Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Rewards: Photo Prints Choices

1) Battle of Trafalgar

2) Shipping off East Cowes Headland

3) The Chain Pier, Brighton

4) A Ship Aground

5) The Shipwreck

6) Spithead: Boat's Crew Recovering an Anchor

7) Fishing Upon the Blythe Sand

8) The Fishermen

Soon (hopefully today but probably more like SUnday) a Survey will be sent out via the Kickstarter system requesting all eligible for the 5x7 or 8x10 mounted photo prize to choose which of these 8 images each would like to receive.

As usual, welcoming all feedback and comments. More later!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Rewards Post

I am enjoying this great article from Artist Daily titled "If This Sounds Harsh, Forgive Me" relating different approaches to landscape and Plein Air painting.

"So perhaps we can break this bad habit by looking back to landscape master John Constable (1776 - 1837), the creator of some of the most beautiful landscapes in history. In his day, neither paint tubes nor the camera had been invented, so Constable's method was to sketch (drawing and painting) on location, and then use that information for composing and creating his paintings back in the studio. He took his time in crafting his designs before he committed to one for a final work."

Constable was a contemporary of Turner's, and I can well see how this excellent technique described here would have served both Turner & Costable. I also take some of the advise myself.

Aside from that, I have come to talk about the rewards process, part of which is explained in the following video.

I have already sent out a rewards survey for one set of folks, and am soon to send out another. Thanks to all who have already responded! If others still have yet to do so, I am encouraging you to do so still.

What I have opted to do (and what the video relates) is a Giant Drawing, or Forever Drawing, the sort of which I have enjoyed doing before. I have sent questionnaires asking sundry questions to inform said Forever Drawing, so as to hopefully build a theme. At the conclusion of finishing this drawing, I will cut it up into postcard sized pieces, and mail one off to each person fitting in that category. First, I will take a photo of said drawing and make digital prints available in my Etsy store.

The second group of rewards receivers get professionally mounted photos of my output, in some range or other of size & specifications. A soon-upcoming post will present these noble rewards receivers the basis for responding to a survey so as to finally make this a reality.

thanks all, stay tuned and, as usual, I welcome all feedback.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

PPF & SS - Photos! From first one to a day ago, minus one

Here I am simply seeking to post the pictures representing all that are finished, or in the process of finishing - all save one which for some reason I forgot to photograph - and the one I finished today. I may write a brief note re. each one but mostly will just let it all speak for itself. Will also set up a Flickr account at some pt.

Am linking this to Paint Party Friday & Sunday Sketches as an encyclopaedic view of all I've been working on since Feb 24th :D I fell off the face of the earth during this process but now will strive to get into the swing of things again! And everyone please go check out all these awesome artists' work...

Fishermen at Sea - exhibited 1796 - this was the very first painting I worked on for this project, back on Feb 24th. As it would have just sucked had I slacked on not making it an indirect painting (like God meant it to be ha ha) I went ahead and did it. What this meant is that due to drying times and other considerations, the thing didnt finish till 3 days ago. Yay! finished now.

Second one ever done, "Morning Amongst Coniston Falls", exh. 1798. I was not entirely happy with it., but I reserve the right to rework it later. Photo's not too brilliant either, but it has potential.

Buttermere Lake - Exhibited 1798 - I am sad to say the wood might be splitting! will have to fix this. Still, enjoyed working on this nice slab of wood. This one was created on FEb 26th.

Aeneas and the Sybil - c. 1798 - colours look different :D This one was on Feb 27th - it was a lot of fun.

There's an image I neglected to photo for some reason - it was called "View on Clapham Common", and quite a enjoyable small fun one - soon I will photo it again. Meanwhile can be seen here in bad webcam photo.

Shipwreck - exh. 1805 - This was the photogenic representative throughout this journey! The first one I ever did back in summer of 2011. I have since learned this piece actually measures over 8 feet by 5 feet. Needless to say this one's far smaller!

Goddess of Discourse Choosing the Apple of Contention in the Garden of the Hesperides - c. 1806. Quite a mouthful, I know. This one originally was based on and inspired by Titian and other masters. in general composition, figure styles, and coloring. I am building a grisaille base - before the color. Am significantly further along now, as can be seen in another photo somewhere

Spithead: Boat's Crew Recovering an Anchor - exh 1808 - this is the 3rd one I ever made, also sometime last summer - here's another painting that was essentially bigger than me in every direction!

