Wednesday, September 28, 2016

A Painter's Process (A Long, Loooong post, just to warn you; bring a snack & drink)

If you have seen in my earlier posts on my equipment, I've had customized my french easel with wheels to make it easier to walk with it around the city.   
I've bought some wheels that I could screw into the bottom, turning it into a carry-on luggage. Plus a couple of supporting pegs to help it stand up idly. Just had to test it out in public next but had to wait for warmer weather for En plain air conditions.  As soon as I could, I loaded up a blank canvas, my wooden foldable stool and a seat cushion along with anything I would likely take with me for my day trips and headed out.

The wheels did make it easier to pull it along rather than carrying a heavy wooden box by a thin strap on your shoulder like a overweighted awkward purse.  The only problem I found with the changes was the original handles and strap were a little too short to pull the easel at a comfortable angle: pulling it up too high and I get nowhere with it, too low and not only so I strain my lower back, I was also scratching the wheel guards over the cement/asphalt.  I needed to find a better way to pull it along without these problems.

 During one of my day trips cycling in the city, I came across an apartment complex's dumping area to scrounge for anything salvageable.  Aside from a few coins and a couple of Canadian Tire bills, I also found this metal frame of a shopper's trolley with an expendable handle being tossed; it was missing its fabric but everything else of it was still functional.  Thinking of my french easel, I brought it back home to clean up and tried loading my easel on it, A perfect fit! After getting a long strap to secure the easel with my stool and cushion to the trolley, I had now a way to take my easel out on day trips.

Now with a practical means of painting outdoors, I took my first real painting trip to an outdoor festival in the city: Woofstock. In late Spring or May, Toronto has a festival for dogs and dog lovers each year and this year, it was in Woodbine Park, located near The Beach neighbourhood.  It was my first time seeing the event and I wanted to paint on a favourite subject which are dogs. After watching  and photographing many of the attractions, I settled on an area where I saw much interaction with the dogs and their handlers.  Woodbine Park had a large pond (with live fish and ducks) and a shallow area for the dogs to waddle in from the hot sun.  It was very humid so I brought along my golfing umbrella (larger than the average umbrella to shade me while I began my acrylic painting.  

 I've spent about 3 to 4 hours just blocking in the general colours and features of my chosen location.  As I painted, I took photos with my iPhone during my session on the different people and dogs that came to the area.  I knew that as I painted, I wouldn't be able to capture every person and dog there in detail so the photos were for reference later on when I resume on the painting at home.  

Getting close to sunset, I was getting hungry and thirsty and I already ate all on my packed lunch.  Calling it for the day, I began packing everything up: stacking my equipment on the trolley, disposed my wastes responsibly and began walking along Queen Street to The Beach's restaurants for my dinner, including a very icy peach bubble tea to cool me down greatly.  

Weeks later after working on other freelancing projects during the summer, I had the time now to work on the painting again.  Glad that I took those photos earlier to help complete it. Either that or I take my easel back to Woodbine Park's pond for the week but I'm not likely to get as many dogs or people there probably.  What I began doing while looking at the photos is slightly tweak the colours over what I blocked in before.  I worked with the background features first as I drab little stipplings and streaks of acrylic paint with a fine point and a small flat paintbrushes.  In it was a washroom building and lots of various trees that had their leaves nearly full grown. 

Watering down the acrylics on my palette made it easier to apply quick, smooth streaks for the brown and dark branches while dotting warm and cool greens in a tapping movement on the canvas with the fine point. I swapped to my small flat for doing a cluster-stippled marking with some of the leaves. Otherwise the brush was for painting the sky's gradient and the subtle clouds above.

Coming into the Mid-ground, there was the pathway with the exposed dirt path leading to the pond and the weathered wooden boardwalk that borders part of the pond.  Carefully I blocked in opaque shapes of base colours, covering up the earlier markings. This was for mostly the people, dogs and other solid objects.  After the acrylic dries for each base colour, I added their tints and shades.  After doing each solid figure from furthest to closest, I added textured grasses and a bushy tree that shows a bit behind it. It took yellowish greens and bluish greens with green-tinted white in overlaying streaks to make natural looking grass

Adding on more figures from the photos as I go, I began streaking marks on the pond in the foreground to show the ripples being made by the dogs.  Small streaks in the mid-ground to show both the water's choppiness and distance from the smoother and larger streaks in the foreground. The pond looked green mostly due to all the green leaves reflecting on the surface, using both light and dark greens to show subtle ripples and shaded areas like beneath the boardwalk.  Blue and white streaks are added as the clearing of the trees allows the sky to appear on the surface too.  

As well as ripples, I stippled in tints of greens and blues with white to show the dogs' splashing as they jump and dash in the water.  Both my fine point and small flat brushes helped to create natural texture for the splashes and wakes, using overlaying stipples with smooth streaks.  

Woofstock in Woodbine Park Pond, 2016
Finally, I began working on figures on the broadwalk.  Like before, I blocked in solid base colours where I then added their shades and tints.  Redoing the boardwalk as well, I used reddish and yellowish browns for showing the dry, weathered planks and wet patches made by the wet dogs. As you may see in the lower right corner on the boardwalk, there was another artist there that wanted to capture the scene of the dogs playing in the pond.  We chatted a little bit and then went on to do our work.

While you can see the area being crowded with varied people and dogs, in my photos references, there were more people and dogs around during my outdoor session at the park.  I chose that I wouldn't overcrowd the painting with too many figures and allow the viewers to see the location's beauty as well as the playful interaction of the dogs and their handlers at Woofstock. It wasn't like I could get everyone in so I picked out whichever person and dog that added to the idea of the festival where they are both enjoying each other's company.  

Adding together the time I spent on this painting, I would say about a full day's time since last weekend it took to complete it.  I could only stand to sit down whole days for so long at a time; it's similar to standing on your feet all day but my projects usually got me having to sit long hours to work.  I still worked with my easel at home; usually it is set up by my studio desk to have better counter space and to view my photos easier on my monitor.  My desk is an old-style drafting table so I can place a lot of items or have a wide space on work as you can see.  While I have the easel set up for holding my canvas, I tend to pick it up from the ledge and hold it up close by hand to do all the mark-making.  It's similar when I draw on my desk or tablet as I would lean in to get as sharp a view as I can to get the details right.  Heck, when working in Photoshop or Illustrator, I'd magnify the zoom-in almost to max to get the sharpest marks I can make, even if it means that detail might be lost in the actual size view.

Rather than stain my wooden palette that came with the easel, I use disposable palette sheets that are taped on.  I also have these rubber collapsable water cups to rinse my brushes of excess paint or to get clean water to dilute the paints thinner.  For rags, some of my clothing eventually do get worn out behind repair (I can sew to mend, tailor or make my own clothes by the way; made my own artist's smock from an old bed sheet spread) so I tear and rip them into large strips of fabric that become my painting towels.  Sometimes, I accumulate too many and I would donate them to my old school, OCADU downtown for the students, clean of course.  One of my old teachers often said that if he had only one artist tool while painting, he'd prefer to have a rag. 

So this was a compilation of photos and insight on my progress on one of my works.   Hopefully with showing what goes into the process of not only creating the painting but also getting the tools together for it, gives others the understanding of the kind of time-consuming but enjoyable commitment artists make to bring these works to life.  While I work for my income mostly online with digital software, I still like working with traditional media.  Usually to create my Christmas/Birthday Cards for family.

Well, until my next update (It'll be shorter next time, maybe...)

No comments:

Post a Comment