Monday, September 22, 2014

Lunch Prep in Casein

For the two hour Quick-Draw event in Dubois, Wyoming, I painted the action in the commercial kitchen where the food crew was prepping lunch. While I painted, I had a GoPro time lapse camera set up in the midst of the scene. (Direct link to video).

What attracted me was the cool light coming from the window and bouncing off the stainless steel surfaces of the stove, in contrast with the relatively warm light of the indoor fluorescents. 

I painted it in casein on an 8x10 acrylic-primed masonite panel. I used half-inch and 3/4 inch flat synthetic travel brushes, with just a few touches with the smaller rounds.

This is how the casein looks when it's handled with thicker impastos than I would normally use on a sketchbook page. On a panel you don't have to worry about the emulsion cracking.

Casein is the most like oil painting of all the water media. The difference is that with the fast drying time, detail can be added to detail without previous layers picking up, so the medium is perfect for a subject like a kitchen counter with loads of overlapping details, and it's ideal for a plein-air quick-draw, because it encourages faster and more direct handling than oil painting.
-----
Susan Kathleen Black Foundation Workshop

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Painting from Taxidermy

At the SKB Foundation Workshop in Dubois, Wyoming, most of the painting practice involves landscape painting outdoors, or wildlife painting from photographs indoors. 

I thought it would also be a helpful exercise for everyone to paint real, three dimensional animals from observation, but living models weren't available on short notice.

So we arranged to borrow a fine specimen of coyote, a pronghorn antelope, and a wolf from local taxidermy artist Lynn Stewart, who very generously brought them over to the art center.

This was my view of a running white wolf. I liked the pose, but I imagined it backlit against the bold fall colors of the quaking aspens, with sagebrush in the foreground, as I remembered the setting from a horseback ride in the morning.


Here's the two hour gouache demo I did  with that idea in mind.

It would have been even better to do a location study separately outdoors and combine it with the taxidermy study, properly lit -- or to take the taxidermy outside into a natural setting. The idea is to put away the camera and see if there's a way to do a wildlife study as much as possible from life and imagination.

On the other side of the room, John Seerey-Lester did this magnificent acrylic study of the same wolf. He chose to set it within a snowy winter backdrop. 

That's John and his wife Suzie (pink hat) in the right foreground of the photo below. They are featured in the current issue of International Artist magazine, not only for their wildlife art, but also for their landscapes and nostalgia scenes.

It was a marvelous experience for all of us to paint together with a combination of imagination and observation.
-----
Links:
John and Suzie Seerey-Lester's website
Stewart Taxidermy, Dubois, Wyoming
SKB Foundation Workshop

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Amazing Progress

I was really touched and impressed by a letter I received a couple days ago from blog reader Edward Morris, who was kind enough to allow me to share it with you. He says:
Edward Morris, before and after

"I discovered you a few years ago while reading an article in an art magazine about the color of the sky that you penned. I wound up buying your book Color and Light. When I started reading your blog two years ago, I discovered sketching. I tracked down your book you coauthored many years ago and learned that sketching is really more than just sketching!"
 "Since then, I have found that the more I sketch, the better my paintings get. But, I also found that my volume of finished paintings also went way up...go figure. Thought you might like to see a "before" 2012 sketch compared to the sketches I do now. For the past 6 months, I usually work from sketches now for my studio work which seems to be more painterly and artistic to me. All of this is due to your blog and books. I recently branched out into color as well for my sketches."
"I look forward to my daily dose of you everyday to see what's on your mind. Thanks again, Ed."

Friday, September 19, 2014

Traps on the Coal Cabin

Yesterday we went out to visit John Finley's cattle ranch, a half hour drive down a remote dirt road on the east fork of the the Wind River here in Wyoming.


John is a working cowboy and a scrimshandler whose grandfather established the farm over a hundred years ago, not far from Butch Cassidy's spread.

I set up my watercolor rig next to an old log cabin which was festooned with rusty coyote traps.


I was attracted to the way the traps were reflected in the window against the bright sky behind us. Since the reflection of the clouds was the lightest value, my first step was to run a wash over all the other whites, including the window mullions, the mortar, and shelf of mildewy old magazines seen through the window. 


(link to Soundcloud audio track)

The traps speak to the constant life and death struggle of ranch existence. John told us a story of having to shoot a mountain lion as it was devouring one of his bottle-fed calves.




A week ago, a surveyor was found mauled to death by grizzlies not far from here.  None of us artists are allowed to venture off without a bottle of bear spray.

The authorities relocate the Yellowstone man-killers in this remote area, on the fringes of the Wind River Indian Reservation. As another cowboy, John Phelps told us, "Grizzlies are no joke."
------
Biography of John P Finley
Painted in a Pentalic sketchbook with Schmincke watercolors using a Richeson travel brush set
Download Watercolor in the Wild video

Thursday, September 18, 2014

School Bus

Yesterday the high school in Dubois, Wyoming sent a group of their art students out to join us on a ranch to learn plein-air painting. They were mentored by the scholarship students attending the SKB Foundation Workshop here.


Most people were painting old wagons or log cabins or picturesque bends in the stream, but I decided to paint the school bus. I love school buses. This is a beautiful brand new vehicle, built in January of 2014. 

I used a ruler to get those windows straight in my little gouache painting. Press the "play" button below for a quick audio greeting from the driver.

(Link to the voice of the driver) To me, the bus represents the pride of this town and their dedication to getting young people excited about art. That's what the day was all about, as far as I was concerned. 

I made friends with the bus driver when I asked her to help me get one of my paint tube caps unstuck. She brought out a pliers, saying, "We western women have a whole tool kit in our purse."
-----
Read about the SKB Foundation Workshop, a unique week-long gathering of landscape and wildlife painters.
If you're a young artist who wants to be a part of this, check out the SKB scholarship program.


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Constructing with the Brush

Here's a little sketchbook study I did yesterday at the CM Ranch in Wyoming. It's about 5x8 inches, painted in casein.


This detail is about the size of a credit card. I knew when I started that the horses would be moving around. None of them were going to pose for me. Groups of them came and went from the corrals as the cowboys did their daily rounds.

Given those dynamics, and given the many layers of detail in the middle ground, I constructed the entire scene with the brush, without a detailed preliminary drawing. I worked from background to foreground, overlapping detail. Below is how the painting looked partway along.


At this stage there are no horses or fences yet.

Because of its opacity and quick drying qualities, casein is very well suited to this sort of approach, but it wouldn't work so well in watercolor or oil. Watercolor demands more careful preliminary drawing, and oil can get messy if you try overlapping too many wet areas.

I fully documented the process for my upcoming video "Casein in the Wild," which I'll start editing in a month or two. So please ask me any questions you might have about this way of painting, and I'll be sure to address them when I record the voiceover.
------
LINKS
I'm at the  SKB Foundation Workshop in Dubois, Wyoming.
Previous video Watercolor in the Wild
CM Family Ranch in Dubois, Wyoming