My first oil painting of the Trumpet Parts Series.

Trumpet Parts No. 19 en plein air, oil painting 5" x 5"

Yesterday afternoon was sunny and warm in spite of it being early February.  I decided to bring a few trumpet parts outside to paint them, hoping the color inspiration would also be sunny and bright.  I didn’t expect the color scheme to go in the pastel direction, but it did. What excited me was the shadow shape cast onto the table.  I never could have created this in my indoor studio.  Bundling up, wearing hat, gloves and scarf was well worth it.

Painting: oil on wood panel, 5″ x 5″

Limited Palette: Yellow Ochre, Cadmium Yellow Pale, Scarlet Lake, Burnt Sienna, French Ultramarine Blue, Pthalo Blue, Titanium White

I had packed up my paints and turned to carry them indoors when the cloud covering exploded. Patches of blue sky dared me to stay a little longer in the gusting wind.  How could I resist?

Winterscape Oil Sketch

I enjoyed ending a long, cold, wet day on the porch with a quick sketch inspired by the movement of the clouds and the ever-changing shapes of the little blue patches.  I’m trying to move away from such strong purples, but my instincts aren’t making that easy.  Next week I will choose a different, limited palette and try for more green grays and orange grays.

I find it easier to direct my color mixing of grays when I think of them based on the secondary colors of orange, green and purple rather than the primary colors, yellow, red and blue.  This may seem strange when I am working with a limited palette choosing one of each of the primaries without any of the secondaries.  Using my Color Wheel #5, I keep my gray mixes clean rather than muddy.

The wheel is more useful by not labeling the pigments I used to create the wheel.  As I am mixing, my brain adjusts to the variations of pigments by simply looking for the most common characteristics of the hue rather than nagging at me by telling me “That’s cadmium red and you’re using Scarlet Lake.”

Oil Sketch: painted on 5″ x 8″ prepared birch panel.

Limited Palette: Scarlet Lake, Cadmium Lemon, Cobalt Blue, Titanium White

Color Scheme: Complementary – Purple /Yellow with the yellow leaning toward green.

I can’t bear another gray morning …. so I invent a bit of brightness in the landscape.  My front porch protects me from getting soaked to the bone.

Rainy Winter Morning ... in my dreams

Still the same palette I’ve used all week: Scarlet Lake, Cadmium Lemon, Cobalt Blue and Titanium White.  I omitted the Sap Green.  My focus was on value, not color.  I enhanced the color for my own sanity. Perhaps by the end of winter I’ll figure out how to paint the clusters of thin, bare branches on the outer perimeter of trees without getting fussy.  I’m open to suggestions!  My trees end up looking like they are still wearing leaves.  I’m going for blocking in shapes rather than detail, but I would like to create a more bare branch illusion.

Oil Sketch: oil on prepared birch wood panel 5″ x 5″.  Complementary color scheme … purple / yellow, yellow dominant.

The fog refused to lift….. I just kept painting.  The first oil sketch leans toward a complementary color scheme, the second toward an analogous color scheme. The last two are more monochromatic.

Complementary Color Scheme

I used the same limited palette for all four paintings:  Scarlet Lake, Cadmium Lemon, Cobalt Blue and Titanium White.

Analogous Color Scheme

Monochromatic Color Scheme

I suppose one might call this analogous, too.  I need to stretch the definition of monochromatic or I would never use that color scheme.  It can be extremely moody and evocative, so I bend the rules.

Monochromatic Color Scheme

There’s a lot to be gained by doing several thirty minute oil sketches.  I begin to truly simplify, dropping details that get in the way of strong shapes and compositions.  This is my favorite of the four.

Oil sketches, 5″ x 5″, on prepared birch panels.  Painted yesterday morning, January 23, 2012

Clean color and correct values allows me to complete a small oil sketch, en plein air, within forty five minutes. Color Wheel Five helps to keep my colors clean, especially the neutrals.

