Since October 2006 I have recorded every aspect of my artistic development on my blog. Here I invite you "behind the scenes" into my studio, where I share all of my materials, class notes, travel journals, and step-by step demonstrations of my paintings and drawings, including video demos.
Entries in painting (202)
I am trying a technique that is different from my other paintings. I usually work in the Indirect Flemish Method: Many thin layers on wood panel to get a very high level of realism, without texture, for an almost enamel-like finish. It can take 4-6 weeks to complete a very small 9x12 inch painting.
In contrast, this painting is done with a Direct Method: Only 2 layers (the umber underpainting and one pass of full color), painted with thick, loose paint, on stretched linen support. At 18x24 inches it is larger than most my work, and it took less than 2 weeks to complete.
I am finding what I have long suspected to be true: Working precisely and with great control in my more detailed work is teaching me to see better and make better decisions when I work faster and more loosely.
With this more direct method, this is how I think about painting:
The strokes are applied slowly: I look at my subject, decide what is the ONE stroke I want to make. I load up my brush with the correct color, and then very, very slowly make ONE mark. Then I look at it, and decide if it is right or wrong. Sometimes I need to wipe it off and try again if it is wrong. Then I decide what my next stroke will be.
I start slow, but during the session I naturally speed up, keeping this same level of attention on every stroke. I stop thinking and it starts to feel like the brush is painting on its own.
I use a very light touch, only touching the paint to the canvas, not the bristles. In addition to swiping the brush, I also might push, twist, or wiggle the brush to make the stroke needed. The light touch lays the paint on the canvas, and might leave some broken scumbling drags, without pushing the paint flat.
When loading the brush: To get thicker paint, I push the brush forward into the paint puddle on the palette, not a just a back swipe. I build up a nice glob of paint, with even maybe with a string of peaked paint at the tip.
Every stroke should make the painting feel like it is developing and getting better. If it starts to feel like I am “fixing”, and the painting feels like a struggle, and the painting gets worse even though I am trying to make it better…. I stop painting. I wipe or scrape anything unsuccessful, I breathe, slow down, take a break, and try again.
While painting this I was thinking about how I would teach it as a class or workshop, and realized the only way I could teach it is to teach the Indirect, Flemish method I already teach. For every Direct stroke one must think about drawing, value, color, and edges, all at once. The way I would teach this is to practice each of these skills in isolation until each is mastered, before trying them all at once.
The Flemish Indirect method separates these steps and is an excellent way to learn all of this.
For me, working in this more Direct manner is emerging naturally from my Indirect method of study.
WORKSHOP: Still Life Drawing and Painting in the Flemish Method, January 2013, San Francisco
679 Boston Post Road Madison, Connecticut 06443
Ever since I got a lesson from Michael Klein in direct-method flower painting a couple months ago I’ve wanted to try it again, and once I got home from France I finally had a chance.
The landscape painting also was a good warm-up for direct method painting in the studio. I usually paint Indirect, or Flemish method - where I work in many layers, allowing each layer to dry completely before applying more paint.
With Direct method, wet paint is layered over wet paint, and most of the strokes of paint you make will be visible in the final piece. The goal is to get the correct hue, value, chroma, and edge down in each stroke, without adjusting.
For these paintings I am using New Traditions L600 lead-primed linen which comes in big rolls you can cut to the size you need.
I started each painting with an underpainting just using Burnt Umber to work out the composition, basic values, and placement of the objects.
All of these paintings were done alla prima, meaning in a single day’s painting session. Direct painting can be done in one session or over many days or weeks, but each stroke is painted as it is meant to be seen in the final painting.
And now I’m back to my regular Indirect method, as I have been working the last few days on a preparatory drawing for a new piece which will take me about a month to complete. I won’t have much time to paint in the next few weeks, between teaching my workshop, various short travels, and attending Weekend with the Masters, but it’s been fun to start at least.
This year I turned 40, and to celebrate I planned a month of landscape painting in France, something I have wanted to do since I first visited France at age 16. I chose the Dordogne region in the south-west of France because of it’s reputation for beautiful, varied landscape: rolling green hills, cliff towns, winding rivers, forests, and most important…… castles!!
We rented a house in the gorgeous little town of Beynac-et-Cazenac, which is a network of steep cobblestoned streets and adorable stone houses crowned with a 12th century castle at the top.
I decided to paint on paper for a portable, lightweight material perfect for plein air sketches. Before the trip I cut sheets of Rives BFK printing paper in various tones into standard sizes, mostly 5x7 and 9x12. Then I primed the paper with 2 coats of Golden Acrylic Medium. Each day I just taped a piece of paper to a foamcore backing and mounted it on my Open Box M setup. It was a wonderful surface to paint on!
As it turned out, it ended up raining for 2 of the 4 weeks we were in Beynac, so I did not get to paint nearly as much as I’d planned. But instead we hung out with visiting friends and family who shared our rental house and rented other houses in the same village.
At the very end of the trip the rain cleared and I got one last painting day in. I found a beautiful quiet spot next to a field of corn with a view of neighboring Chateau Castelnaud. The day was warm and lazy, and the #1 BEST thing about painting in France is….. NO MOSQUITOS!!!!
To see all of my paintings from France this summer:
See my photos of Paris, Beynac, and the Dirdgne region of France: