Sunday, September 12, 2010

Colorado Paintings, Part Two

Posted by Maggie

Our second pastel painting session was under entirely different light conditions than the first session of the day (see Part One for the first session's paintings). Many clouds had moved on, although some that remained were as storm-threatening as the earlier ones. I had hoped to paint the river, but it was muddy brown from the previous day's rain, so we chose a spot along the road not far from the river. Both of us selected subjects involving buildings, though we were looking in opposite directions.

I never used to paint buildings. I didn't find them interesting, and when you're painting outdoors, the light changes so fast you can't spend a lot of time drawing. But once I started teaching workshops in Europe, I learned to love painting structures. They can add an interesting element to a painting. I also became comfortable with the understanding that my paintings done outdoors are field studies, and that means I'm looking for accurate color and value, and an understanding of the light and weather conditions and how they affect the way light and shadow describe form. So my drawing doesn't have to be perfect. It also helps that many of the buildings I end up painting in Europe are falling down.

This subject appealed to me because of the shape of the road, and the way the house is mostly hidden by the hillside in front of it. I felt it gave the building a little sense of mystery. And I didn't have to draw the whole thing! Most of what you see is roof and chimney, and the rest is implied. I also liked the shapes of the cloud formations, and blocked them in very quickly. They were soon gone, but I had enough information to complete them. Fall is just coming to this valley; there were touches of yellow and even orange in some trees, and the odd bushes in the right foreground were already yellow, rusty red and orange. I worked on a light gray piece of Pastelmat, almost exactly the local color of the gravel road. It was interesting how that neutral color worked for this late morning light. Left, River Road, 9.5x12, pastel on gray Pastelmat, ©Maggie Price.

Bill chose a subject in the opposite direction, with very different light. The tall trees almost obscured the buildings, giving them a mysterious, moody quality. He worked on a black surface (Colourfix), which really helped set the mood right from the beginning. Bill often works on black. He says his favorite part of the painting is putting in the highlights and on a dark surface he gets to do that right away. There's a bit of the dark surface showing here and there in the darkest areas, and it works really well. I really liked the bit of blue sky he put in the top left corner and how it complemented the rest of the composition. Left, Pump House, 12x 9.5, pastel on black Colourfix, ©Bill Canright.

By the time we finished our second session, the winds had picked up and were threatening to blow over our easels. The afternoon got windier still, so we spent some time taking photographs and picking out a painting spot for the next day, described in  Part Three.

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