Posts Tagged ‘#Michael Orwick’

Below are photos, sketches and paintings that I prepared for our class called Creative Color and Luminescence taught by Michael Orwick offered through the Oregon Society of Artists.

This is an unfinished painting. I have ideas how to soften the red water on the right side and want to do some glazing to smooth out certain parts. For now, I am not touching the painting because it needs to dry a bit before proceeding.

This painting is of a Portland bridge that I started sketching back in January when I prepared ink sketches of it for variations in Michael Orwick’s earlier course on design and composition. I have now carried these earlier sketches into the current class on Creative Color and have begun painting it using oil paints on a birchwood panel.

Portland Bridge, unfinished oil painting on birchwood panel

This week we turned our attention to color value and as an assignment, we broke down colors on our palette into gradations between very light and very dark values of the same color. We also began painting color perspectives of our planned composition. Michael Orwick spent three hours with us on zoom, detailing ideas and illustrating color value. It was a very good explanation and I learned a lot.

He asked us to summarize our aha moment and here’s mine.

In landscape paintings, clouds are a big part of the sky’s atmospheric infrastructure, bending light and casting shadows altering colors and their hues. Similarly, on the ground, trees, buildings, hills and mountains are important parts of land’s infrastructure again bending light, casting shadows, altering colors and their hues. Paying attention to the horizon helps to illuminate how these big natural infrastructures interact when light is infused into the picture.

We use our paints to sculpt and make textures while also measuring brightness and shadows. The system of mixing colors for specific purposes may create moods, alter reflections, enhance shades and encourage brightness and may intentionally create feelings of harmony or disharmony, as needed. We spent time considering how color does this, by shifting values, varying brushwork or color marks and color mixing. Here is my takeaway from this week.

Color is all about perspective.

Colors may have value which can be deepened or softened according to whether they are:

in the sky;

their proximity to the horizon;

how light is being infused (i.e. angle of the sun); and

according to the shapes and angles of objects around them.

Understanding this about color, we ask as we plan a painting:

  • Where is my horizon;
  • Where is my light source;
  • What is my color harmony (could be seasonal, time of day, mood, feeling.; and finally,
  • What is my mother color? Reference to mother color summarizes the predominant color of a perspective.

If I understand correctly, the mother color is not a “true” color based on the facts of an observation. It is instead, the color we might choose to mix in all the other colors of the palette while painting, to encourage harmony. In the case of my painting up above, I consider purple to be the mother color. I mixed up all the colors in this painting to see what color I would get, and here it is. This would indicate that I will get soft shadows from the palette I have chosen. It is late afternoon in this painting, and the soft purple light over the Willamette River pervades.

Learning to use color in a painting is like learning how to drive a car. One’s beginning understanding may be that we must know how to turn on the car, stop, go, and turn the steering wheel. With time, we learn the necessity of checking our mirrors and estimating angles of the car to comprehend where we are and how moving our car will impact on others and their locations.

Color, like design and composition, complicate art in the most wonderful ways. It is much the same way mirrors complicate driving…but also improve the experience.

I expect to add glazing to this painting for harmonizing colors and will prepare some speculative drawings for figuring out options on the glazes.

Sketch paintings and glazing options appear below. I have prepared them on on cardboard since I do not plan to keep them, except for this planning stage.

Color options for painting
Color options for painting

Below, is the graph that I prepared for the class showing four possible variations in color value for each color in the palette.

Illustrative example of color value changes prepared for the course as an assignment.

It is turning out to be very useful that the same painting ideas I chose for the first course are being carried through the next course, so that I continue to work on the painting across the big art concepts that we are being taught. We did not have to do this, but I chose to, as a learning experience and I would recommend doing it again.

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These are my notes for paintings that I am working on in an art course on The Value of Design taught by Michael Orwick through the Oregon Society of Artists

I started this fourth week by finishing off a painting of the Oregon mountains, using a tonalist style. I liked working on tonalism and decided to continue using this style for our next assignment.

Our goal is that by the end of the fourth week of this class to complete a painting while going through all of the steps we have learned thus far.

For this assignment, I choose a landscape photo that I had taken while in Afghanistan for my next painting.

In May 2003, I led a United Nations statistical mission to Afghanistan in order to review a proposal for a census program for the war-torn country. Our team worked on this project for several weeks. The team was comprised of national statisticians from a number of countries, staying in a relatively secure location, but still very aware that we were in areas where heavy fighting occurs. It was a complicated mission, with difficult decisions, yet we could not but look up from our work and around at the ancient beauty of this city, this country, gateway to Europe and Asia. Kabul is a city of many languages, many ethnic groups, many years of sophisticated history.

