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!


  1. Another wonderful post! I'm amazed at your growth as an artist. There is so much more to it than one would/could imagine! I already knew that the process of mixing colors is an "art" in itself, but the way you describe it here is quite enlightening. I'm sure other artists could greatly benefit from adopting this method, which it appears to be one that you created yourself? Actually, as a quilter, I'm also concerned with colors, and I might just adapt this process to my own quilt-making. Thanks!

    1. how could you use it in quilting? let me know! there's nothing better than to have others come on here andshare some of their artistic service!


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