Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Grand Canyon studio piece (Part 5)

I think it's to muse about it for a while, and then to come up with a title for it. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Upcoming Shows

I'm happy to have two paintings in the following shows:

"Camelback Sunrise" (Oil on linen, 16x20) will be showing in "Atmosphereat Carmel Visual Arts in Carmel, CA. The show runs from October 3-23, 2015.

"Glowing Depths" (Oil on canvas, 36x36) Will be showing in the 46th Annual Contemporary Western Art Show and Sale at Mountain Oyster Club, in Tucson, AZ. The show opens on November 22nd. 

Monday, September 28, 2015

Grand Canyon studio piece (Part 4)

I made a few adjustments today, working mostly on background areas. I also changed the sky a bit. The cloud was bothering me. There are still some structural problems to work out in the background. 

Tomorrow the big project will be the juniper trees on the left. I need to add plenty of branches to them...

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Plein Air double feature

Here is a double feature plein air post, to make up for my missed blog entry yesterday.

"Cholla" 8x10 inches, oil on canvas panel

My palette for this piece was cadmium yellow light, cadmium orange, cadmium red light, alizarin crimson, ultramarine blue, viridian hue (Holbein). 

I started off by blocking in the shadow areas of the cactus, paying close attention to where light areas would be, to negative space, and to the overall structure. I went with a medium-dark tone, a little on the cool side, and saved the darker, warmer accents for around the base of the cactus.

The light areas were added with a medium-light green, dipping my brush into orange and red now and then for variety. Highlights were then placed with a fresh brush, and the original mid-light green was painted back over it, leaving a halo of light around each section of cactus. It was a back-and-forth kind of thing. I had about 5 brushes in my hand: a cool dark green, medium-light green, bright yellow highlight color, muted warm purple (ground color), and darkest warm shadow color. 

This is a quick gouache that I painted from up by Governor Hunt's Tomb, after painting the cholla cactus. The light was starting to get flat, and I didn't paint too long. Maybe 20 minutes. This painting features Hole-In-The-Rock (A local natural attraction) and Camelback Mountain in the distance. 

I painted this with a limited palette of white, lemon yellow, burnt sienna, and ultramarine blue. 

Friday, September 25, 2015

Grand Canyon studio piece (Part 3)

Here are a couple detail shots of progress so far.

There's a certain beauty in the energy and depth of a studio piece. Plein air pieces have a natural freshness and energy about them, due to the nature of their creation, but studio pieces have an energy all their own. I love coming back the next day and adding another layer. The layer below can still be a little tacky, creating textures and depth that you just can't find in an alla prima painting. It's easy to kill that energy by overworking a piece, though, so it's important to try and keep a balance. 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Grand Canyon studio piece (Part 2)

After blocking in the whole painting yesterday, I spent some more time on the foreground today. I've been working with cadmium yellow light, cadmium red light, alizarin crimson, ultramarine blue, and viridian. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Grand Canyon studio piece (Part 1)

This is a 30x40 painting that I started today. Below is an 8x10 plein air sketch which I am referencing for color and values, though the scene is different. 

I started out by sketching in the basic forms and shapes with an old #2 bristle brush. I tend to save my old beat up brushes for sketching, and keep the better brushes for use later. Shadow shapes are outlined and filled in with diagonal, parallel lines. This helps me remember what is a shadow and what is not. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Big Sur Bridge Step-by-step

"Big Sur Bridge" Oil on linen panel, 6x6

First I started out with a quick graphite line drawing, paying close attention to perspective and composition.

The shadows were thinly blocked in. I like to think of everything as shapes, and they are either in the light or in the shadow. This is a useful tool for creating a composition. 

Lights are blocked in now. Paint is still kept relatively thin. I'm not too concerned with subtleties at this stage; just a general idea of the local color. Value is more important than accurate color at this stage. 

Once lights and shadows have been blocked in, I can judge the painting as a whole. Now is when paint starts to get thicker and subtleties and color adjustments can happen. I tend to start with the background and work my way forward. In this case, I'm working on the hazy ground down below. 

Light areas are getting some attention now. To simplify the bricks on the bridge, I used a flat brush and painted in the direction of the vanishing point. This helped convey accurate perspective. I used a mahl stick as a guide to help draw straight lines for the support cable cast shadows. Highlights to the cables were added with a palette knife and a warm red-orange. I added a further bit of a highlight by scratching with a toothpick.

Darkest areas were then added in the foreground, followed by a bright green highlight. This helps balance the composition. Without that highlight, all the light areas exist only on the right side of the painting. I decided to simplify the foreground by eliminating the dirt area and making everything a dark green.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Big Sur Bridge

See the step-by-step photos here.

Here is a little 6x6 piece of a bridge from highway 1, somewhere north of Big Sur. There was a dirt road at the very bottom of that ravine. I liked the composition, as well as the thin diagonals created by the shadows of the cables. The strong morning sun and high humidity made for some great atmospheric haze. 

