Monday, July 14, 2008

Painting in the Great Outdoors - Almost

"Summer Bath" Oil on Canvas on Panel
Copyright Sue Smith 2008

My painting practice has been heavily influenced lately by the atelier approach to realism and narrative. I began this little painting in the studio using reference photos, but quickly realized that I needed to be painting from life. Fortunately there were plenty of similar bushes in my back yard, with nice early morning light and good shade for my painting set-up. The added bonus was that I didn't have to worry about what I might need, as it was a quick trip into the house if I'd forgotten anything.

I knew that the content of the towel added a narrative and interest to what was otherwise a portrait of a bush with a lovely bit of water beneath it. But actually setting up the "still life" with a white sheet draped over the accommodating shrub allowed me to actually see what I was painting. Coming from an abstract/conceptual background, it has been a sometimes slow process for me to shift my visual thinking and feel more comfortable in the realism approach, but I am pleased with the end result. "Summer Bath" has something more to convey to the viewer, and I am growing more comfortable with the plein air painting process. I might even experiment with still life.

I also tried a new product from Art Supply Warehouse that is a primed, smooth canvas on a double birch panel. Billed as perfect for portrait work, I remember reading the advice that gesso should be applied for those wanting more tooth. l I experimented with the first panel, finding the surface extremely frustrating. But once the first layer of very brushy, wash-type paint had a chance to develop some tack, the surface was wonderful. I particularly liked the stability and no fears of future warping. Plus, other canvas on panel products that I've used have a surface with the opposite effect of too much tooth. It's all a process of experimentation. I may even try making my own canvas on panels one of these days, so if anyone has a secret tip or two, please pass it along. Otherwise, I like this new product. I have another one which I will coat with some Daniel Smith gesso first to see if it makes a difference.

Happy painting.

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