Monday, October 24, 2011

Change and the Stobart Palette

I believe it is a good idea to shake things up every now and then. Unfortunately what I believe and what I practice are sometimes two different things. What I should say is that I think change is a good idea but I rarely, if ever, practice it! I am what you would call a “set in my way” kind of guy. I think it is a family gene or maybe just a “German thing”? I am way too regimented and I’ve tried to figure it out and break away from it but this old dog isn’t usually interested in any new tricks.

The great English painter John Stobart has been a hero of mine ever since Mr. Stevenson introduced me to his work way back when I first began to study in the mid 70’s. Much to my delight Stobart self-financed and produced a series of programs that were broadcast on PBS in the early 90’s. Entitled “John Stobart’s Worldscape”, the series followed him around the world, usually in the company of a guest artist, painting on site wherever they ended up. What a treat and a gift it was for me to be able to learn directly from the man himself how he produces a painting from start to finish.

Stobart’s palette consists of only five colors and white. For the artists out there the palette is as follows; Windsor Red, Cadmium Yellow Medium, Burnt Sienna, French Ultramarine Blue and Permanent Green. He uses a titanium white. His style of brush is a bright of which he only uses one size which is about ¾” wide.

Now, as Stobart has long been my idol, my palette is not much different than his. In fact, the core of my palette is his palette with some additions I have made over the years…a different red, a pair of extra yellows and a different green, etc.

Recently I again watched every episode (as if I had never seen them before!) and immediately started thinking about how his palette makes so much sense…three primaries and a pair of convenience colors…nice, simple and direct. Following is one of Stobart’s magnificent harbor paintings for which he is justifiably famous. As you can see…quite a bit can be accomplished with only five colors!

I decided, as a kind of tribute to my hero, that I would spend some time using only his palette and his style of brush. As mentioned above, I don’t much care for change, and to suddenly be standing out in the field without my usual palette, to which I have grown very accustomed and fond, was a bit off-putting. Imagine a piano player suddenly confronted with a keyboard with no black keys. Why did I think this was a good idea!?

In the end I found that I had to get back to thinking about how color works instead of simply relying on old dogmas I had come to rely on over the years. I think the simpler palette had the virtue of giving the paintings an overall color harmony that had been missing of late. While I did not care for painting with the brights, I think I might just stay with the palette for a while. If it’s good enough for Stobart it is good enough for me!

Fall Crocuses11 X 14 oil on canvas. Click the link to view purchasing details.

Beaver Dam Fall 11 X 14 oil on canvas. Sold.

Charlie Clamming8 X 12 oil on canvas. Click the link to view purchasing details. Just a quick word about this painting...I was working down at Centre Island Beach when who should wander into my view but my father in law's life long friend Charle Cressi. Charlie is in his 80's and has been battling prostate cancer for some time. However, he still gets out and goes clamming a couple of days a week! Clamming is hard, hard manual work...we should all have Charlie's stamina when we get to his age!

Sagamore Morning Light14 X 11 oil on canvas. Click the link to view purchasing details.

Note that all of these small sketches are available for sale directly from me via this website. Simply click on the link undr each painting for purchasing details. The price includes shipping costs.

Monday, October 3, 2011

"...and the forecast calls for..."

I guess the lesson here is that one can never trust a weather forecast! I had a one day plein air workshop scheduled for this past Saturday in Smithtown, NY but we cancelled it because the weather forecast called for a 60% chance of rain and cold damp winds for both Saturday and Sunday. Needless to say I never saw a drop of rain and Sunday was one of the loveliest days I can recall since last autumn.

The element which made both days memorable for me was the incredible sky that the passing cold front left in its wake; massive fair weather cumulous clouds moving majestically up from the south. Nothing makes me more excited to get out and paint than the presence of this sort of very busy sky.

I left early on Saturday morning to head over to Centre Island Beach because I know that it is a spot where I can get a bit of water and some distant trees in the foreground yet have my canvas be mostly devoted to a good sky painting. However, I never made it that far because, as Bayville Road makes a sharp right-hand bend, you get a view across Long Island Sound towards Connecticut and I was amazed at how beautiful this sky was. The plein air mobile made what the faint of heart might consider to be a rather treacherous left hand turn into the beach parking lot. I got out of the car and looked to the west and saw the kind of view I normally only see in my dreams, lots of blues and grays in the water and in the tumultuous sky and a wonderful pink beach house which was brightly illuminated and would serve as a wonderful focal point.

"End of Summer~Stehli Beach" is available for sale. Click this link for details.

Idyllic, right? Well, not exactly. If you know the area then you are aware that I was set up just across the street from a somewhat new amusement park which I think is called the Bayville Scream Park. Among their other attractions they apparently have a pirate themed ride. To lend the proper atmosphere to the ride they have a loud recording of a very British sounding sea captain exhorting his crew to fire upon the dreaded enemy. The recording is repeated…over and over and over again! I began to root for the pirates, hoping they would get in just one shot which would send the annoying British flagged frigate to the bottom of the sea!

Not being one to look a gift sky in the mouth, I ate lunch, did a few errands, grabbed my rig and headed out again. I returned to Rottkamp’s Farm where I had painted last week for just the same reason as before…a bit of foreground to act as an anchor for a sky painting. And finally, early on Sunday evening, the clouds lowered, blocked out the sun and any blue sky, and raindrops began to splatter on my palette!

"Early October Sky" is available for sale. Click this link for details.

In truth, conditions would not have been very favorable for some of my less experienced students. Both days felt a considerable cool wind and the clouds intermittently blocked the sun causing subject matter to be illuminated, thrown into shadow and then illuminated again. Variable conditions while painting outdoors can be maddening even to the most experienced painter. But this was one day I will never forget!

Note that all of these small sketches are available for sale directly from me via this website. Simply click on the “Paintings and Prints” tab and then on “Available Paintings”. The price includes shipping costs.