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Sunday, December 23, 2012

A brief foray into indirect painting

"Adirondack autumn grove," 12X16, oil on canvasboard, 2012
(please excuse the reflections; my camera isn't back yet)
I had a few minutes in my studio the other day and was contemplating some “fails” from the field—plein air paintings that didn’t really work. Now, I have stacks of these, and they don’t bother me in the least… they are the pictorial record of experiences and impressions, rather than finished paintings. But occasionally I find one I want to touch up.

Just as it came from the field.
This one was done in the company of Marilyn Fairman last autumn, and while I liked the overall composition, the structure somehow got lost in the moment (it happens).

With changes marked out.
I decided to seek and restate the darks using a transparent glaze. I first learned to paint indirectly— using many thin layers of paint and medium to achieve one’s desired visual effects—and it’s a technique I generally reject in my dotage. Nevertheless, there are times when such indirect painting is the fastest way to fix a painting. This is almost always when the problem area has to go darker; although one can glaze with zinc white, it’s usually just easier to repaint the offending passages with your usual muck.

As often as I say I don't make up my own medium, sometimes I do...
this time with a small amount of paraffin wax added to kill the gloss.

I've been studying the Maine seascapes of Winslow Homer, in particular his use of the dark diagonal, and it seemed it would be just the thing to fix this painting. After noting the passage I wished to make darker, I mixed a palette of three transparent pigments: Indian yellow, transparent earth red, and dioxazine purple. With these I was able to quickly make the shadows cool and the highlights warm.
Transparent glazing colors--Indian yellow, transparent red oxide, dioxazine purple .

The whole repair took less than five minutes. Now, I don’t know if this qualifies any longer as a “plein air” painting, since I adjusted the values in the studio. Nor do I care. The issue is whether it satisfies the viewer, and I’d say it is now closer than it was on that lovely autumn day.

Merry Christmas to all my dear friends!

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