A Country Blacksmith disputing the Price of Iron - exh. 1807 - I find this an interesting painting, due to the intriguing social political notion behind it. I am undertaking the same process as with "discord" but obviously far behind

Barge on the River - c. 1806 - 7 - one of many sketches of the Thames area - many layers of linseed oil

Washing Sheep - c. 1806 - 7 - I really enjoyed making this. Second of a series of in-place sketches he made

Willows Beside a Stream - c. 1806 - 7 - thought this sketch would do well on this very distressed piece of wood!

Goring Mill & Church - c. 1806 - 07 - another sketch. More finished though

London - I had occasion to write about this one earlier

"Where burthen’d Thames reflect the crowded sail
Commercial care and busy toil prevail
Whoese murky veil, aspiring to the skies
Obscures thy beauty, and thy form denies
Save where thy spires pierce the doubtful air
As gleams of hope amidst a world of care"

(Words by Turner - from the display caption February 2010)

Shipping at the Mouth of the Thames - wrote about this one as well. c. 1806 - 07

Fishing upon the Blythe-Sand, Tide Setting In - exhibited 1809

I also had something to write about this one earlier.

Mahogany on wood series - these are four of a mini series Turner made on mahogany. I unfortunately did not realize that he'd painted these on a wood coloured ground as opposed to white, so I sought to amend this by giving all a dark undercoat of burnt umber.

From top to bottom:
The Thames Near Walton Bridges - c. 1807

Windsor Castle from Salt Hill - c. 1807

Godalming from the South - c. 1807

Treetops & Sky - c. 1807

Ploughing Turnips Near Slough - exh, 1809 - this is another one I love - the idea of turnip pickers - such a nice idea. Begun committed to finishing it - did the sky, begun the scene - but I gave in to the idea of making another indeirect painting. Will probably have to wait another week for it is what that means.

Battle of Trafalgar - exh. 1806 - reworked 1808 - this one is one I was sort of putting off because I guess it is my fave :D didn't want to kill it. Am probably 80% done - planning on finishing in the next few hours

That is all for now! Some of them are farther along than shown, one is missing, etc. In any event, wanted to show folks where I am in the process.

Am looking forward to some very difficult, challenging paintings, and some that will be unfinishable in a day. If I can have 4 working at once, however, it will still be 'being caught up'.

Please leave a comment if you've come this far - could not have done it without you if you're reading this now! Have a great week everyone...

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Color Planning & Fishing

An engrossing process involves choosing colors. THus, a process has emerged for actively choosing which colours to utilize. Beforehand this was sort of an ad hoc process, and, while I admit that books & manuals exist, I've always been too rushed or lazy to study the matter - save one time I learned about a technique I have alluded to, grisaille.

What has emerged is a bit of a record of which colours used bring about which results. Ideally, in the future, a record of how I arrived at each composition will remain, allowing me to reproduce a system I liked, find a colour again which I had mixed, and get used to using more mixes in the things.

1) I sampled and numbered all my available oil paints, separated by hue - the 'yellows' from 1 to 17, the 'reds' from one to 14, etc. Whites, Reds, Blues, Yellows, Blacks, Browns.

2) Take the paper canvas sheets and label each corner with the number of the piece being worked on. Then, dab points of paint, label, and mix. Some or all of these I then use to construct the landscape.

I have found this in general a good first step when I am looking at the book, the block of wood, and find myself COMPLETELY and hopelessly stuck! It can be a double edged sword, though, when the colour mixing process becomes more engaging that the painting!

3) create general personal colour wheels - something I've not done since first year of art school. Especially when playing around with a new pigment, and wanting to see where it can go.

This is all part of my larger goal with this process, which is to develop a painterly strategy that will eliminate that weird moment of vacuum, terror, and awe that grabs the jugular every blessed time the intention to begin a painting is framed.

Now, wanted to share re. this painting:

Fishing upon the Blythe-Sand, Tide Setting In - exhibited 1809

Oil on canvas
support: 889 x 1194 mm

Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856

First of, a group, the Sandycombe Lodge Trust, is conserving a villa Turner apparently built himself (artist and architect as he was), allowing him to escape the big city and pursue restful hobbies such as fishing, walking and..as usual... making art:

He took his boat along the Thames, he walked the riverside and climbed Richmond Hill with its famous view along the ‘Matchless Vale’, and he drove out in his gig through what was then an area of woodland, farmland and market gardens – always sketching, sometimes painting, as he went. At Sandycombe Lodge a visitor remembered the artist standing by his drawing-room window, ‘refreshing his eye with the run of the branches’. Many of Turner’s most famous paintings date from this time, and were inspired by this Thames scenery, the Aeolian Harp ( l808) and England: Richmond Hill on the Prince Regent’s Birthday (1819) being two notable examples.

