Monday, July 13, 2009

Setting up, including setting up a palette.

Part of the trick of outdoor painting is figuring out what to take with you. I try to take a striped down painting kit, something I could hike with, away from my car, to get to that good view point. I load my supplies in a basket. In the other hand, I carry my french easel with a canvas snapped into the easel. Usually at a new location, I walk around first just to get the lay of the land and figure out where to set up. If I still haven't found that "perfect spot" I sketch out various ideas in quick loose thumbnails.
Sketching a thumbnail is useful for many decisions about the painting: what size canvas, which direction, overall composition, values, and especially what to simplify. It helps get your eye tuned into the scene you are about to paint. Sometimes I like to do a small quick color study before beginning a large painting.
A family was out enjoying the beach, they added life to this scene. 8" x 10"

When I squeeze out my paint, I do the same basic set up each time, warms across the top, cools along the left side, white in the upper right corner, medium in the lower right corner. This gives me a huge mixing area, and the memory of where colors are located when mixing on the fly.
It is possible to paint with only 3 tubes of paint. Here in the San Juan Islands, I would choose Cad. yellow medium, cad red light, and french ultramarine blue, along with white. This gives wonderful olives and subtle purples, perfect for our northwest scenery. If I would like to expand my choice of colors I squeeze out a second version of each primary, Cad. Yellow medium + cad yellow light a warm and a cool yellow. For reds, Cad red light + alizarin crimson. If I would like to add more variety of reds, I like to add a magenta and a wonderful earth color, terra rosa. For blues, Ultramarine a warm blue, and a cool blue. That choice of cool blue seems to vary a lot, sometimes cerulean, manganese, or prussian. Earth colors are useful too, raw sienna and yellow ocher are my preferences. Keeping paint organized and along the edges, gives a large working area, where all the color mixing action is. When you paint with primaries, you need to be able to mix a range of colors and values.

By the time I start painting, many question have been answered, I can concentrate on just the act of painting, brushwork, edges, shapes, and enjoying the process.
San Juan Shore, 16" x 20"

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