Yesterday, I started painting sunrises again. They’re simply oil sketches… nothing formal or fancy. Yesterday’s is on the left, and described in more detail at A New Morning.
Generally, I grab whatever smallish, blank canvas is nearby. Today, as yesterday, that’s a 10″ x 14″ canvas board.
Technically, these paintings aren’t quite en plein air (French for “in the open air”) because there’s a sliding glass door between me and the landscape. However, for those who define en plein air as “in the natural light,” my work does qualify.
Generally, I think of myself as a plein air painter. My studio style is more tonalist, with a mix of other styles added.
I timed the work this morning, to see if my daily estimates of 15 – 20 minutes are accurate. It’s close enough.
I walked into my living room at 6:27 a.m., set up my paints, and at 7:01 a.m., I was at the sink, washing the paint off my hands. (My work area was already cleaned up and my paintbrushes were in water, waiting to be thoroughly scrubbed.)
So, figuring five minutes at each side for set up and clean up, that’s about 24 minutes today, for a painting that took me considerably longer than yesterday’s.
Here’s today’s work, at right.
The colors weren’t accurate in this photo, partly because I took the photo without a flash, and the light was very, very blue from the reflections off the snow.
The photo looks about twice as blue as it is.
Scroll down to see a later photo of the painting, and a detail from it, as well.
The snow in the foreground is actually very white, with hints of the myriad colors in it. To me, this painting is very pale and colorful and faerie-like.
When I paint, I ignore anything that’s not lovely. So, there are elements in front of me that aren’t in the painting. You can see the actual scene — and three days’ brushes, ready to be scrubbed — in the photo at the left.
That photo also conveys how blue the light was, here in central NH, when I was first photographed the completed sketch. For example, the floor of our porch is white. Our living room carpet is a very pale tan color. And, you can see how blue the snow looks.
Yes, there are buildings, cars, a parking lot… all elements that I leave out. To me, they’re not lovely or interesting. (Another artist might see them differently.)
As an artist, I need to feel inspired by what I’m painting. Mundane aspects of life are necessities for me, but they don’t inspire me. However, someone influenced by Edward Hopper (work like Nighthawks) would probably talk in very different terms.
The effects of light
Below, on the right, here’s that same painting, photographed at noon when the light was very white.
It almost looks like a different painting.
There are two big lessons from this.
First, when you paint — and the color of the light at that time — makes a huge difference in the colors you see.
That’s not only about the finished art, but the color of the paint on the palette when I’m working. When the light is really blue, the paint looks bluer than it is, too. It’s interesting.
The second point is: Light varies considerably with the time of day, the location, reflective surfaces nearby, and so on. That’s one reason why a completed painting will look completely different in Maine than it does in Arizona.
But, a painting’s colors can vary when you move it from one room to another, as well. The white walls and red carpet in one room will reflect different colors than the pale blue walls and midnight blue carpet in another.
Generally, I prefer to paint outdoors or in natural light (next to a window). I also try to paint within two hours of sunrise and two hours at sunset. At midday, the light is too harsh and white. Around noon, the shadows aren’t nearly as interesting, either.
My painting technique involves a lot of walking. I paint a little, and then I walk about ten or 12 feet away, to study the color and composition from a distance.
Then, I paint some more.
I also mix my colors on my brush (or on the canvas), not on the palette. I scoop a little of one color with the point of a square-tipped brush. I’ll scoop up another color on the other point of the brush, and then I may add yet another color in the middle of the brush.
As I apply the paint, it blends as I scrub with the bristles. If I scrub just a little, the colors remain fairly distinct. If I scrub them a lot, the colors can blend to a uniform shade.
You can see the effect in the photo on the left. That’s a small, actual size section of the painting.
Anyway, I’m pleased that I’ve painted another sunrise. This is a good trend.