My palette here is cadmium yellow light, cadmium red light, alizarin crimson, cobalt blue, and viridian.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Grand Canyon Double Post

Since I didn't have internet access yesterday, I have a double heaping of paintings from this weekend to make up for it.

I just got back from the Grand Canyon. The 7th Annual Grand Canyon Celebration of Art was also going on at the same time (coincidence? No way! It was perfectly planned). While I wasn't part of the celebration, I was able to get a few paintings in and visit with the artists and public. I'm hoping to apply and join next year's show.

I was able to attend the Quickdraw auction (which was filled with great pieces) on Saturday, as well as the grand opening show/sale at Kolb Studio. The show is up until January 18, 2016, so there will be plenty of time to swing on by and take a look!

Here are the four pieces I was able to paint, along with an "in-the-field" photo too.

"Indian Gardens" Oil on canvas panel, 8x10 inches

"A Golden Crown" oil on canvas panel, 8x10 inches

"Peeking through the Junipers" Oil on linen panel, 9x12 inches

"From the Edge of Mathis Point" oil on linen, 8x6 inches

I was using a slightly simplified palette for these pieces. This time I used cadmium yellow light, cadmium orange, cadmium red light, dioxazine violet, ultramarine blue. Since I wasn't painting any sunsets I took out the crimson. You can mix a pretty decent red-violet with just the cadmium red light and dioxazine.

The biggest lesson I learned from this trip: Block in the shadows fast! I didn't even tone my canvas. After a quick outline sketch and went with a light blue-violet and started blocking in the shapes of the shadows. They change so fast it's crazy. Once I blocked in the shadows I went with the cooler lights in the background, and worked my way to the foreground light areas. Areas in the immediate foreground as well as the sky were saved for last.

Friday, September 18, 2015

My Plein Air Supplies

I'm heading up to the Grand Canyon tomorrow for a couple days of painting. My supplies are always changing, but here is what I'm using right now:

(Clockwise, from top left) French easel, canvas brush roll, flat bristle brushes from size 2-10, palette knife, oil paints in a protective plastic box, two wet panel carriers (8x10 and 9x12), plastic grocery bags, viewfinder, flashlight, micron pen (for writing on the back of panels), pencil, wooden palette, paper towels, brush cleaning tanks, backpack. 

Not pictured: Big hat and a travel blanket. These are able to fit in the backpack as well. 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Thoughts on limited palettes and color selection (Part 2)

One of my favorite palettes is the earth palette. It's one of the most limited palettes you can find, and it really forces you to be subtle with your colors. When painting with it I find I have to really grey down everything as much as possible, saving those vibrant accents for the end. 
"Papago Rocks on Pallet Wood" Oil on panel, 6.5x12

The palette I'm using here is (from left to right), Ivory black, green mixed from ivory black and yellow ochre, yellow ochre, orange mixed from yellow ochre and terra rosa, terra rosa, burnt umber, mars violet, purple mixed from mars violet and ivory black. 

The advantage of this palette is the cost. Earth tones are almost always series 1's. Everything also tends to be very opaque and fast-drying, making these colors ideal for underpaintings. 

Here is an old cast study, painted using the same palette. I think this one had Venetian red in it as well. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Door County Road: Step-By-Step with a Limited Palette

"Door County Road" 6x6 oil on linen

Today I'm using one of my favorite limited palettes. This one was made popular by Kevin Macpherson. The colors I'm using are titanium white, cadmium yellow light, cadmium red light, and ultramarine blue. Once in a while I will add phthalo green to this palette, but not today. 

The great thing about using such a limited palette is the color harmony you can achieve. There is also such an incredible range of both color and value. 

I'm referencing a plein air sketch for this piece. The sketch was an 8x10 and I'm shifting some things around a bit to make an interesting 6x6 composition. I've sketched it in with a 3B graphite pencil. 

First step is to start blocking in the shadow areas. Think of every shape as one of two options: light or shadow. I'm using a tiny bit of Gamsol to thin down my colors. 

Next step is to block in light shapes (except for the sky). Try to avoid using white in mixtures at this stage. It will help colors remain bright and avoid making them chalky. 

Next, some opaque darks are added. I usually like to work background to foreground. As I paint, I like to scrape down my glass palette. I will keep all the scrapings and mix them together on the side. This creates a nice grey color, which is useful for mixing. 

Some more variety is added in the background, as well as some subtle shifts in color. 

Opaque light areas are coming in now, especially the orange tree on the left. The tree has some stray branches, which I will avoid placing until later. I'm also going to avoid the brightest highlights until after I paint the sky.

I've added some highlights to the mid-ground bushes, working back and forth between shadow and light areas. I like to have a couple different brushes going at a time. My left hand usually has a few wet brushes in it, and I can swap them as I change between colors. 

