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Tipping My Hat to M. C. Escher

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Pygmalion Joins the Band, Echeresque Painting by Jenny Armitge

Pygmalion Joins the Band, (16 x 22 watercolor)

When painting Flugel and Friends, I was struck by the way in which the unfinished the flugelhorn appeared ultra three dimensional.  It just wanted to hover above the paper.  It took some effort playing with the shadow to get it lay down and behave itself. But I was struck by how beautiful the floating horn was.

Flugle and Friends In Progress

The experience got me to thinking about the trick of making the flat paper look three dimensional and reminded me of M.C. Escher’s various perspective games playing with this concept.  So I decided to play around with the idea a little within a painting in a painting.

The process has been fun, but very meta.  I painted Pygmalion Joins the Band, with the very brush depicted in the painting with palette shown, using the paints in the tubes I painted.   If you paint on block pads, you may recognize the border of the pad cover peaking out from under the painting in a painting.   The most challenging  part of the painting turned out to be depicting paint on the plastic palette and making it look like paint on plastic rather than paint of paper.  I had the most fun painting the tubes and now plotting excuses to paint them again.

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Work in Progress

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Work in Progress (14 x 19 watercolor) NFS

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted a work-in-progress.   But since I paint this instrument series quite differently than I do landscapes and people, I think it’s time.

When painting an image I usually  start with lighter colors and build my way up working the whole painting at once.  But because of the reflections, I treat metal and glass subjects quite differently.  The reflections create many small abstract shapes defined by hard edges and often extreme contrast.  The high contrast between the shapes is what gives my instruments shine.

Abstract Shapes

To preserve the sharp contrast between the shapes I work on just two or three shapes at a time.  I choose shapes near each other, but not touching so that damp paint never meets damp paint at the edges of the shapes.   Because I finish and let each shape dry before proceeding the the adjacent shape, the edges between the shapes remains sharp and hard.

Inside the shapes is a different matter.  Each shape may contain one or more of my favorite techniques: glazing (painting transparent colors over each other);

Glazing

deliberate backwashes (allowing wet paint or water  to move back into damp paint);

Backwash

and dropping in (applying paint from a highly pigmented brush to a damp surface and allowing it to disperse across the damp area.)

Dropped in Color

These techniques produce soft edges and subtle color blending within each small shape. Painting them separately preserves the sharp lines between the shapes.

To give myself a value guide for all of these little shapes, I proceed across the whole painting from the highest contrast outward.  I began with the place where the silver bottom of the clarinet bell meets the black clarinet body.  I also try to work on shapes that reflect each other at the same time.  For this reason I worked on the sax and clarinet at once.

Unlike other rounded objects, I don’t worry too much about giving my instruments the illusion of  depth with shading.  I don’t have too.  If I get the values of the little abstract shapes correctly, the instruments shade themselves.  The bell of the clarinet in defined by hard lines, but the value contrast creates roundness.

Clarinet Bell

Similarly, the shapes in the saxophone bell create the illusion of depth and roundness:

Saxophone Bell

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