Friday, September 12, 2014

Painting a Mountaintop View

High above Salida, Colorado is a lookout tower with a grand view of the town below, so I went up there to try to cram four square blocks into my little paintbook. (Direct link to YouTube video)

I'm using casein with flat brushes, and diving in directly without an underdrawing. Even though the view is infinitely complex, I try to pin down a few landmarks and view it as a set of basic shapes in perspective.

The time lapse sequence of the early stages of the painting uses a GoPro camera set to two-second intervals attached to a slowly rotating kitchen timer.

The easel is a new super-light pochade system that I built. When it's folded up, it's small enough to fit in my belt pouch, and it uses magnets to hold the water cup and mixing tray. The wind was so strong that I had to ballast the tripod with my backpack.


jeff jordan said...

I like how you keep pushing the bar up for yourself. Very inspirational!

Martin Dimitrov said...

Hi Gurney,

Thank you very much for your blog! It is an amazing resource of information and inspiration!

You frequently address issues of light and color in your blog (and also in your book), so I was hoping that you would consider this issue. The issue is as follows:

When I am painting a scene in natural light, where the subject of interest is mostly in the shadow. As I am painting, switching my gaze from the painting to the subject, my perception changes each time. Once, it seems to me that the shadow is predominantly cool (so I fill it with blue of viridian). On the next gaze, it appears the shadow is predominantly warm with yellows and reds dominating the greens and blues. Such confusion of perception causes me to re-work, to guess and ultimately struggle with the painting. I believe that this passage from Robert Henri's book is relevant to the topic:

“Especially in painting brilliant sunlight, working outdoors is difficult, for it takes a long time to get the eyes accustomed to the difference between light and pigment so that anything like a translation can be made.
In fact I think that most pictures of the Southwest are to a great extent false because the painters get blinded into whiteness, make pale pictures where the real color of New Mexico is deep and strong.”

Currently, I think that this issue may be due to the fact that my eyes are too slow to adjust when moving across those areas of high contrast. Possibly, in these situations I should simply relax and stay with the subject for some time. Maybe I should let my eyes adjust and analyze the scene carefully. Then paint as much as possible from memory without trusting intermediate glances at the subject.I am certainly going to try that - but I would also love to learn your take on this.

I really apologize for the long comment :( Thank you very much for the time to read it :)


James Gurney said...

Hi, Martin, Thanks for the compliments. It's a good question and a common problem. What helps most is to try to light your work so that it is as close in brightness to the scene as possible -- not brighter, not darker, not cooler, and not warmer. This is not always possible of course, but one thing that helps when you're painting toward the light is to use a diffuser over the work to catch the light and spread it evenly on your work. No matter how the scene and your work are lit, though, translation is necessary, as Henri suggested, because the range of pigments is so limited.

Martin Dimitrov said...

Hi James,

Thank you very much for the quick response! I will try to make a diffuser and experiment with it.

thank you!

Sherrie York said...

Hey, that's my town! What a nice surprise to watch it develop through your brush and interpretation. Thank you for sharing... I've passed the video link on to the local crowd.