February, 2016

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  • Old, Dirty, Worn Out and Misshapen (Brushes)

    This blog post’s title is not self-referential, it’s about brushes.  I am getting older, but more than dirty, worn out, or misshapen, I am cheap and very particular about my materials.  I know other painters that use their new brushes only a few times before retiring them, preferring the clear square/round shape, and everyone from time to time wishes they could just throw their brushes out rather than cleaning them.

    So here’s a simple studio trick I have been using for the past couple of years to squeeze a little life out of an old brush, I was showing my group of students this morning and thought I should share them here as well.

     

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    Personally, I like my brushstrokes to have an irregular shape; I don’t like the same touch to repeat itself everywhere in my painting.  Typically, these days I paint with mostly flats, filberts and a few rounds, and once in a blue moon a rigger or egbert.  Mostly hog bristles with an occasional kolinsky sable or mongoose hair brush.  I don’t much like synthetics and use them rarely.

    Although I keep my brushes for a long time and don’t mind as they wear down, they have to keep a distinct calligraphic shape.  the brush you see above and below was one I typically would retire- throw in with all the other old brushes for scrubbing in the background or mixing colors.  You can see the belly of the brush has become swollen, and errant hairs have started to take over, and paint in the ferrule has fossilized the bottom of the hairs.

     

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    I grab a sharp knife, and basically sharpen the brush as you would a wooden pencil with a knife- slowing cutting from the front and back before sharpening the sides.  I only cut forward, away from my hand, and work slowly to not cut off more than necessary.

     

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    Just like sharpening a pencil with a knife, it takes a bit of practice, but I really like the end result, it definitely brings some clarity back to the shape of the brush.  Believe it or not, I had the gall to show this trick to Symi from Rosemary Brushes last time she was here in the studio.  I’m sure she found it slightly offensive, but did remark its a much better way of rejuvenating a brush than cutting the tips down to attempt to make a ‘flat’ out of an old brush.

     

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    Also, starting today Keith Linwood-Stover is featuring my work on his website, The Cyber Art Show.  First gallery of 12 pictures went up today, other 12 will be featured tomorrow.  The way it works is he picks all the paintings he likes and puts them up with an artists’ bio, straightforward.  Though I only just discovered his website he’s featured tons of artists and many impressive painters in his archives.  Check it out.

     

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  • Snow Painting at Drumlin Farm

    I really look forward to painting the snow each year.

     

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    Last weekend I ran my yearly snow painting course at Drumlin Farm in Lincoln- I almost always run it during the last week of January, a period during which New England typically has plenty of snow.  This year, the weather has been weird to say the least- yesterday was over 60 degrees, and currently there is up to 8 inches of snow coming down outside the studio window.   We have not had much snow yet to speak of this year, this is only the second small storm, so I am working on still life in the studio and taking my snow paintings very slow- trying to really make them count.

    I have been thinking a lot on process and am preparing another blog post on this topic: that when approaching nature, the obvious truth is that representing something exactly as it is in front of you, however ‘correct’ it may be, will at times make a boring painting.  You may find a view outside that composes perfectly from time to time but that’s the exception, not the rule: the truth is that typically some editing needs to happen to arrive at a strong design that pleases the eye.  Lately, I’ve started to edit more and more, to figure out what each individual picture needs to create a satisfying image, not just chase the tactile minutiae of the scene.

     

    Here’s a few shots from this weekend’s demo, with broad strokes of what we discussed- I painted much slower than usual, spending a lot of time working in monochrome, moving the drawing around and talking about why I made each choice:

     

     

    initial composition

     

    I approached this weekend’s class from a more advanced level- each of the students in my winter painting class had also done Stape’s marathon painting class back in November, and one of them had previously attended my landscape classes.   So, rather than talking about the basics I wanted to spend a lot of time discussing composition- since we didn’t have tons of snow to speak about the opalescent color shifts within it, I instead tried to paint simplified examples of both what would and would not work into my painting.  In the above image I am laying out the painting in a very simplified design, outlaying the big rhythms and proportions- notice on the left centre canvas I have started to place the very large horizontal barn that in nature competed with the barn in the center- potentially destroying my focal point, through the competing nature of its scale.

     

     

    Tree Line

     

    You can see in the above and below image I have scaled down the barn on the center left, sent it from foreground to middle ground/background, and reduced the pine tree line which meets the sky.  Both of these were moved to give proportional interest to the central barn- and especially the central tower.  Additionally, I painted examples of the road in incorrect perspective (so that it looked uphill) and moved the road’s design and fence around until it gave interesting lead in to the picture.

     

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    So- now that we have plenty of fresh snow outside (it’s really coming down out there), I should be able to take this painting out again and finish it, as my intention is more of a winter view than autumn scene.  Below is the way the painting looked at the end of the workshop- still quite unresolved, with a lot of that cobalt violet underdrawing still coming through, but the scale of the barn and design of the sky are starting to work well.  There is still lots left to do in that foreground, though.  I’ll add it to this post whenever (and if) I finish it.

     

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    *edit April 26th 2016* finally did finish this piece

    Drumlin Farm 22x28%22

    Drumlin Farm 22×28″

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