30 December 2009

San Fernando Valley (V)

Found time to do two more vies of the San Fernando Valley. Sherman Oaks at sunset and a dim light in the Sepulveda Dam, Van Nuys.
Typical winter weather in Los Angeles, my favorite season here for sure. While the rest of the country is wrapped in storms, this weather makes you want to cry it's so beautiful.

San Fernando Valley (IV)

As we finish this 2009 year, I also finish my series on the San Fernando Valley urban scenes slated to be exhibited in La Galeria Gitana this January 2010.
I have read a lot about Vermeer, the dutch master of the seventeenth century . When one thinks "plein air", nobody seems more removed from it than Vermeer. And yet, his solutions and focus could be as valid for a methodical painter , like he was, as for a guerrilla plein air painter armed with a Toyota Prius, aluminum color tubes and a rich palette.

It is winter in Los Angeles and light is fleeting. No snow scenes at hand unless one takes to the mountains. And yet it is brighter outside than in Holland most of the year. Vermeer captured the northern light masterfully. He also captured domestic scenes and simple moments only to bring them to monumental beauty . As I painted these rooftops over Burbank, I kept his "View of Delft" in my mind. Sure, the difference is abysmal, but I wasn't afraid of the passing clouds and muted tones any more. The red trees added accents, the roof workers a little narrative...Cheers to Vermeer and many more discoveries in the new year.

08 December 2009

The issue of large scale.

So I've finally taken the plunge and did my first large scale painting, 36"x24". That is pretty large for a guy like me used to do little 8"x10" plain air pieces. I am not entirely happy with it and I am anxious to try it again. But a lot of unexpected challenges came simply from the painting's size. This are some lessons I hope I learnt:

1) A previous study can save a lot of time and pain. In fact, it helps if the study is not just a try-out but a real blueprint in scale, color and mood. I did a study but then changes the ratio in the painting with the result that I had to address perspective issues very soon. The dog, for example, had to be repainted closer to the girl in order to avoid making it look like a chihuahua.

This was the study.

2) Drawing and perspective problems will be more acute by the fact that we need to encompass more surface. Pull back often and follow your study with care. I now have a deeper appreciation of the careful underpainting old masters used to build a canvas.

3) Using larger brushes and more paint is not just an obvious choice for larger scale paintings. If we desire to maintain a certain "freshness" of stroke , we should treat the surface with the precision and textural interest of a smaller piece, not hiding mediocre brushwork in the large area or getting lost in parcels of messy work.

4) In small alla prima paintings, color harmony is almost guaranteed since the palette we use to start is the same as the one we finish with. Not so with a large painting, it behooves me to "plan" the palette carefully.

5) A schedule of work is very useful to hammer out a larger piece. Since it is painted in stages, it is essential to maintain a rhythm.

So this is my final piece. I see so much room for improvement I am almost giddy with impatience to put this lessons to work in my next painting.