Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Dogwood Tree

Starting a new painting today. Focusing on responding to the color and the light. Editing. Not thinking. Trying to respond not emotionally but spiritually. In my broad definition of spirit. Responding to the way spirit interacts with nature. In, through, of, I don't know. That's the journey. Here is the background. A soft morning sky. A bit to soft to photograph :) There is more pink and yellow toward the bottom. Most likely this will be almost completely covered up. But I like the process, putting myself in the moment. I would love to figure out how to paint the way I experience a place. Looking all around, all directions. Feeling, smelling. Seeing whats ahead of me, but catching glimpses in my peripheral vision. In this scene, seeing the tree ahead of me, against the sky. But at the same time feeling it above me, smelling it. Feeling enfolded by it. Seeing the morning sun shining through. Feeling the warmth on the leaves, the blossoms. Seeing the rich, crisp color and detail in the shadow and the sensation as the sunlight dilates my eyes and things go more soft and blurry as I look toward the light. How do I paint that sensation of being the tree, and the light. The unity of it. The peace of it. My theory is I have to be feeling the peace as I'm painting. Not worrying about the outcome or doubting myself. Lets give it a try.
Here are the reference photos I'm working with. I'll most likely use a bit from them all. Trying not to just render the image.

A few hours later....
Here are some more pics
I decided to start with establishing the lightest areas. I can't escape my love of light through leaves and blossoms. But it may be the death of me! There is an inescapable problem with trying to portray colored light with opaque pigment. The lighter you go, the less rich (chromatic) the color is when you use paints. Not so with light, it can be bright and colorful! But, not to get caught up in these feelings of inadequacy, right? Laying down some color. Loosely holding my brush and rolling, skipping, dabbing, flicking. Anything but tightly drawing a form.

I like to leave the color unmixed on my palette and run my brush through it. Leaves random bits of color. Very leaf-like I think. I'm using a fairly large round bristle brush. The canvas is 18x24.
Trying some cooler, darker colors trying to find the shadow colors. They cool as they move away from the sun spot I've established. Also seeing how much of the darker I can bring around the light, since that will make the light look lighter and maybe I can keep more color in the light and still have enough contrast for it to glow.

Cooling the colors as I move away from the lightest area. Again, to create that dramatic contrast. Not worrying about shapes except to try to keep things loose and undefined. If you have watched some of my other videos you probably have noticed I'm using a different method this time. No drawing or blocking in. More of a process oriented approach. It's fun! You just have to step back sometimes and get a perspective on it.
I use a full length mirror behind me when I paint. That way I can glance back and get a kind of distance look in my small room. That's the reference on the computer monitor. I'm pretty happy with the overall direction so far :)
In the mean time it's been pouring down rain on and off as I paint. Trying to still feel the sun I'm

another update...
adding some green now. Some darker grey green in the shadows and transitioning to light yellow green in the light. Using the three references to find what I like in each. None of them really have this much green. But, well, I like green! :D Plus I think it helps to set off the warm peachy pinks. Color contrast draws your eye, creating a strong focal point.

Time to get bold and establish some branches. I started with a large flat bristle and a pile of purplish dark. Mostly Utramarine Blue, Alizarin Crimson and some Quin Gold and cadmium red. Holding the brush loosely and pulling it along in jerky motions to mimic the way the branches change direction. Changed to a smaller flat, and finally a liner brush to make different size marks. Be bold! Be free! Feel the branches reaching to the sky! (this is fun!) Came back in with some pure cad red near the light and pure ultramarine in the shadows. These will be partially covered later but I really like that pop of pure pigment in the darks. Realizing I don't like that clump of 4 branches center bottom, will have to work on that.

Came back in with some very light yellow and expanded the glowy sun hole, breaking up some of the branches that are in the light with the light yellow. a few spots of pure white. Blendy, blendy! no edges here! looking for the few branches on the right that are going to be struck by sunlight as well. Will make them mossy later, just looking for value now. broke up the troublesome branches a bit on the bottom. That area in general I have to think about. Don't think I want to put in houses as in one reference. But don't want to leave that harsh value contrast at the bottom, it will lead your eye right out. Hey! There I go thinking again! Now, how do I make it feel like I am UNDER the tree!?
to be continued...
 ... Okay, so here's today's progress
 I spent more time looking at reference photo number 3 and decided to lighten up the clump of branches in the middle by bring the lighter background all the way down. Also strengthened the feeling of being under the tree by continuing the top branches all the way up.

foliage on the bottom, and spent time creating the middle top area where you are looking up to where the distance branches meet the sky by painting in more sky holes and breaking up the color to look more like tiny distant leaves. I think its starting to look more like I'm looking up! Yea!

added more variety of sizes in the branches, using different size brushes, down to a small liner. Added more layers and color to the trunks.
Put in more of the green foliage. Gave some gradation of color in the topmost sky hole. Added more sky holes as well.

