Thursday, December 17, 2009

Color "Sketch'n"

Wow how time flies! Christmas is just around the corner! I hope everyone had a fine Thanksgiving. Ours was great! Not to brag, but in a show of discipline and dedication to the cause of plein air painting, I managed to packed on a couple of extra pounds of “personal insulation” – handy during these cold winter outings.(some day you too may be so dedicated) Of course now that I’m prepared to paint out doors, I’ve been working on projects in the studio.
Recently I’ve been sparing with a painting of my beautiful granddaughter Maycie. I enjoy painting people and portraits, but painting portraits of children are, to me, one of the most challenging subjects of all. Children have such subtle features that my tendency is to focus too hard on every subtly turning the painting into a technical exercise in duplication rather than an artistic expression. There is a lot of emotion attached to painting one’s own granddaughter and I want to be carful not to lose that emotion in exchange for a mere illustration. Because small children are not known for sitting still (unless they are watching cartoons in which case you are limited to one particular pose) working from a photo will be the first strike against you. When I have a photo in front of me, I know that it has nowhere else to be, doesn’t need a break, isn’t getting bored, and the sun won’t set on it. I know that I can stare at it all day and longer if I like, get to know every color, value, shape, and detail. One might think this is a good thing, but, combined with a slightly overactive imagination, and it’s not long before I’m staring and arguing with myself that I see warm tones that earlier looked cool, green where it was blue, new “better” shapes inside of other shapes, and details inside of details. There are plenty of other times when staring and mumbling are perfectly appropriate, but now is not one of them. Time to step back, freshen your approach, and reaffirm the elements that drew you to this painting in the first place. One way that I like to do this is with a small fast paced color “sketch” sometimes several. I will often relax the “precision” requirement from drawing, which allows me to focus more on the overall “idea” and key elements. If I were “hip” I might even say “loosen up dude!”. Painting this "briskly" is helpful in keeping my mind focused, yet still gets paint down before I have time to talk myself out of one color -(that I see) in exchange for another color -(that I think I see.) Now I have a nice little set of “notes” to remind me were I’m going with this painting and I can save the staring and mumbling for things like preparing my taxes or just standing in line at the grocery store.(Grampa’s can get away with that)
Here is my small (5"x7")color sketch of Maycie - Almost finished with the actual painting - will post it soon. -Take care,


  1. Nice work, charming figure.
    My contratulations.
    Great regards of a new follower from Spain.

  2. Thank you Vicente! Nice to have you aboard!

  3. beautiful portrait and she is precious.

  4. Thank you Mary! Yes- she is very precious!