Thursday, July 8, 2010

Cows en Plein Air moooo...

I've been painting cows lately.  Both paintings were painted en plein air; however, on the second one, I made quite a few adjustments, which I'll go into below.

Study 1:  This was painted on a very bright morning.  I'm not happy with my greens in the trees and the background hills, which were out of my frame view, so I put them in the painting to create more atmospheric perspective. They're are too strong-I should have used a lighter, paler wash to make them recede more.  I'm usually better at painting trees, but when painting plein air, sometimes it's like I forget everything I ever learned up to that point.  I'm just trying to get it down on the paper.  Hopefully, the more I paint outdoors, the more confident  I'll become in getting it down 'right'.  I need to follow Mr. 'Z's (J. Zbukvic) advice and 'have faith' in myself more, that it will turn out right.  My 2 main goals in doing these paintings though are to 1) get better with rendering tonal values, and 2) improve my drawing skills in regard to scale and subjects I'm not familiar with i.e. things other than nature - buildings, cars, people, etc.  And of course to try to render atmosphere and mood in my paintings, but that's a given - don't think I achieved that very well in these paintings.  One thing I did notice immediately, in defense of this pathetic painting, was that this was Fabriano Artistico paper, and felt like it may even be hot-press, which I don't normally paint on, especially in plein air, as it is just too smooth for rendering drybrush to tree trunks, foliage, etc. I have nothing against Artistico paper per say, just not crazy about hot-pressed watercolor paper for plein air painting, or anything that does not require a lot of tiny detail.

Study 2: This was the second attempt at plein air painting these cows, which were enjoying some shade on a very warm and sunny morning.  I had my little dog with me and was painting from a pretty close proximity, so they looked at us fairly often, then would go back to grazing, scratching, or whatever cows do.  They are so much fun to paint!  I like the challenge of their foreshortened bodies and head shapes when standing at different angles and the joined shapes created when grouped together.  This painting had potential in the beginning, but after I got it home, I noticed that my weakness in rendering 'scale' stuck out like a sore thumb as the large cow to the far left was huge (yeah, he was even bigger than he is here in the finished painting).  Then I noticed a couple of other cows who were also too large/small in comparison to the others.  So, knowing that this painting MUST be improved and resolving to the fact that doing so could and probably would go past the point of no return for a watercolor, I began my 'experimental phase' of correcting the cows' sizes and trying to correct tonal values within the shading of the trees and cows themselves.  As a result, this painting is way overworked and not really a keeper, but I like to 'try all options' on a failed painting like this one to experiment on before throwing it in the 'been-there-done-that' heap in hopes that I can learn from it for the next attempt.   And sometimes, I'm actually able to save a painting.  Watercolor paper is just too expensive not to get the most out of my failures (and believe me, I have a lot of those) which turn into learning experiences if I maintain a positive attitude.  And it helps me tremendously, not only in learning how to get my scale and tonal values correct, but in experimenting also with color combinations and brush technique.  Well, I could go on and on with what I learn from doing this.  I'm just hoping that somewhere down the road of watercolor, the 'experimental' heap is gradually overshadowed by the 'keepers'.  For now, I'm just having fun painting cows...


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