Saturday, October 02, 2010

Time to Re-Focus...

After more than a decade as a moderator on having my own industry partner forum, responsible for eight forums...and part of the original staff when founder Scott Burkett envisioned and got this thing off ground...I have resolved it was time for me to retire.  Over thirty-thousand posts, seemingly endless critiques, step by steps...making many friends, I've concluded it was a good ride.

Simple approaching that age where many irons in the fire, the burning of the candle on many sides is simply taking its toll...less than four years now til sixty, and figure I have to concentrate more on my own painting, own instructionals perhaps here or other personal sites.  Finish my next on perhaps another video or two, paint...become more active in other associations, and plan more workshops.  

Wetcanvas is a great site for artists, and I think Van Gogh would smile on its virtual community.

A question came up on if five values or so is enough to take on a portrait...and I thought I'd answer that more as a post for others to follow.  

When I teach workshops...learning to work your palette, manage...and become effective especially when dealing with a small window of opportunity of nature's light is important.

It is instructive for students to see that a dark value, a mid...light, plus white can create a painting.  When you add a couple halftone steps to have actually expanded your palette's efficiency greatly.

Now...when you undergird this limitation with a strong sense of design or composition, the painting will stand as a solid statement.

A number of posts down, I shared this simple palette...four values of three present dominant colors of a setting to paint this simple demo at a workshop (reposting here)-

If you add two halftone steps within each value, between the three different hues to build this painting are 27 piles of pigment.  My student for this workshop realized that is actually quite a bit.

The halftones make it a bit easier for the eyes to transition from one value mass color to another.

It was Edgar Payne that reasoned the eyes can see about 400 variations in values, but pigment at best perhaps imitates about 40-50 of them.  Color as presented by nature's light, Payne about 200 to 300 times more intense than what pigment can imitate.

Like it or not then...we start out painting with a deficit...but, this also suggests we are more abstract painters than we might have imagined.  Presenting a fragmented impression weighing on particulars to grab the eye and hold its attention.

In a discussion on Wetcanvas...about merits of pre-mixing your palette versus painting on the fly...I brought up something Charles Sovek said in his book, "Oil Painting- Develop Your Natural Ability" 

Pasted here....

I was reading over the thoughts of Charles Solvek this past week...his book, "Oil Painting- Developing Your Natural Ability"...section 19...on "Extracting the Tonal Essence of a Subject"

He says this-

Originally Posted by Sovek
"The temptation to plunge head long into copying the subject tone for tone is a natural inclination common to most beginning painters. It would seem logical that if the subject were painted exactly as it appeared the result would be a close fascimile of the original theme. Two factors however prevent this from happening. First, the range of values between black and white paint is far narrowed than the considerably wider scale visible to the eye.

Looking into the sun or a bright light for example causes a painful glare that even the whitest of white pigments can't even begin to match. The second factor is the nature rarely provides us with ready made compositions. We are seldom aware of this because our eyes focus instantaneously and set up a composition call of sorts on whatever we concentrate on by softening the forms in our peripheral vision. So when we gaze at something, our eyes are really using a type of tunnel vision akin to a riveting spotlight illuminating a stage performer. Focus on a finger held 10 or 12 inches in front of your face and everything else in your line of sight appears softer by contrast. Owing to this fact it is impossible to paint a subject exactly as you see it merely by focusing on 1 item at a time.

Let me try and break that down into more lay terms.

Painting on the fly...mixing as you go invites scrutiny of all values and color of everything you see...treating each thing as you see as pertinent or necessary content or narrative.

Whereas Sovek makes mention of "the range of values between black and white paint is far narrower than the considerably wider scale visible to the eye" this reminds reading Edgar Payne's book where he argues that the eye sees as many as 400 variations in the presence of values in nature...but that with pigment we are fortunate to be able to paint 40-50 of them.

That being the case...Sovek argues attempting to then do this is a temptation and an impossibility.

Like it or not we all then create systems that attempt to do justice but equate as interpretations at best.

As an exercise...he then challenges the painter to mix up five values at most...and then attempt a painting...hand-picked

"Translate the various tones you see using any one of five values at your disposal. Avoid intermixing any of five values to match a particular tone of the subject. This will mean some ruthless discrimination on your part because many values will appear as jumpy combinations or bewildering gradations...

...try to work quickly so your intellect doesn't intervene and dictate that the subject be recognizable. There's no need to feel an obligation to copy the values exactly as they appear."

This then is the secret and management that comes of "pre-mixing"

Not to put out every value represented...aware of the temptation and impossibility as Sovek says...thus intentionally limiting yourself.

You have to work with this self imposed limitation long enough to experience and observe it actually the beginning like a step of faith...

If one approaches a pre-mixed palette thinking they are going to represent EVERY value seen...then you will feel what you believe is its inefficiency and lack. Thing is...once you are convinced to what Payne and Sovek are makes absolute sense and then is not found so difficult to execute.

 end quote- answer my friend's question, to approach a portrait with five values is to create a "system" that interprets.  Sovek's reference to "tunnel vision" argues everything you see...looking directly separates that one thing from the rest as you do not see the whole.  Peripherally you "sense" the whole...but you see only one thing at any moment.  As your eyes move about is like a cartoon flip book that reasons values provide smooth transition.

Thing is...limit yourself one less pigment, a fewer less halftones/values each a series of experiments and discover what is the minimal, the least you can present that yet says it all...says enough?

At some point you will find a balance of intrigue that suggests you have attained a certain power in the brushstroke.  Essential strokes that need not one more spot of color or halftone to convincingly portray the subject.


Anonymous said...


I know they will miss you at WC but CONGRATULATIONS! I know you will enjoy your 'retirement'.

I love to read your posts and blog and I hope to continue to follow you online via your blog - at your pace, of course.

Your work and words are always so inspiring!!! Thank you for your time and talent.

Daniel said...

Wow.. that's a lot of info.. I was expecting a "scram kid, get outta here.. " lol Thanks again, thats really helpful. I guess it makes sense really when I think about it.. simplify what you see. I appreciate your time and effort, I learn more asking actual "artists" things I don't understand and reading blogs then I have in 4yrs of a "so-called" Fine Arts program. Sad really.. graduate in Dec. and can honestly say I have learned ZERO in school... but EVERYTHING i know on my own by reading and harassing gentlemen like yourself.. lol I've even managed to get a question or two answered by your amazingly talented son.

Larry I really do appreciate it. Thanks a million. So many artists prefer to act as magicians and let the world by into their "hype" and not reveal their "tricks".. atleast not unless you cut a check.

I'm not that old but I've read your threads on WC for years and always am grateful when artists give back.

Thanks much,

Carol said...

I discovered your address on Wet Canvas and Wow, what a wonderful find. Brain strain. Thank you for sharing, I will be back.

Carol said...

I see that Jerry Lebo (Sixty Minute Artist) is listed on your site. I followed him for a long time and then he just stopped posting - any idea what happened to him?

Mr. Seiler said...

thanks folks...appreciate each of you taking time to comment..

today...too warm to tromp about the woods, but must be outside this lovely fall day. Probably will demonstrate a neutral mud limited palette, and maybe video as I want to put a video together on various limited palette strategies I think..