Monday, July 25, 2016

The View Finder

Most artists when they go out into the field, first look at the quality of the air.  Is it clear or humid?  This affects the color saturation.  Then they usually check where the sun is and try to remember the shadows (or take a picture) because over an hour or two the shadows can change dramatically (as well as the lighting.)

Then most artists make a square with their fingers as a viewfinder to figure out whether they are going to place the canvas in portrait mode or landscape mode and what should be in the composition.  There are commercial viewfinders but one made with your fingers is much more versatile.  The problem is you have to know how to do it.

One done like this with the same fingers on both hands touching is WRONG.   It is hard to make it square and it is hard to enlarge it and change its dimensions.  And your fingers get into the picture.

This is the right way.  Your thumb of one hand is touching the index finger of the other hand.

Now you can have lots of fun moving the finger viewfinder around.  In fact that they whole point of it.   It's not that you are going to make a likeness of what you see through the viewfinder.  You are going compose a picture, see what to leave in, and since you can see outside of the view between your fingers, you are going to see if there's something outside that you are going to move inside.

Picture composition is a wonderful subject and sometimes it's fun to spend a lot of time playing with this viewfinder.  Nature is not particularly adept at composition, and it is usually a mistake to try to copy exactly what is out in front of you.  Nobody is going to know what there.  They are going to judge what you make of it by aesthetic criteria.

Why does the framing of something help, in this case with your fingers?    The best way to illustrate that it does is to find a newspaper and take a random part of a paragraph and draw a frame around it with a pencil.  Then look at the whole page.  Your attention is drawn to what in the frame.  And unless you intend to paint on the wall which some artists do, you are going to look at this painting in a frame.  In fact, I would suggest that you draw a frame on whatever support you are going to do.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Who's going to be my mate?

Pen,Walnut Ink and Wash in handmade sketchbook 14x5.5 inches

A cold day so I went to the American Museum of Natural History and drew this diorama of the Alaskan Moose that I always thought was very dramatic from a nice bench right in front of it. Quite a few young children came over to see what I was doing. Without any hesitation they'd climb up beside me and look from the drawing to the diorama approvingly.

The background to this particular diorama is by Carl Rungius, a well-known and admired nature artist, but compares somewhat badly to the other backgrounds in the same room (by C.P. Wilson) because it is a little too loose and blocked in (something that works well for him in his easel painting), and he hadn't mastered the trick of creating perspective on a wall that is curved, so some of the objects that should look straight like the clouds are curved with the wall. There was talk that someone else finished it, perhaps, because he felt discouraged. The goal of these backgrounds is basically like tromp d'oeil painting, to "fool the eye" into believing the painted background is real like the foreground objects (grass, twigs, etc) and not a painting. Wilson was the acknowledged master of this. The critical area is where the real (that is, preserved) stuff stops and the painting begins, the so-called "tie-in" line. It's said you can't do it successfully with fake water (glass), but Wilson did! Wilson is said to have used a four foot brush to be able to see what he was doing from the viewer's point of view. In Rungius's background there wasn't much of a tie-in line, most of it is hidden, probably to avoid this problem.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

sketch night Society of Illustrators

walnut ink on toned paper 9x12

Every Tuesday and Thursday here in New York at the Society of Illustrators there are two models and a three piece live band.  It gets crowded and, since there is bar (it's in the dining room of the Society), it has a speakeasy quality without the smoke.  $15 and anyone can come.  Many good artists are there doing anything but your standard academic nude drawing.

This piece was done with a fountain pen loaded with Walnut ink made from the shells of walnuts, an old type of ink.  It's water soluble, so, when I go over it with a water filled brush, I can get a wash.

I should mention that I drew this from a chair placed on a table so the artists are actually below me while the model is on the same level.  This explain, in part, the perspective.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Katsushika Hokusai

"From the time I was six, I was in the habit of sketching things I saw around me, and around the age of fifty, I began to work in earnest, producing numerous designs.  It was not until after my seventieth year, however, that I produced anything of significance.  At the age of seventy-three, I began to grasp the underlying structure of bird and animals, insects and fish, and the way trees and plants grow.  Thus, if I keep up my efforts, I will have an even better understanding when I am eighty, and by ninety will have penetrated to the heart of things.  At one hundred, I may reach a level of divine understanding, and if I live a decade beyond that, everything I paint --every dot and line -- will be alive.  I ask the god of longevity to grant me a life long enough to prove this true."
postscript to One Hundred Views of Mount Fuji (translated by Carol Morland)

Hokusai got it right, about the point of making art.  It's not about exhibiting.  It's not about making money.  It's not about someone else seeing it.  It's about the challenge Hokusai set for himself.  I discuss this more in my other blog.  By the way, Hokusai lived to 90 years of age.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

french cafe, Madison Avenue

20x16 oil on canvas

This one is bigger than any of the others on this blog.  I decided I wanted to go up in size from my 8x10's and 9x11's.  The size seems to make it easier for me, I think to get things right although it takes longer to paint. 

 I've been using a "tight spot" brush which turns at an angle at the top so you can see clearly where you're paint is going.  It's a very common brush among house painters, but rare to find in art stores.  It helps a lot to get the detail right.  Anyway this ones not completely finished, but I have to let it really dry to make the changes I want to make.  

In case you're wondering, there is someone to the left, across the street, that the couple in the foreground is trying to attract.  He is wiggling his finger in a "come here" gesture and has his cell phone in the other hand.  Her "open" arm gesture over the chair that this person will sit in is very telling.  If I were him, I'd hurry over.  This is an Eric Fischl compositional idea:  to make what's going on  puzzling so that it keeps the viewer there trying to figure out what's going on.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Starbucks Teens

8x10 oil on board

There was something about the gestures of these two teen-agers that intrigued me. They were sitting in darkness at the front window of the shop with blinding light coming in. It was a fun study. I may put a starbucks sign in the window and clean up some of the lines.

Friday, October 31, 2008

the fox went out on a chilly night

8x10 oil on canvas board

Another Maine scene.  I thought it needed something so I put in a Red Fox which normally comes out about the time portrayed in this scene.  Foxes are usually considered very smart and canny, but they are really just extremely cautious.  One can image that the little red house is a chicken coop that the fox is going to raid, but in fact, I think it was a pump house for water.