Pine Tree 10am oil sketch

Painting en plein air forces simplicity of shapes and quick color choices.  The light changes rapidly, shadows move.  Sometimes it feels as if I’m painting inside a kaleidoscope.   I like that sense of movement.  It forces me to look to my painting for strong patterns rather than attempt to capture the ever-changing reality in front of me.  Nothing is perfect.  There is only the opportunity to paint it better next time.

Oil sketch on gessoed birch panel.

As of January 21st I will again be a full-time artist!

The zig-zag of the road

A year and a half ago I sketched the zig-zag of the road and have wanted to do a simple, little oil sketch, en plein air, of the pattern created by the two driveways meeting the road in front of my house.  The first thing I did after sending my notice of leaving my job at the prop shop as of January 20th was to celebrate my return to full-time painting by painting the long overdue oil sketch of sky, land and roads. The pattern of the road, the pattern of clouds in the sky and the pattern of value shapes were my primary concerns.

Color Wheel Five, en plein air

What a great way to begin 2012!

Painting:  oil sketch on stretched canvas

Another example of mixing neutral colors using <a title="Directions and Sample Painting, Color Wheel Five for reference …

Breaking Through Morning Mist

The morning presented minimal contrast and coloring that reminded me more of the lifeless colors I’m trying to avoid mixing.  As the sun attempted to break through the layers of mist, diffused sunlight added a bit of warmth to the backyard, winter landscape.  I exaggerated the hues for my own pleasure.

I continue to refer back to Color Wheel Five to mix neutrals using only two pigments plus white, avoiding mud.  I use my nine-step grayscale to check my values.  For this morning’s painting, I wanted to use a limited value scale, avoiding sharp contrasts that would indicate stronger sunlight.

Painting Sketch:  Oil on gessoed birch wood panel 5″ x 8″

What I thought might be a quick sample of using Color Wheel Five to paint the view through and beyond my kitchen turned into an all day struggle.

View beyond the kitchen

The problem spot in the painting is the table.  I changed the hue and value of the both the top and the draping cloth at least a dozen times. The light through the windows continued to change and my value sketch offered little help.  In spite of the struggle, I enjoyed every minute of the challenge, keeping colors clean and using both full intensity and neutralized hues.

Painting:  oil sketch on gessoed birch wood panel 5″ x 7″

The directions for creating Color Wheel Five are now posted.

Painting using Color Wheel Five

I painted two sample paintings using Color Wheel Five looking out my studio windows this afternoon.  By laying out my paints in a circle, making sure that they are in the same order as my Color Wheel Five, it’s quite simple to mix exactly what I want, making minor changes as necessary.  It’s immediately clear when the value is right or wrong when I do a preliminary value sketch in pencil or ink prior to beginning my painting.  My colors stay clean.  As soon as I make mud I know that I’ve strayed from my color wheel.  If I find myself lost, looking for a color, I look carefully at the color choices within the proper Value Range Ring and simply pick a gorgeous color and try it!   I usually break through into a more creative use of color.

I keep my brushes clean and wipe any muddy colors off my palette so they don’t contaminate the beautiful colors.  I try to be inventive by adding extra colors from the appropriate Value Ring that may not be what I see in my landscape or object.

Sample ... straying from reality

In the painting above(sorry it’s a bit blurry), I stayed with my original sketch of shapes and values, but played with the color.  It is much livelier than the view out my window this afternoon.  I wasn’t in the mood to paint another gray day.  Using my Color Wheel, it is easy to be inventive.

Link to Directions for creating Color Wheel Five

Moving along with this color wheel of neutrals …..

Constantly correcting color mixes

As I move around the wheel it becomes clear where I have to go back and correct the mix of pigments to achieve the results I want.  My goal is to create a smooth transition from segment to segment of beautiful neutrals mixing only two colors plus white.  Both the hue and value often need correcting.  I will complete all segments before correcting again.  At this point, there are at least six segments I will alter.  The Cadmium Lemon plus purple / blue is better, but still not correct.

Color Wheel Five focuses on mixing neutrals from using complements and near complementary colors.