31 July 2011

A (computer) experiment.

Just recently I saw a wonderful show by Eric Merrell at Legacy Galley in Pasadena. Eric loves the desert in its starkest, most transcendental and distilled state. So taking advantage of a trip to Palm Desert, I decided to try to paint a desert scene. I approached it in my usual style, trying to capture the nuance and be as accurate as possible in color . When I got home, I got a glimpse at Eric's show brochure and realized my painting didn't quite "sing" like his. I was curious to see if by using a few Photoshop tricks I could recreate an Eric Merrell using my piece as a base. Now, before anybody says that no amount of computing could imitate the nuance and subtlety of Eric's art, I agree. I agree and I agree. I use Photoshop sometimes to check my levels (posterize and desaturate) but I never tried this kind of experiment.

First of all, any computing process can only alter color , contrast and other bidimensional qualities, never the volume and spirit of a brushtroke. Second, compositional and subject choices are also part of an artists arsenal and I didn't intend to recreate those elements. But I think my exercise could be a useful learning experience even ifI can't get to a perfect recreation.

So here it is , this is my painting  12"x16":

The first thing that occurred to me is that Eric's paintings have a lot more color. So I just applied a straight increase in saturation and obtained the following. It was surprising to see that more color didn't lead me in the direction I wanted. It's not about cleaner, purer  colors ....just yet.

On second thought I decided to apply an increase of contrast by using a curve operation where I brightened the higher tones and darkened the darks. Then, I desaturated the image a bit. What this did was create a more distinct distance between brights and darks and also made the colors closer to each other, retreating to the center of the color wheel and becoming grayer.

Then I applied a saturation increase and applied a palette filter to create less distinct edges and emulate Eric's softer paint application. I really enjoyed the result because it started to remind me of Eric's artwork a bit more. Most of the colors fall now in the "secondary" category, no pure yellows or blues or reds.

And of course my painting is no Merrell but I did re-learn  a few things:

A) A clean painting is not always about cleaner color or purer colors but colors that  are distinct  and relate better to each other. Whether  high key or high contrast, colors need to be parented to each other as equals.

B) Not to get too scientific but color tension can be created by applying a bit of knowledge on complementaries and paired colors.

05 July 2011

Telluride. Part 2

Me and "Trout Lake"

 I am safely back from Telluride and in Pasadena after a grueling 15 hour drive. Probably traveling there was the hardest part.  But with  an award from Southwest Magazine for my "Trout Lake" painting I couldn't be happier about the experience. This event is not for the faint-hearted. Being my first time, I had a lot to learn. The weather and altitude require some adjustments. The buying public also has a very particular composition . A sturdy car might be less necessary than I thought initially since there is so much to paint everywhere but a 4x4 will get you closer to lakes and trails unreachable otherwise. 

These are some pictures of my booth and others during our first day of sales. I painted during the festival itself and was able to sell my on-site pieces both times. I wasn't as successful with the other sales. I think I know the reasons and I've moved on. I wasn't the only one with dismal sales, it takes a while to acquire some recognition. We also got a rain pattern that hindered a big chunk of first day sales.

The 4th of July event takes a break during the 4th Of July Parade.

Rain can be a daily disruptive occurrence.

02 July 2011

Telluride Plein Air. Part One

Telluride , Co used to be a mining town with iffy prospects...tellurium anyone?  But because of its snow  pack and amazing natural beauty it has become a winter/summer nest for the well heeled  who have built  "cabins" that put some palaces to shame.  The town has a pioneering, hippie and major bucks vibe. Charming indeed.


It also is the seat of Telluride Plein Air, an event modeled after Sonoma Plein Air , a brainchild of Keith Wicks. Painting in Telluride is both easy an difficult. Easy because every corner is a painting waiting to be made. Difficult because Telluride is not really close -it took me two days of driving and nineteen hours of car to get here- and the altitude can play tricks on ones' health. I was very lucky to be juried in this year nevertheless. The event benefits the Sheridan Opera Foundation which restored its homonym building and maintains it.

My roommate at the house I was staying was the phenomenally talented Thomas Kitts. Here he is posing with the result of the 1 1/2 hour Quick Draw. So I got to learn a lot from a master just by being here. He taught me , for example, not to ever again introduce myself as "a person with another job that finds his/her escape through events like these." He is right. Even if you have another job , the pros  have a bit of unease  for artists that participate in these events as an aside. Some think hey tend to undermine them with low prices, unrealistic expectations and nibbling at their collectors base.

Here is the entrance to the Opera building during the Quick Draw. Calling it an opera is a bit misleading because beautiful as the building is...well, I don't think is Opera-ready. But for BlueGrass it will do fine. The energetic staff of the event were on hand for our orientation where all the nitty-gritty details about the horrid parking, the grueling schedule and pizza were dispatched.

And ...drumroll. Here is my Quick Draw piece.  I was a bit too ambitious I think both in size and content. I didn't sell it or win anything. Next time.

I think Joshua Been's motorcycle below was one of the best pieces even though he didn't get the award. He was smart to pick a subject matter that , although intricate, is manageable in the short period of time.
Tomorrow is the gala and artists reception. The harder part of this grueling three days is over. I painted in some very difficult conditions with relentless gale-force winds, a lot of rain and hail or a baking sun. But the environment is so magnificent you just want to paint every aspen, elk, peak, poppy  or victorian home. Even the gas stations is kind of cute.