Time to start the closer dogwood blossoms. Laid in some shapes with a purply shadow color. Squint your eyes at the reference and just try to see the shapes. Don't draw individual flowers. Shapes of color.
Experimenting with different shades of pinks and purples. These blossoms are in shadow so they have to stay darker in value than the light areas. Change your colors from warm to cool instead of having a lot of value contrast. Added some dark greeny shadowed leaves, then came in with lighter and warmer shades. Shapes of color. Mixed some dark to add the centers of a few flowers.
Just a couple of touches of light yellow to show the sun glinting through on the blossoms. I might be close to done, but I think I will look at it for a while...

I decided I wanted to try to brink the closest group of blossoms into a little more detail. So zoomed in on the bunch and just started finding a few more shapes of color to sharpen up the image and refine the colors. I added a bit of the color I was using in other areas of the painting and tried to create a sort of descending level of detail as you move away from the focal point in the flowers.

So here is the final product (I think!) Added a few more branches, finished up the detail. It's very frustrating trying to photograph paintings and match the color. My camera always seems to make things too blue. So in the final photo I use photo shop to color correct the closest I can get. It's never quite right though, and then on another monitor it will look different again! Oh well.
Hope you enjoyed this little WIP project :) The original will be available in my Etsy shop: www.etsy.com/shop/karenilari.
Happy Painting!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Painting is my tea leaves.

Painting is my tea leaves. I look at objects - trees, buildings, flowers, people. But what I am trying to see is the message my god self is trying to tell me. What do I mean by god self? I have read so many books on spirituality in my 54 years of life. Followed many spiritual paths. To me it has come down to this god self. There is this world that is physical that I exist in and interact with and am connected to through this body. Its physical needs - hungers and hormones, drive many of the decisions I make, often unconsciously. But there is another part, a god self. That self is connected something else. It speaks a different language. Its joys are not dependent on physical needs. It is illusive, and yet always present. Painting is my path to reach that self, and be that self. Not in spite of the physical world, but through it. Reading tea leaves is a method of discerning through the physical world, what the god self is trying to tell us. Tarot cards. There are many ways. Painting is my tea leaves. I look at things - scenes - physical things and try to turn off my brain. Try to look with my god eyes. non-judgemental, open, responsive. And just wait until a scene moves me. I snap photos, lots of photos. Then I go back to my studio and paint. In those hours that I live with the image that has moved me, I am trying to learn what it has to teach me. My medium, acrylics, lets me paint, and paint over what I have painted as I explore and learn from my god self through this image. It is about the process and the product. I have spent a lot of time trying to build my painting skills, so I can let that go and express all that is there, and more than what is there.

So what did I learn from this little painting "Portland Morning"? I got up early on this day (not usual for me) to walk around my new neighborhood in Portland. I had been so consumed with our move for weeks that I hadn't painted. I had time, but my mind was too caught up in the minutia and uncertainty of things. So, to break out of this rut I got my butt out of bed and went outside. The light was so fresh and cool. Light always seems to touch the god self. The interaction of light with the physical world seems so key in this search. the light illuminating the physical. In nature the light seems to activate something where it touches, the way light seems to enter the leaves and then glow from within the leaf, not just reflect on its surface. In this new place, this new direction, I was touched by this scene. The fresh morning light glowing in this doorway. The vital, happy colors of red and yellow. The new growth of the landscape. New doorways, new light, optimism. And yet in the foreground, always that obstacle. I rarely paint a fence crossing the foreground. It's not inviting. But this felt important to paint. In fact I spent an inordinate amount of time on it. The form and shape needed to be rigid and concrete. Why? It must have to do with my fears, fear of not being included in this new place, being an outsider. A lifelong theme for me. And the white picket fence is also a lifelong symbol for me. The illusion of the "American Dream". The fragile construct that seems to limit us to the accepted life, the safe, predictable life. And there will always be obstacles. But the light shines on all things, natural and man made. I read in this image optimism. My boundless joy in new places and new experiences. New doors, new light, new hope. The only obstacle is my own fear, as always, but that's one small little fence, and kinda cute in its own way :) 

Link to my Etsy shop listing of this painting