From Study to Studio: Rose Regalia

There is little more satisfying than capturing a moment in time through painting. And there is no better method to achieve that end than painting from life. The beauty of plein air painting lies in its freshness and immediacy. At its best, pure notes of color painted with confidence are juxtaposed with passages of broken color as the painter makes new discoveries along the way. Light and shadow fit together like pieces of a puzzle until a unified statement coalesces into art.

Where plein air painting is very spontaneous, my approach in the studio, while similar, is more deliberate. Here I can adjust my proportions and play with the composition without the rush against time. I knew in the moment as I was painting this scene at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens that I would want to do a variation of it in a larger format. The colors were so spectacular and the garden designers did a good deal of the design work for my painting with the well- planned pathways and layers of flowers in all shades framed by trees and gazebos in the background.

“Rose Regalia”, Oil on linen, 12x16” ©Jennifer E Young

“Rose Regalia”, Oil on linen, 12x16” ©Jennifer E Young

I chose a favorite canvas size, 24 x 30”, for my larger studio piece. It is a slightly different aspect ratio than my 12x16” plein air, so I made some slight adjustments to the proportions and placement of the gazebos to create a less centered composition.

“Rose Regalia II”, Oil on linen, 24x30” ©Jennifer E Young

“Rose Regalia II”, Oil on linen, 24x30” ©Jennifer E Young

I wanted to stay true to the spirit of the smaller painting and the lighting effect coming from behind, but I lengthened the path to create a little more distance between the foreground roses and the background gazebos so as to slow the eye as it traveled through the painting. I really liked the looseness and freshness in the handling of the roses in my plein air piece, but I added more tonal variation and detail in the peachy roses in the foreground, since these shrubs were close to the viewer and the larger canvas seemed to call for something more.

Overall I am enjoying both the large and small versions of this composition, each in their own ways, and I think they each possess their own qualities unique to their chosen approach. The smaller plein air piece is currently one of 3 paintings I have displayed in a group show called “En Plein Air” at the Lora Robbins Library at Lewis Ginter, and the larger painting will be a part of a new exhibit this Friday at Crossroads Art Center’s Summer Open House. If you are in the Richmond area and you’d like to see these shows in person, check out my calendar for the details .

Sharpening the Saw: The value of a quick study

Last month I completed a weekly class with David Tanner, a painter well-known locally for his portraiture. I believe the best artists, and especially the best teachers, are also lifelong students. Thus I am a true believer in the periodic practice of focused study to “sharpen the saw” and to discover new ways of seeing and working.

My current obligations and time constraints make it difficult to invest in a week-long workshop out of town. So I was really interested when a fellow painter-friend recommended David’s class down at the Visual Art Center in Richmond. I have known and enjoyed David’s paintings for his sensitive portraits, his impressionist style and beautiful color sense, so I was delighted when his class, “Increase Your Speed & Capture the Color in Oil” jived with my daughter’s school and after-school schedule.

I loved the concept of this class, which was to distill the subjects, whether still life or the live model, to essential planes, light and shadow, and color, in quick small oil studies. Each class was roughly divided into two 1 1/2 hour sessions, beginning with one or two objects (a vase, a watering can, a piece of fruit) and various combinations of colorful backdrops. Gradually through each class the level of difficulty increased, until switching at last to the live model.

Quick studies done in class, 8x10” and 6x8”

Quick studies done in class, 8x10” and 6x8”

My biggest takeaway from this class was the importance of regular practice, with quick studies as a sort of artistic calisthenics. These little paintings, no matter how mundane the subject, were created with the INTENTION of allowing them to just be studies and nothing more. So often with my time constraints I feel a great pressure to create finished pieces— something I can sign and put a frame on. This class was not about that—at all—and I loved it! Frankly, I needed it.

Putting a time limit on the sessions helped me avoid jumping into the fussy details too soon. This occurs also with plein air painting practice, though I tend to spend more time on those, establishing correct proportion and a pleasing composition. I can really see using this approach as a compliment to my plein air painting practice, on rainy days when I can’t get outside. It’s also just a good a regular practice to work into my studio time, to improve and sharpen the saw.

