Maybe it’s better to experiment with one variable at a time. Today I chose four.
For my birthday I received a new palette, which prompted me to rethink the pigments I’ve been using. I have been using Maimeri Blu paints, which I really like except for the raw and burnt sienna. I like burnt umber because it looks great when charged with ultramarine blue, but the other earth pigments I think I can do without. I want to move away from those for a while. I was also without a real bright opaque red. With the fall coming, I thought I might like one. I got the free sample Sennelier paints in the mail recently and like the Sennelier Yellow Light a lot, and the cinereous blue is a great sketching sky blue, so I thought I’d give them a try. For my new ones, I got yellow lake (nickel azo yellow), cadmium red light, and permanent alizarin crimson deep (really quinacridone pyrrolidine red that looks a lot like alizarin crimson and works great). So far so good. These fill in the gaps very nicely, and the consistency is great. I like to squeeze a little in the palette and let it dry, so having the honey-based paint is nice.
I am trying a smaller standard selection of paints for now that seem to give me a good range. They’re laid out from top left and around with gaps for special colors when the painting requires:
Sennelier Yellow Light
Sennelier Yellow Lake
Maimeri Blu Permanent Yellow Deep
Sennelier Cadmium Red Light
Maimeri Blu Primary Red Magenta
Sennelier Permanent Alizarin Crimson Deep
Maimeri Blu Ultramarine Blue
Daniel Smith Cobalt Blue
Maimeri Blu Prussian Blue
Maimeri Blu Cupric Green Deep (Pthalo Green)
Maimeri Blu Burnt Umber
Maimeri Blu Ivory Black
I really want to try to work quicker and looser, and I have been looking a lot at my catalog from the John Singer Sargent exhibit. I thought I’d try to be a paint more like him on my next one, which will have beekeeping as the subject. To warm up for that I messed around on a free sheet of Yupo paper that came in a magazine. It’s similar to painting in a Moleskine sketchbook. The paint beads up and stays on the surface. It also wipes easily, so layering is difficult. Worth a try, but very strange. The end result feels like a bit like a scratch-and-sniff. Here’s what I came up with today based on a photo I took of my uncle checking on the hive.
There’s a great scene in the third season of Blackadder in which Blackadder is ranting to Baldrick that Samuel Johnson didn’t like his novel, Edmund, a Butler’s Tale. He concludes his rant by saying, “Everybody has one novel in them, and that was mine,” to which Baldrick replies, pulling a tiny piece of paper out of his pants, “And this is mine. My magnificent octopus.” Blackadder reads it aloud. “Once there was a lovely sausage called Baldrick. The end.”
So here it is, my magnificent octopus.
A bit more than Baldrick’s story, but not quite Edmund, a Butler’s Tale. I am excited to have finished this one. It was my most ambitious effort yet. Thanks for following along.
A couple more sessions and I will be done with this one. I am excited about how far I have come and how much I have learned by working on this painting. I think I have progressed a fair amount quickly thanks to it, and thanks to some close studies while working on this of John Singer Sargent, Hopper, and fellow blogger David Tripp. At the same time, there are some things I haven’t been able to work on in this painting, and I want to try out some other styles and techniques for a while.
A few things have happened that are pushing me in a new direction.
1. The John Singer Sargent exhibit–The freedom and expressiveness in his work was remarkable. Of course such freedom comes with practice and precision. There are no wasted strokes. He is really in command, even when he seems loose. The work is so lively. I want to see what I can learn from that.
2. My Lakeville sketches– The small sketch of the swans showed me how much can be accomplished with a few pencil squiggles and a couple swipes of the brush. That painting took a few minutes, including drying time. Granted it was 3×5 not 11×14, but I let my gut take over and didn’t worry, and it worked. Similarly with the painting of my Aunt’s kitchen. There was more to it, but I still worked quickly and didn’t worry so much about getting stuff “right.” I just let it work. I want to try treating everything as a sketch for a while, and see what comes of it.
3. The acquisition from my dad of two Series 7 brushes (a 2 and 5). They allow for a much looser style with more life and expression in a few strokes than my synthetics did. I am eager to push this further.
I probably won’t post again on Old San Juan until I finish it, but will keep posting sketches. I have a couple other paintings in mind that I am looking forward to as well.
Thanks for reading.
We just spent a wonderful week visiting my Aunt and cousins up in Lakeville, MA at their family cottage on Assawomset Pond (famous for its role in starting King Philip’s War) and at my Aunt’s homestead, which they just moved into last year. She already has a great vegetable garden going, and a promising beehive, not to mention a wood shop in the barn for my uncle. It’s a dream house and a dream life, and we were fortunate to get to live it for the week.
While there I got in a lot of sketching. Some highlights are below, and more are on my Flikr page here.
I haven’t been able to work on the Old San Juan painting since last week–too much going on and too tired in the evenings–but I am still trying to fit in some sketches where I can. Here’s one I did in my Moleskine Volant while eating a late lunch at work in Monday. It was a beautiful day and a lot of people were eating outside. By the time I could eat, most of them had gone back to their desks, so I could only get one person in this sketch. Still, it was a peaceful interlude in a busy day that started a very busy week.