was loaded with weights, and tomorrow I'll tint the panels.

Having done that, the grisaille had set up pretty well. So I added some transparent color: Prussian green, ultramarine, permanent brown madder, and a touch of sap green. I just wanted to get some color in the masses so that I have something to paint into tomorrow. As you'll see, I played with one of the puddles. Tomorrow we'll see about puddle designing for real.

 You will see that, despite the crudeness of the current state, the puddle lays flat, not threatening to leak. Always remember that puddles, except right by your feet, are always foreshortened. It's what helps them stay in place.

Tomorrow, should I find the time, I'll work on this some more. It's rather fun to make a sketch where eighty percent of the painting merely serves as a context for a star turn by two muddy puddles.

What I must make sure is that the landscape stays as a supporting actor, not trying to upstage the puddles. 


  1. Alas! My puddle-headedness is cleared!...Now armed with the insight of this blog, I will face again the muddled mess on my canvas (except for the puddle -HE WHO CAN NOT BE NAMED- painted).

    Thank you a tonnage! I shall now sally forth armed...

    The eternally jovial "Painter of mud". miked