Why Loose?

January 31, 2009
Feels Like Monday, acrylic on canvas, 9x12"

Feels Like Monday, acrylic on canvas, 9x12"

detail of brushwork on figures

detail of brushwork on figures

 This is the acrylic I started the other day, now complete. I thought I’d talk a little bit about the challenges of working loosely. I have a number of students who take my classes who say it is very difficult for them to let go of the urge to put in all the details. I frequently tell them painting loosely does not mean a lack of detail, you can always tighten up a loose painting, but not the other way around. Think of it as baking a cake–you don’t put the icing on first, right? Because there is nothing to put the icing on–you haven’t made the cake yet so you can’t. It’s the same thing with drawing and painting–you have to define the form and structure of the piece before you put in the details.

Another thing that’s important is to work the entire composition at the same rate of completion–in other words, I didn’t spend all my time on one figure until it was done while other parts of the painting were still just blank canvas. Cover up that empty canvas or paper, get the basic forms in and work the details on each form to the same level of completion before going back to the one you started with.

In this case, I began by laying in the ground of yellow oxide + violet + white using water as medium (layer 1). Next I did my drawing with a brush to map in the values with sap green + violet, still using water (layer 2). Next, I switched to gel medium to slow drying and add creaminess to the paint, trying to get more opaque in this layer. Working dark to light, I put in my dark values wherever they appear in the composition, next I mapped in the buildings, the dark/medium areas on the reflections, dark/medium areas on the cars and figures and last of all the sky (layer 3). The final layer I continued with the paint and gel medium and focused on the brightest colors and highlights, as well as going back in and defining my darkest values as needed and refining my medium values with local color as needed (layer 4).

Working in this manner ensures that your painting stays cohesive and that no single areas stand out as more complete than the rest of the painting–you don’t want any parts to look “pasted on” and they will if they are more developed than the rest of the piece.

Getting back to the question why loose? Perhaps I should have phrased it “why start out loose?” This is the point where you decide when you are done. If you have kept your painting loose and now wish to make it tighter, there is nothing to stop you from putting in as much detail as you want to–you now have a solid structure to build upon. Or, if you are more inclined to keep your painting a bit on the expressive or impressionistic side, then you just stop sooner and leave the painting with details that are suggested rather than tightly renedered. The point is, you can tighten your work up as much as you want to and it will look cohesive and effortless even with a lot of detail, as long as you build up to it and don’t try to put the detail in before you have the structure.

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Acrylics – Class Notes from 1/29/2009

January 30, 2009
urban landscape work-in-progress/demo, acrylic on canvas, 9x12"

urban landscape work-in-progress/demo, acrylic on canvas, 9x12"

Concepts presented:

– began by toning background with  mix of yellow oxide (or ochre) + violet + white to create neutral tan background, this makes working on canvas a little easier for water color artists not used to working with opaque color–it forces you to use the paint not the white of the canvas for highlights

– with 1/2″ flat brush laid in value study with mix of violet + sap green

– continued laying in color with alizarin + yellow oxide on buildings, yellow oxide on taxi and other buildings, and cobalt blue + yellow oxide + violet + titanium white on sky, reflective surfaces on road

– using heavy gel gloss medium instead of water with acrylic to create a creamier consistency in the paint (water was used on the initial toning and for the value study)

– working very loosely from my own photo reference, at this stage will likely begin using color purely for expressive/compositional purposes, in other words, barely looking at the reference from this point forward

– next week, I will bring in the finished piece (will likely post it here first) and will do a demo on drawing with a brush and value studies, I’ll include a primer on perspective

– please bring a reference photo to work from in class next week as I’d like to have everyone work on a landscape and it is just too cold to go outside


Lasting impression

January 29, 2009
Lasting Impression, acrylic base, oil on top, 9x12"

Lasting Impression, acrylic base, oil on top, 9x12"

This is the acrlyic I began the other day, it migrated to oil, not for any specific reason other than my oils were available when I had time to work on it. This is the third time I’ve painted a version of this image and I never seem to get tired of it. All three are completely different in feeling, color and composition.


My new book…

January 28, 2009
drawing and painti…
By Anne Kullaf

I’ve finally finished my book, “Loosen up!” The book features in-depth chapters on the concepts and ideas I present here and in my classes. It’s not a “how to” book, but rather a tool you can use to build confidence and discover your natural way of working. It contains exercises at the end of each chapter that will help you to develop your technical skills in drawing, color, and composition. Additionally, I present concepts and ideas designed to help you to identify and achieve your creative goals. It is available for purchase via Blurb. To preview the first 15 pages, click on the link above.

Save the Date: on Sunday, March 8, 2009 I have been invited to do a demo and book signing at the Salmagundi Club, 47 Fifth Avenue, NYC. Details coming soon…


Class Notes – Oil Painting 1/26/2009

January 27, 2009
still life study, oil on watercolor paper, about 18x24

still life study, oil on watercolor paper, about 18x24

Concepts presented:

  • focus this week is on composition
  • historic example: Cezanne’s still lifes focused on the use of geometric form to create balance and movement in the still life composition
  • when setting up your own still life to paint, be sure to look for objects that relate and repeat colors and forms thereby creating a rhythm or pattern, in this case lots of spheres, ellipses, curves, reds, greens, yellows, whites, etc.
  • don’t be a slave to the set up, move things as you need to in order to make the composition work
  • begin with several thumbnail sketches in charcoal to work out compositional ideas, choose the best one for a color study
  • start with a value study on canvas in burnt umber or sienna (oil with turpenoid or acrylic with water)
  • I chose to experiment and work with oils on watercolor paper for this demo, the absorbency of the paper was challenging yet created some interesting transparent effects
  • color palette I used: cobalt blue, alizarin crimson, yellow ochre, cadmium yellow, cadmium red, burnt umber, titanium white

Pastel Workshop Announcement

January 27, 2009
form studies, pastel on paper

form studies, pastel on paper

I will be offering an Introduction to Pastels workshop at the NJ Visual Arts Center in Summit on Feb. 1 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Workshop fee is $90 plus a $25 materials fee. I will cover basic pastel techniques, an introduction to the medium and do both a landscape and still life demonstration. Color theory and composition will be emphasized as you learn the advantages of working with this highly expressive and spontaneous medium. If you are interested, please call the art center at 908-273-9121 to register.


Started

January 25, 2009
underpainting of yellow ochre and violet, small amount of white, acrylic on canvas, 9x12"

underpainting of yellow ochre and violet, small amount of white, acrylic on canvas, 9x12"

Based on an earlier study, I am trying to capture the color variation I acheived using acrylic and pastel on cardboard with just acrylic on canvas. Began by toning the canvas with yellow ochre and violet acrylic (opaque layer of ochre with transparent violet glaze on top). Then mixed violet with small amount of sap green to do the underpainting of the figures. Will begin adding other colors next: cobalt, alizarin, titanium white, burnt umber as well as continuing the use of the colors on this layer.