Secondly, though the painting in question does not belong to those mentioned above, it is one of the many he did portraying this activity. From the first one of his ever exhibited at the Royal Academy (shown partly finished here - since finished but not portrayed yet) onwards, fishing scenes of one sort or another play a large part of his ouvre - understandable due to the important role the sport had in his life.

JMW Turner would have felt right at home in Madison County, of course. A typical visit to local rivers and watering holes display the occasional fisher man, woman, families. The Laurel River, on the way to Hot Springs itself is one long highway of fisher people, with favoured spots demarcated by regulars with fishing canes, large canisters, and other objects.

As far as my version of 'Fishing...", something about the piece told me to use the pallete knife, as opposed to a paintbrush, to apply paint. Anyone who has ever iced a cake will know what this feels and looks like. Can't say exactly what led me to this - I know he has used it in his work, though possibly not exclusively in an entire painting - at least not during the current phase I'm covering (early 1800's). But viewing the piece let me see wide, discrete shapes among the cloud formations & a planar look to everything that led me to think "palette knife might work here". Skies are also more fun when we experiment with how to portray them. A quick application method, it does make it hard for a person to control what appears at times - plus you must really want the special texture to show up!

I had trouble finishing the water, though I knew I needed to, because I so enjoyed the look of the piece with the rough pallete application.

That's it, then. Before the week is out I hope to post photos of all completed works up to now - and possibly one more post or so. Also, please stay tuned for Rewards survey and other news from that end of things!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

London - Crossing the Rubicon

Map of London, back in the day - 1806

First of, I would encourage anyone to visit this site to get a real Tate gallery experience - this is a FABULOUS online portal showing a 3D rendition of his works at the gallery - actually hung on walls - and seeing it just barely makes up for not being able to see it live.

This has become of interest to me, especially as I sense the scale on which Turner and I are working is so vastly different that it takes an effort for me to come to terms with the difference of process and outcome this creates. Possibly more on this later.

Secondly, a lovely correspondent has alerted me as to a Van Gogh exhibit in New York describing his later years - and how at one point Van Gogh himself completed 40 paintings in 40 days. If anyone has information about this, please let me know.

Today wanted to discuss this is painting:

London from Greenwich Park exhibited 1809

Oil on canvas
support: 902 x 1200 mm

Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856


Where burthen’d Thames reflect the crowded sail
Commercial care and busy toil prevail
Whoese murky veil, aspiring to the skies
Obscures thy beauty, and thy form denies
Save where thy spires pierce the doubtful air
As gleams of hope amidst a world of care

(Words by Turner - from the display caption February 2010)

I call this painting my own crossing of the Rubicon - because after completing it, I feel I can do anything!! I chose one of the bigger panels, thinking the panoramic view from Greenwich Park, which exists today, after a fashion (more below) deserved a bigger display. The main problems I discovered with this were that

a) I just don't LIKE working big, for some reason - the absolute largest piece I have habitually created does not pass 3 squared feet, and when left to my own devices everything I create is around 1 ft squared. The smaller, the better I feel about a piece. So, right off, the size of the canvas stalled me out a bit.

b) there was a lot of detail!!
I once had an art instructor say "the only limit in how small you can work comes in whether you can see what you are doing or not" and tools exist which can help. Almost every square inch in this painting, for instance, had something to it that demanded use of the magnifying glass, an uncomfortable posture, and lots of patience. The magnifying glass is a pretty amazing tool. A lightbulb attached to it allows a person to get amazing close ups - I've worked with before, in this project and others, but in much smaller pieces! The size of the piece makes a difference, since a person reaches a certain saturation point from working close like this. If I am working on a piece that I know I can basically finish in one sitting, I will feel less of that restless itchiness that comes from deep focus and diminished mobility.

So, at first, dawdled with it, nothing much happening. It bears mentioning at this point that I have had a challenging past few days, where a weird & unexpected infection had me in its thrall for a few days. Not that the project has suffered - I am as of now caught up: with 15 paintings finished and 2 half-finished.
I might have let the sick state get the better of me absolutely but, I think of Frida Kahlo who was able to produce endlessly even after having been skewered by a traffic pole - so I carried on. But since I am neither of a heroic or speedy disposition, the condition has taken its toll - it took me like 5 hours to just get these blocked color areas shown at right - after endless procrastinations, consultations, and attending to other tasks. I finally left the painting there overnight to stew, to see if fresh eyes helped at all.