More highlights are in the foreground. I've added some broken color accents in the closest highlights, which helps pull them forward. 

Accents and details are added in the last step, along with the sky. I save my highest-intensity colors for this stage. Most of the time I'll save the sky for last as well. If the sky is painted early, it can get contaminated with other colors more easily. I scumbled a little bit of yellow on the distant trees, especially on the right-hand pine. I wanted to make it recede a little bit more. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Thoughts on limited palettes and color selection (Part 1)

I'm always thinking about palettes and color selection. Limiting colors creates better harmony in the painting, and it really forces you to rethink color relationships. 

One of my favorite limited palettes to work with is a Zorn palette, made popular by Anders Zorn. Zorn primarily used yellow ochre, vermilion, and black. James Gurney has a great blog post with lots of information about him if you'd like to read further.

"Saving for Christmas" 12x12 inches (2012)

The piece above was painted with a Zorn palette. I used titanium white, yellow ochre, cadmium red light (scarlet), and ivory black. Notice the small spots of cool, reflected light in the warm side of the piggy bank. It looks blue, but it's really just a mixture of ivory black and white. Because color is relative to its surroundings, grey looks bluer because it is surrounded by its compliment (orange). 

Relationships between colors are a very important part of my work. I love exploring the way colors interact and play off each other. Restricting oneself to the limited colors of a Zorn palette is a great way of testing these relationships, and making the "most" out of each pigment. Color shifts have to become so much more subtle, because you have such a smaller scale to work from. Also, when the range of color is so small, an emphasis is placed even more so on value relationships.

Zorn's palette is a very useful tool in learning to appreciate these relationships, and learning how to control them when working with a full-spectrum palette.

Here is a 12x16 inch Zorn Palette color chart.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Fall Newsletter

"Glowing Depths"  Oil on canvas, 36"x36"

Fresh, new paintings just in time for Fall!
I have a ton of great news to share. The biggest news is that I am finally creating artwork full-time! I stepped down from my full time job to dedicate more time to art. I'm finally finding the time to create lots of new work and apply for shows.

As of September 1st, I made a commitment to update my blog every day. In addition to posting my newest work, I'm adding content about color theory, techniques, and materials. You can visit my blog here

I have also been appointed the President of Arizona Plein Air Painters. This group is dedicated to promoting the joy of painting outside. Join us at one of our Paint-Outs and experience the beauty of creating art in Arizona. See what members are creating on our Facebook page, and visit our Homepage for our event calendar. 

You can now find me on Instagram. My username is SterbenzArt

I've got a bunch of new projects in the works. Look below for some new pieces. Stay tuned for even more!

"Camelback Sunrise" Oil on linen - 16x20

Will be showing in"Atmosphere" at Carmel Visual Arts, in Carmel, CA through October 23, 2015

"Harper's Nursery"
Gouache - 4x5

Was featured in James Gurney's "Outdoor Market Challenge" on September 2nd

"Door County Clouds"
Oil on linen - 16x20

Part of a recent Color Theory blog post about painting greens.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Hints of Fall in Door County - Part 2

"Hints of Fall" oil on linen, 11x14 inches

Here is the finished piece. I finally introduced a bright yellow near the end of the painting session. In this case I used Bright Yellow Lake from Michael Harding. The bright yellow was used in the foreground grass highlights as well as the closest clump of trees. 

That makes my final palette: titanium white, bright yellow lake (Michael Harding), yellow ochre, permanent orange (Holbein), burnt sienna, bright red (W&N), alizarin crimson, ultramarine blue, viridian hue (Holbein)

The dark values in the closest line of trees, especially near the base, really help push back the distant line of trees. This is one of the reasons I prefer working all over the painting at the same time, rather than finishing one area at a time. This helps me judge colors and values better. By putting in a couple dark notes in the foreground it helped me judge the values of the distant trees. 

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Hints of Fall in Door County - Part 1

On the easel today: A work-in-progress shot of this Door County piece.

I'm testing out a cadmium-free palette on this painting. Right now I'm using: titanium white, yellow ochre, permanent orange (Holbein), burnt sienna, bright red (W/N), alizarin crimson, ultramarine blue, and viridian hue (Holbein). 

Once the painting is a little more flushed out tomorrow I plan on introducing some Hansa or Indian yellow. I want to put a few high-chroma yellows into the foreground grass and the tall trees on the right. Yellow ochre provides a great backbone yellow but it doesn't quite cut it when it comes to high-chroma, light value yellows/greens. 

When using yellow ochre and ultramarine for most of my greens, it helps me keep everything muted until the accent phase later. Viridian and yellow ochre allows for some nice true-green accents here and there, but I use those very sparingly. Finally I like to dip into the bright yellow (cadmium or Hansa) for final accents in the foreground. 

Stay tuned for part 2 tomorrow.