Friday, June 24, 2016

Landscape Plein Air Painting Tutorial, Composition is the Essential First Step, Capture and Define the Underlying Abstract Design

Starting a Painting: Oil (or acrylic) Underpainting (grisaille)
For me, defining the composition (underlying design) using a monochrome underpainting is essential in getting started on a new oil painting. I use it for any painting, landscape or not. This approach, used by many painters and on hundreds of my own oil paintings over the last 30 or 40 years is a great way to break the ice and "find" and capture the scene.  It goes quickly, usually taking an hour or two at most, and I enjoy it.

Technically, this is called an underpainting or "grisaille". I learned it, I guess, from studying the techniques of other painters and reading about it.  One of the good things is that if it doesn't turn out, not a lot of time or material wasted. And it also allows me to return to a scene to pick up where I left off. And once in a while, I use it to finish a painting in the studio.

The grisaille (I pronounce it 'gree zay') has two important functions (1) finding and defining the composition, and (2) providing an accent to the colors and shapes in the final painting (the color of the underpainting matters.  The rusty red color works with my color palette).

Step 1 - I use my home made "L" shaped cardboard frame corners, proportioned the same as my support (canvas) to find and frame the scene, looking for a composition that is most effective. Note the big paperclip under my thumb, keeps it in place.

Step 2 - I begin laying in the basic underlying design, light and dark shapes, using a very dilute color using a rag.  I will go back to Step 1 a couple of times.

Step 3 - I put the frame corners away, and further define light and dark shapes, using a brush and the rag to lighten blend and erase. I try to be spontaneous and loose, but faithful.

Step 4 - Stand back and squint at the scene and the painting to see how it is working.  I do this every now and then, both for the underpainting and, later, while painting the final.

Step 5 - Refining and correcting the underlying design, this is near completion, trying not to overdo or overpower, and keeping it loose and spontaneous. Here I am using a Q-tip to 'erase' and emphasize a light area.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Summer Solstice Plein Air Painting in Juneau Alaska

As a painter in Southeast Alaska, Summer Solstice is bitter sweet.  This is the peak of  best of the best weather in Juneau.  May and June are the statistically the months with the most rain free days.

Devita Writer out painting near summer solsticeBut solstice is always bitter sweet for me as an artist and outdoor painter, because it also means the days are beginning to get short again and barely a month from now it is not unlikely that the rains will return.  August especially will often mark the return of the fall pattern of rainy inclement weather.

Day length makes for an interesting painterly schedule. Mid summer in Juneau sunrise is just short of 4 A.M, and the sun sets a little after 10 P.M..  If you like to paint sunsets, as I do, this makes for painting late into the evening. 

This photo was taken about 8:30 P.M. a few days before Solstice and although the shadows are long, sunset colors have yet to make an appearance.

My painting schedule would typically be to have a leisurely dinner, and head for the selected painting location.  A good thing about Juneau is that "the good painting spot" is seldom more than a half hour away.

I have already selected the spot because I have been thinking about it for days or weeks, sometimes years.  Usually I will try to drive by the location within the last week or two to refresh my memory.

As any oil painter, I have many tubes of oil paint accumulated over the years, but in my field paint box I carry a limited and well organized number of colors.  I use pure oil colors of the best quality. Part of the preparation is to mix my colors, this takes quite a while and is always done after I have my easel set up at the spot.

My easel, my paints, mosquito repellant, drinking water, small folding canvass table, brushes, jars all fit in a large plastic tote. I also carry a folding chair.  This will all fit in a plastic cart so that I can haul my paints down to the beach, sometimes several hundred yards.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Devita Stipek Writer - About my Artist Name

I sign my paintings "Stipek Writer".  No I am not also a writer.  But my husband Ross Writer is both a Writer (last name) and a writer (he writes, his main blog is "Our Alaska-Island in a Storm").  Funny how those things work out. My maiden name is Stipek. I decided to sign my paintings Stipek Writer out of honor and respect for my parents, Frank and Virginia Stipek, who were so supportive of my decision to become a painter. 

My mother's maiden name was Boucher, and she and I are direct descendants of the famous French Painter, Fran├žois Boucher (French, Paris 1703–1770 Paris).  If I have any natural God Given talent, perhaps there is a genetic connection.

The Stipek clan settled in Nome during the Gold Rush in the early 1900's.  There is a museum in Nome that is named after my great aunt Carrie M. McLain.  I still have distant relatives in Nome. Aunt Carrie was an Alaska character, a school teacher, who wrote a couple books about teachin in frontier Alaska.  As a little girl, I remember seeing Aunt Carrie at Stipek Family Reunion picnics.

Even Stipek family reunion picnics have a touch of "fame".  They are held every year Stipek Park, in Snohomish County (Seattle - Everett Washington area) and is "named for the Carol Stipek (my uncle) family that lived on this site, Stipek Park opened in 1999 as the first park in the Snohomish County portion of the City."

I can take credit for none of this, of course.

My 'professional, Facebook page is Devita Stipek Writer or if you want to send a friend request to my regular Facebook page it is just Devita Writer