The next day proved more productive - I ended up spending anywhere from 6 to 8 hours on the thing. The sky was a rushed job, but in the end, DONE!

This project made me curious about London, in particular, this specific view of it. How much of it remains now? How have things changed between now and then?

I have been casually looking at the world of Regency England - the time where Turner was productive. Some of the things experienced were the Napoleonic Wars and the consequences of the American colonies' independence. It was a world of stage coaches, pleasure gardens, and duels of honor - a world captured excellently in Thackeray's Vanity Fair, and the work of Jane Austen. The era was particularly propitious to great literature - the British Romantic Period was in full swing, giving us Blake, Shelly and many more in addition to the above. Given to strong differences between socioeconomic classes, some of the issues experienced then resonate to this day - the seemingly chronic wars, the social ossification, the difference in income and lifestyles of the 'haves' and 'have nots'. In any event, Turner himself had some baggage to overcome in terms of his 'station in life', due to having been born in less stately circumstances than he might have wished - it might become relevant to speak more to this later. In any event, he painted London from the view of Greenwich Park, an ages-old park belonging to the Greenwich World Heritage Site. The meridian line which tyrannizes our watches cuts smack through the middle of this as well.

For a current view of the vantage point from where Turner sketched his work, one can see this video (click on pic)

One may notice many of the things in Turner's painting remain (including the Queen’s House and Greenwich Hospital which eventually became the Old Naval College), and the upwards curve of the river. One can even distinguish St Paul's Cathedral at the horizon level - something not easily seen in the modern-day view, so overtaken with skyscrapers as it is. Interestingly as well, the herd of red and fallow deer seen in the painting are still known to graze in the 183 acres this oldest of British Royal parks contains.

An interesting aside: these picturesque buildings so prominent in Turner's painting later on came to house a nuclear reactor:

"the Royal Naval College buildings were – as the chief British naval training centre between 1869 and 1998, including a fully functioning nuclear reactor between 1962 and 1996 – an institution that guaranteed the survival of the British empire. No Royal Naval College, then no Britain as we know it; rather a country that would pay a a closer resemblance to France and Spain than it does now." Seven Wonders of the World...

What a bizarre confluence of events could have led to a fully functional nuclear reactor practically in the middle of Londontown is more than I can imagine at present,and probably more than Turner could ever have conceived of - but there it is. I have spoken to Jimbo about it since then and come to find out it is fairly unremarkable to have working nuclear reactors in the middle of a large city - that in fact the first one was at a University of Chicago basement somewhere. Ah well, wonders never cease...

Would love nothing more than to spend more time inquiring into literature, culture, and society of early 19th century England but I need to make sure I complete another one before nightfall so as not to fall behind. Have a great week all! Will be in touch again soon.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Process - "Shipping at the Mouth of the Thames"

I wanted to discuss briefly the following painting, completed actually some days ago. It is

Shipping at the Mouth of the Thames c. 1806–7

Canvas, 33 3/4 × 46 (86 × 117)

This painting is, according to the Tate Britain site, apparently one of
seventeen sketches on canvas from Turner's various pictures of 1807–9 of shipping in the Thames Estuary, particularly off Sheerness.

Though carried to different degree of finish, are all similar in technique, being lightly painted in unstretched canvases over a dry chalky ground, and are all roughly similar in size. The poor condition of some of these attest to this. The notion, of course, of walking around with canvases capturing the power and majesty of the Thames is very awe-inspiring, and dear to the heart of any plein air painter.

"There is reason to suppose that, contrary to Turner's usual practice, some if not all of these sketches were at least begun out-of-doors. Thornbury prints some reminiscences of the son of Turner's ‘oldest friend the Rev. Mr. Trimmer’, who had been out fishing with Turner when a child. ‘He had a boat at Richmond ... From his boat he painted on a large canvas direct from Nature. Till you have seen these sketches, you know nothing of Turner's powers. There are about two score of these large subjects, rolled up, and now national property ... "

These paintings furthermore seem inspired, or based on an earlier inspiration of Turner's on the Flemish painter Van der Velde, and his son - he approached the work from these traditions but found a way to make them his own, both in terms of subject matter and execution. These sketches of the Thames estuary look back to this tradition in any event.

