Saturday, November 12, 2011

Using the Wipe-Away Method of Painting for Monochrome Studies

Wisdom, 8x10 oil\panel

Today's post will give some in-progress shots and descriptions of using the "wipe away" method of painting.
this has to be done quickly, all in one sitting, and working wet into wet. The premise is that you are wiping out the light areas, and refining with the darks.  So, here goes....

My first photo didn't come out, but it was just showing an intial thin wash of color on the whole panel.. about value 3 or 4.
This shot shows just some basic placement of the face and main features... the "drawing" part if you will.

Okay now I am a little more purposeful about getting the main areas of light and shadow in their proper place, or as close as I can get. Because you are wiping away paint to get your lights, it's most important at this stage to decide where those lightest lights are, and get them down, so paint doesn't dry to the point where you CANT wipe them out. If you err, err on the side of too big a light area.. you can always go back with darks to correct. 

Here I realized that there were shapes of light and shadow on his shirt under the strings of beads, and so decided to get those down, and then come back and wipe out the beads again on top of them. Important to note at this stage is that you as an artist have to decide what is important - the focus is obviously his face... but there's a heck of alot of things going on in his dress... some things can be left more suggested, softer edges, less detail. I decide his shirt and the beads can be only suggested so keep this area unrefined. We're about 20-25 min. into the painting at this point.

Now as you can see, it's just a matter of further refinement, once the basic shapes are in. In this method, halftones are the hardest to get without messing up edges. You have to work wet into wet. There is virtually no drybrush at all - sometimes it's a matter of actually pushing paint in the dark areas to get slight variations in value. sometimes, you might have a brush over an entire dark area more than once, to get the paint the right consistency to move like you want. Important also is to pay attention to edges... rather than drawing with your brush, it's more like pushing upward with the bristles to get those softer transistions, or coming back with a competely dry clean brush to wipe over a transition area to soften it. About 45 min. work time now.

Here is the finish. About an hour, maybe a little more. I would say the most important thing in doing this method is to focus on simply shapes of light and shapes of dark. Half of the stuff on his "outfit" I had no idea what I was painting, but I just tried to correctly put down shapes of light, shapes of shadow, and it generally works outs okay. Don't think of "drawing" - or painting a "thing" - an eye, nose, or whatever.. just see value shapes and try to get them right. Those of you who mainly draw would probably find this easier than those who don't. 

Detail. In those dark areas, very slight wiping away gives those minor variations in value... adding back in darks to get the details, but keep the paint thin at all times... Edges are important... Also, brushing in the direction of the form helps. For example on his upper lip.. instead of brushing across the canvas, I made vertical brushstrokes following the shape of the lip. 

Okay, tips, warnings, suggestions, etc.
1. You MUST have a non-absorbent surface. This was a wood panel primed with oil primer. A double or triple OIL PRIMED linen will work. Ampersand Gessobord is almost as good. Anything primed with acrylic primer will not work.
2. Avoid the dreaded DRIP!!! If you clean your brush with thinner to wipe away an area, make sure it is mostly dry (handle too) before you go to wipe off an area.... if there's thinner running down the handle, it will cause a big drip and can totally ruin the work you just did. I had this happen on the headband part of his headdresss... was wiping away the whites of the feathers. and a big drip started running down his face... I caught it with a paper towel and had to re-paint, but damages were minimal. I would've gotten a picture of it, but was afraid to leave it long enough to get a photo!
3. Since half tones are the hardest to achieve, select a subject that has really strong lights and darks. To Practice, maybe even start with just a single simple object, like an apple, or a vase or something... just to understand the technique.
4. It helps to have a brush with a sharp edge for wiping out thin areas. I use only flats when I paint, but brights, and maybe even filberts would work. I don't know if small rounds would have enough ooomph to scrub off paint. Use the largest brush you can. This was done with a #6 and #4 flat.
5. This method works great as a quick "underpainting" for complicated works. I often use a less finished version of this to get the structure of still lifes - a thin wash, some quick placement of objects, and then wipe away the lightest lights, and state the shadow areas. 

Hope this was enjoyable. Sorry for the glare on some of the WIP photos, but working quickly, I didn't want to have to pick up the panel , take it in the other room, find a spot to photograph, take the picture, walk back to the studio. etc. etc. This really does have to be done all at once. I figure you would have maximum two hours, and that might be stretching it.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Early Visitors, Shiprock

Shiprock, photo courtesy of Don Joslin

On one of the artist's forums that I frequent, each month one of us hosts a "challenge", and provides photos for us to use as reference for a painting.   Though I'm not keen on working from photos, sometimes it's fun to see what you can do with them.  I've been to this area, and that helps to get more authentic (I hope!) feel to it.
Shiprock is a sacred place to the Navajo... I can just imagine their first view of this magnificent formation. It figures prominantly in their mythology and culture. Here's an article from Wikipedia:

Shiprock (NavajoTsé Bitʼaʼí, "rock with wings" or "winged rock"[5]) is a rock formation rising nearly 1,583 feet (482.5 m) above the high-desert plain on the Navajo Nation in San Juan CountyNew Mexico, USA. It has a peak elevation of 7,177 feet (2,187.5 m) above the sea level. It lies about 12 by 20 miles (19 by 32 km) southwest of the town of Shiprock, which is named for the peak. Governed by the Navajo Nation, the formation is in the Four Corners region and plays a significant role in Navajo religion, mythology and tradition. It is located in the center of the Ancient Pueblo People or Ancestral Puebloan civilization, a prehistoric Native American culture of the Southwest United States often referred to as the Anasazi. Shiprock is a point of interest for rock climbers and photographers and has been featured in several film productions and novels. It is the most prominent landmark in northwestern New Mexico.[citation needed]

The Navajo name Tsé Bitʼaʼí, "rock with wings" or "winged rock", for the peak refers to the legend of the great bird that brought them from the north to their present lands.[6][7] The name "Shiprock" or Shiprock Peak or Ship Rock derives from the peak's resemblance to an enormous 19th-century clipper ship. However Anglos first called the peak "The Needle," a name given to the topmost pinnacle by Captain J.F. McComb in 1860.[7] United States Geological Survey maps indicate that the name "Ship Rock" dates from the 1870s.[6][7][edit]

[edit]Religious and cultural significance

The peak and surrounding land are of great religious and historical significance to the Navajo people. It is mentioned in many Navajo myths and legends. Foremost is the peak's role as the agent that brought the Navajo to the southwest. According to one legend, after being transported from another place, the Navajos lived on the monolith, "coming down only to plant their fields and get water."[7] One day, the peak was struck by lightning, obliterating the trail and leaving only a sheer cliff, and stranding the women and children on top to starve. The presence of people on the peak is forbidden "for fear they might stir up the chį́įdii (ghosts), or rob their corpses."[7]

So, my first thought when I saw the photo was, "I wonder what the natives thought when they encountered this formation for the first time."  It must've been awe inspiring to them.  So, pulling out my artistic license, I painted in some of these early visitors.
Early Visitors, Shiprock 7x7 oil/panel

Working in a square format requires good planning for composition. I needed to balance the various elements.. figures, mountain, and land masses. The visual weight of the two riders, is balanced by the other figure and horse, and the darker eroded gully.  These both are balanced by the presence of the rock itself. I think its working.