Sunday, October 25, 2015

Alleys in Salida

In Salida, Colorado, we wake up early and paint in the alleys. I use a limited palette of titanium white, yellow ochre, burnt sienna, and Prussian blue (also called iron blue).

I choose those pigments because they're enough to mix anything in the scene, and I am guaranteed that the overall effect will be harmonious.

Here's the same alley at sunset, facing the opposite direction, and painted with a different set of colors. This one is cadmium yellow deep, raw sienna, and brilliant purple. It's basically a complementary scheme with two values of yellow on one side and violet on the other.

Finally, here's Jeanette's sketch of the same alley earlier in the day, using transparent watercolor and a Micron 02 pen. "This is line and wash," she says. "I lay it in with pencil, then put in the washes, then finish it off with pen. I like having a pen to define forms with lines and dots."

Glenn Tait had a couple questions after yesterday's post:

Would you or have you done a two page spread like this using gouache?
Yes, gouache works fine for a double page spread, too. Sometimes colored pencil will rub off on a facing page, but the paint stays down pretty well. You just want to be sure the closed book doesn't get too much heavy pressure after it's finished. Painting panoramas in open spreads is a common practice among Urban Sketchers. You can set up a special frame to make a changing home display of your open books.

What is the "open" time on the palette with casein compared to gouache?
All things being equal, I believe casein stays wet or open on the palette a little longer, though I haven't done a systematic experiment. But the more important variables are: 1. Humidity, 2. Whether you're in the direct sun, and 3. Whether or not you squeeze the paint on a damp paper towel. Given those variables, gouache or casein can set up on the palette in anything from 20 minutes to three hours.

The good thing is that the texture of the paint changes as it dries from runny to thick, and that's what you need at various stages of the painting. I like to have runny, wet paint at the beginning as I'm laying in the big areas, and thicker, goopier paint for highlights and accents at the end. If I want to paint for more than a couple of hours, I just wipe off the palette and squeeze out new colors.
Video tutorial: "Gouache in the Wild"
• HD MP4 Download at Gumroad $14.95
• or HD MP4 Download at Sellfy (for Paypal customers) $14.95
• DVD at Purchase at (Region 1 encoded NTSC video) $24.50


Steve said...

Lovely sketches, both of you, reflecting once again your love of tangled utility lines. You would have feasted on the power lines I saw last week in Bangkok; they set a a lofty standard for mind-boggling complexity. Salida is home to two of my favorite artists, Sherrie York, a wonderful printmaker, and Kent Haruf, the author of the lovely trilogy Plainsong, Eventide, and Benediction. Sadly, Haruf recently passed away. I think he would have appreciated the way you've brought light, grace, and attention -- as he did -- to the most ordinary of subjects.

Karen Robinson said...

Wow, such fab work, you are so very productive and everything you do seems to go right. I don't know whether to be impressed or just despairing!! I am new to painting outdoors - being until now a wimp-in-the-studio - and have had a difficult day in the wild, specifically a graveyard. This was a difficult challenge for beginning wilders, I thought. First, I had laid in an orange underpainting, heaven knows why - associations with pumpkins perhaps - and I hated it (did you tone the paper first for these sketches, by the way?) then I kept dropping things, then my hands went numb because it was freezing and then the paint became all thick and tacky like painting with porridge but I had forgotten to pack any turps or any medium at all but in any event I hated the 3 colours I had chosen for my limited palette as they made the orange look not so much creepy as just plain yuck. So I gave up. *sigh*.

James Gurney said...

Karen, wow, it sounds like you had a lot of challenges all at once. Regardless of how your painting came out, you deserve a lot of credit for bravely getting out there. I certainly have my share of duds and flops caused by an idea that didn't work out, or plain old "gamestoppers" that were beyond my control (see previous post for everyone's stories

A couple things that I keep in mind when that happens:
1. It's just a study or a sketch, and experiment, and it's OK if it doesn't work out.
2. If you don't have failures once in a while, you're not being experimental enough.
3. Most artists stay well within their safe zones; you only grow if you step outside of those zones.
4. If you're using opaque paints, you can always paint over the duds.
5. It's just a painting, not wingsuit diving, so there's no risk to life and limb.
6. You can always make a Gallery Flambeau

James Gurney said...

Steve, I've got to check out Kent Haruf's work from our library! Thanks for telling me about him. While we were there, the local newspaper announced a juried writing competition for Salida high school students, from an endowment funded by Mr. Haruf and his widow. What a wonderfully encouraging thing for them to do. Thank you for the kind words about my commonplace subjects, too. --Jeanette

Karen Robinson said...

James i am going to print out your six points and pin them up by my easel. Thank you. It's not wingsuit diving hahahahah x

Sherrie York said...

Well, here's a nice surprise! The Gurney road trip is haunting Salida again... wandering around downtown whilst I was having coffee with a friend a block or two away this morning. Thank you, Steve, for mentioning my work. I'm deeply touched that you'd include it alongside Kent's.

"It's just a painting, not wingsuit diving." I think I'm going to put that on my wall, with just a small edit for printmaking. ;-)

karl smith said...

James, I am really enjoying your current series of sketches - even more than usual!- as we are on a sketching/climbing trip just over the border in Moab. Your sketches are giving me plenty of ideas on how to tackle the landscapes we are encountering, and I look forward to some more.

Francisco Mariz Rodrigues said...

Hi James!
I was wondering: How do you choose your pallette when you look at a scene?
I've noticed that in most paintings, you ignore certain colors, and in some you change a lot the apparent hue of the scene.
I guess this comes, in part, with practice but is there some kind of rule of thumb for this?

James Gurney said...

Good question, Francisco. Sometimes I limit myself to a few colors and try to force whatever scene I see into those colors. Other times I look at the scene and ask myself what are the most important colors in the actual scene, and then try to figure out which ones will convey that.