Tuesday, June 19, 2012

New Plein Air: Bulkeley Bridge

I had nice Father's Day weekend in Connecticut, spent most of the time there with family and friends, but as always, I have to make some time for painting. It turned out to be a beautiful hot weekend, I thought painting by the water might not be a bad idea. I found a spot by the boathouse in Riverside Park in the north end of Hartford. This park has been restored, providing Hartford residents a boat launching area, a rowing facility, fishing access, football field, cricket field, beach volleyball court, bike and nature trails. This restoration is part of a big project to beautify the downtown area, a large task that has been going on for a number of years. I think Hartford is a nice town, but unfortunately it has become the little sister that never grew up, stuck right in the middle of the two older and bigger sisters, Boston and New York!
Bulkeley Bridge, Connecticut River, 2012, oil on linen, 8 1/2 x 11 inches 
It's been a while since my last plein air, I felt a little rusty at first, so much so that I almost gave up. I was getting very hot, there was no shade near by, but I fought on and I'm happy with the outcome. Maybe not the best plein air but I'm happy with it.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Sap Green Test

A little down time at the shop causes us to test a lot of paint; today was one of those days. I was looking at some Holbein paint swatches earlier and I almost bought four different greens, not that I needed them since I have a ton of greens at home by Williamsburg, Old Holland, and Graham. To justify my probable spending I decided to compare Sap Green, a color find very useful in my landscape paintings. To be honest I don't know what I would do without it. I have been using Old Holland's Sap Green and I find it beautiful, there is not other like it. Unfortunately Old Holland's prices keep soaring each year, this made me find an alternative, and through some small tests I found Graham's Sap Green to be most similar to O.H.
Today's test will be between Holbein, which I had been eying all day, and Graham. Since I already own a large tube of by Graham I needed to know if Holbein's would be worth the purchase. I was expecting a different shade, but to my surprise they are both the same hue. Both brands are a mixture of Phthalo Green and Azo Green, but Graham also contains Ivory Black.
I squeezed out the same amount of paint on to a glass palette, the first noticeable difference is that Graham's paint is loose and wet, Holbein's stiff. I took a small amount of Titanium White and mixed it with Graham's Sap Green. I was amazed at the intensity of this paint, it always gets me! I mixed the the same amount of white with Holbein's and there was no punch at all. I had to mix more green to get it close to Graham's paint. Even after using up all the Holbein paint I had laid out on the palette it still didn't equal to the intensity of Graham. This means I have to stick with the large tube I already own, no new paint for me today.
I think it's good for artists to be inquisitive and run tests of the materials they are using, surprises, good and bad, can come out of these random yet significant samplings.
To the paint makers, I am not knocking your product down if I don't find it to be exceptional, you know what you put out and it's my right as a consumer to compare and contrast all brands and to voice my opinion. 

Monday, June 04, 2012

Landscape Sketches

Somehow for a year I stopped drawing and developing ideas in my moleskine sketchbook. I carry it with me everywhere everyday but somehow it's been untouched since last June! That changed a couple of weeks ago when an unexpected trip to Central Park after work in a beautiful sunny afternoon brought me face to face with a little vignette of the Beresford in Central Park West. That afternoon I discovered a nice little spot by Turtle Pond, and across the water this building stood tall dominating the skyline. Who can resist?
Inspiration struck again last week while visiting Colorado. Funny thing is that the last three drawings in my sketchbook were landscapes sketched in Colorado a year ago, and now that same state and it's vast land caused me draw some more. 
These three sketches were drawn in a moving car while going from place to place. I approached these as a fun exercise, it required me to see something in a few seconds, take a metal picture, and at the same time lay down some quick gestures of the main planes and elements of the landscape. From there I developed the drawing from memory, which is a nice change.
I'm planning on turning all of these drawings into bigger oil paintings. The next step is to take these sketches and make some oil sketches to determine the values and to further develop the details of the composition.