Online Auctions, Coming Soon!

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In a short time, I will begin listing some new online holiday art auctions, so I thought I would give a heads-up to those of you who are interested in purchasing my art at an excellent price just in time for the season of giving. :-) These will be mostly plein air studies in small sizes, ready for you to frame. If this interests you head on over to my auction site and register in advance so you will be all ready to place your bid when the auctions first becomes available. I should be up and running in just another week or so, so don't miss out!

Treasure Hunting at Avalon Pier

What a fall it has been so far. I thought once school started things would normalize (ha!) but the  schedule continues it's craziness. Most days lately I have just enough time (and energy) to paint, and maybe quickly post here and there on social media. Last week was major at my husband's job, and he had to pull some of all-nighters out of town while I played the single parent at home.

Unfortunately this blog suffers during times like these, and my rhythm tends to stumble. I don't feel comfortable venturing too far away from my daughter's school when my husband is also far away, so I opt for studio painting instead of painting in the field. The set-up and cleanup is just quicker and more efficient when I need to head for the pickup line at the end of the school day, or should Iget a call from the school nurse or whatever. When the weather is gorgeous and fleeting as it has been, this sometimes makes me feel a little sad not to go out to some beautiful countryside location and paint outdoors.

On the up side, the studio allows me to experiment and try new things. Not only can I paint larger (yay!) but  I can spend more time designing and composing. I can also decide how loyal I want to be to the image I'm working from, or whether I want to push that edge and see if I can manipulate the color more to create a certain color harmony or mood. So yeah, I was definitely going for a mood with this piece, and I have to admit I had a good time doing it!

"Treasure Hunting at Avalon Pier", Oil on linen, 24x30" ©Jennifer E Young

"Treasure Hunting at Avalon Pier", Oil on linen, 24x30" ©Jennifer E Young

Due to the cloud cover and my auto settings on my camera, my photo references were somewhat washed out in terms of color. So, much of the color is inspired by my memory and another plein air painting I did in the summer:

"Anchored at Sunrise", Oil on panel, 9x12" ©Jennifer E  Young

"Anchored at Sunrise", Oil on panel, 9x12" ©Jennifer E  Young

The image above has more warmth to it due to the time of day and the location of the sun so close to the horizon, but I loved the beautiful soft pastel colors in the sky and water and I felt that something similar would work well for the hazier light of a cloudy early evening, with just a tinge of the sunlight warming up the clouds as touches of blue sky break through. 

During our beach trips to Kill Devil Hills, I often walk down toward Kitty Hawk to the Avalon Pier and enjoy the people watching as I go. I especially love to see the kids playing by the shore, so in-the-moment and involved in their play. I know that feeling all too well. It's the way I feel when I'm painting down there, though my time always seems to end all too soon.

Varenna mini gouache study

Thought I'd do a little experimenting with this fun little 5x6" study in gouache.

"Colors of Varenna (study) Gouache on Cottonwood Arts Coldpress paper, 5x6" © Jennifer Young

"Colors of Varenna (study) Gouache on Cottonwood Arts Coldpress paper, 5x6" ©Jennifer Young

Here I'm just trying to get an idea about my lights and shadows and the basic shapes, so I've not much detail. For this composition I experimented with using a compositional grid that we studied during Kevin Macpherson's workshop (you can probably make out some of it in pencil beneath the gouache. I mentioned it briefly in my last post, but basically this is a method to achieve an informal subdivision of space, as discussed in Andrew Loomis' book called Creative Illustration:

loomisgoldensection
loomisgoldensection

After I learned more about this "grid thing", I realized that I had often been using this kind of subdivision intuitively. But it is good to have a tool handy to be more deliberate about it when one wants to, or if you are dealing with a complicated subject and are trying to decide what to leave in, what to edit out, and how to arrange a painting for the most pleasing effects.

It's been a while since I have worked with gouache and had forgotten that the colors shift a bit when they dry. Nevertheless I had a good time and really look forward to working with them again.