My version is significantly smaller, maybe 6 x 8 inches, on a slab of walnut or some other hard wood. The slab has these deep vertical gashes, which to me added to the compositional value of the painting. Martin Butler, author of my slim reference volume (seen here), seems to agree when he notes on page 7, re. this work: "The sketch, though fresher still than the exhibited picture, is nevertheless consciously pictorial in its carefully controlled diagonal stresses of sails and beams of sunlight."

I also noted in this one something I've been grappling with with all the works from the period I'm now covering (1806 - 1809), that the painting itself is used with very thin layers of linseed oil or other diluting agent - thus producing an almost watercolor-like effect.

This has been my first time really working with oils in such a diluted way, aside from my utilizing galkyd mediums to create glazing effects.

I started out with a brown underpainting - then added blue and yellow. The composition seemed to allow for a white slash near the larger boat, done with a pallette knife. The final effort led me to add in details, boats, etc, with all available colors. All, from the spirits-diluted underpainting to the layers of paint, use this watery form of painting.

Preferable? Problematic? One can say many good things about this painting methodology, especially if the muse has one straddling a boat or a fence or some other less-than-permanent construct in order to capture a fleeting moment. The effect will often be, well, 'sketchy', light, and possibly a little vague. Am glad to have given myself the experience, however, of painting with oils in this way - it's one of the great things about this project - I have already done 4.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Purchase and Photos

I will be posting updates and photographs of the work thus far created. The funny bit about working offline is the opportunities for online integration lost!

So far am essentially on schedule, and more on that later. Today want to discuss supplies acquisition and a brief note on style.

My sweetheart husband calls me a "poky puppy," and I guess he might be right. We were late going to our interview in Marion, about an hour away, for being regulars on a Cable Flea-Market and Barter Show.

But our contacts seemed cool about it anyway; since they came all the way from the Bay Area of California to interview partners-pursuing-flea-market-lifestyles within a couple of hours of Hickory, N.C., what was another sixty minute delay?

We were one of the couples that qualified to do a 'screen test.' Our Craigslist response sent in the Kickstarter video, so I got to talk about the Turner Project as something that will end up with a big portfolio for me, or a production that might have an overall value that is tangible--i.e., not just beauty but cash and prizes.

Ashley and Simon, the interviewers, asked me what I'd want to receive if we thought about bartering the whole set of renderings. When I didn't have an immediate answer--I was thinking about an ongoing relationship with a gallery or some other kind of agency process--Jim piped up, "We might take a car."

Simon nodded, "A car, uh?"

And Jim said, "Yeah, a nice car, worth a minimum of plus-or-minus $15,000." He analyzed this for them. Roughly a hundred paintings take a minimum of ten hours each, including preparing wood, doing the art work, and finishing the wood. That's a thousand hours. A grotesquely inadequate wage for skilled work, $15/hour is at least better than nothing. 100 X 10 X 15 = $15,000 or the aforementioned 'nice car.'

The KickStarter money lets us get the work done, financing our finding and cutting the wood; it gave me the ability to research Turner and his methods, and to plan out the whole process. We may not make our hoped-for $15/hour on the time invested, but at least we get something.

It also let me invest close to a thousand dollars in various supplies. When we left Marion, in fact, we headed straight into a basketball traffic jam in downtown Asheville--Jim says these people are as serious about basketball as Texans are about football--in order to pick up one installment of what I needed to be able to complete this process.

The tab at True-Blue Art Supplies, after a 25% discount that yours-truly ably negotiated, was almost $600. However, I got not only close-to-enough good gesso to prep the remaining seventy-six pieces of wood(Jim's already finished the first fourteen panels, and they are so cool!), I even got the fancy, 'old-master' primer base and a liquid goo to turn it into a special surface-prep for a few pieces that I want to be as close to possible to Turner's methods and results. I got 3 different alkyd mediums - goop - to try out which is best when it comes to glazing methods.

Not only that, I got some of the chico brushes that I'd worn out and the lack of which was really messing with my ability to do really top-level detail work. And I'm pretty sure that I obtained the rest of the paints that I'll need, including some great greys that I'm using on the piece that I started last night and am continuing now. I'll write about the grisaille methods that Turner sometimes used in an upcoming post.

As well, I got a set of palette-knives to supplement my one tetanus special that I'd been making-do with. And I got some cool chemicals to help seal and highlight oils. And I got most of the supplies that I'll need to fulfill the KickStarter gifts that we'll start sending out by the middle of the month.

I feel like I'm a marathon woman who can't stop thinking about ice cream. Jim says that he's already sad that we're so close to being done.

We're a good team. At least I know that, if we live through the Spring, we will finish. That's a real feeling of accomplishment.