It is worth noting that the earliest example of an oil painting was found in Afghanistan in caves near the ancient Buddhas that were recently destroyed by the Taliban. Scientists confirmed that some of the paintings were completed in as early as the fifth century, long before any other civilizations used oils for painting. The art history of Afghanistan is long and fascinating.

Looking up into the foothills surrounding Kabul, I cannot tell where the housing stops, and the hills begin. The soft tonal colors of the boulders up on the foothills mix with the angular shapes of homes. Higher homes have been hastily built as safe havens from street fighting occurring below. They are built at times without the privilege of electricity or septics, some with only walls up, windows and doors still hollowed out. Homes, to hide in, to tuck away in, as war and street-fighting have torn at this nation.

Our class has been discussing the art of tonalism, and since I wanted to paint a landscape, I decided to try working on a picture of an Afghani settlement in the foothills of Kabul. The soft pastels that of Afghanistan’s hills and valleys are often dotted with the bright blues of women’s robes (burkahs) as the women often wear them when walking outdoors in public. Soft greens of trees and fields are seen in the valleys of the Hindu Kush Mountains, often cut by a moving mountain stream flowing through. If one sees soft beige, slight pinks and purples, the observer is probably looking slightly upward at the foothills and the homes made out of a combination of handmade bricks, soft grey-brown mud, and some cement often sheltered by grey and purple foothills. The shockingly high mountains are differentiated mainly through varying shades of white snow, which I was not going to depict in this painting.

In a previous blog where I sketched out my plan, I decided to name this painting “Upwards”. I chose that title because upwards seemed to be where everybody was going. I thought I should photograph the two distinct kinds of urban settlements we mainly saw. There were those that were settled into the valley, and those headed “upwards”. We needed to learn as much as we could about Afghani settlements, as census-taking, world-wide, still includes the ancient science and art of counting and recording characteristics of every household and individual in a country.

I started with a copy of the uncut, unedited photo that I used for my inspiration for the painting, I do not plan to follow the photo in its entirety, but wish to use it as a reminder of how I felt at the time. My husband Joseph and I had lived in parts of south and western Asia for a number of years, and this place felt familiar, and welcoming to me. It is an amazing amalgam of a number of nearby cultures from the ancient lands of Persia to the Bay of Bengal.

In the process of deciding what aspect of these settlements to paint, I played around with photo cropping and sketching in order to see the big shapes and values better. I also hoped to highlight an Afghani woman walking with a child, her bright blue burkah flowing around her. It is always such a contrast with the softer colors of the streets.

Had I chosen to paint the entire photo, I would have used a diamond shape as my big shape, as seen in the slide show above. But instead, I placed the woman and the little boy off to the side, letting the light come to them. This made the larger shape of the painting more like a Z.

The spilled water on the road was a challenge and I wondered how to include it pouring down the open gutters and into the street, leaving reflections of nearby buildings, rather than the usual flowing rivers that slip through natural landscape paintings.

I started by sketching a variety of scenes, from a simple notan to short sketches of what I hoped to paint. From these sketches, I began to see a clear pattern of shadows highlighting hill homes and big boulders that cover the sides of the hills. I feel that it is important to simply this picture while still keeping the feeling of what it was like to be there.

At some level, I liked it so much I didn’t feel like adding any more paint. But, given that this is a learning device, once it was dry, I proceeded to the next step of adding oil colors over the sketch. I am hoping also, to keep the wood grain of my birch wood canvas showing in the painting, when it is useful to the scene.

Using the method we had earlier learned of placing transparent paint onto the canvas and then using rags or paper towels to remove some of the paint to leave big shapes and values, I ended up this this sketch for my intended oil painting.

“Upwards” oil painting,

This is as far as I got with the idea this week. No doubt, I will work on it some more after it is completely dry. I am interested in trying out various glazings, perhaps an earth red and a mixed blue-grey, to soften some of the bright pink hues of the foothills.

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“I learn faster by making big mistakes, while paying attention.”

Michael Orwick

This week in our art session with Michael Orwick’s class on the Value of Design sponsored by the Oregon Society of Artists, we all scrambled to take notes. This is because Michael took the time to show us how design and composition are linked with many other things, such as color, temperature, brushwork and edges.

One thing that he emphasized, is the importance of feeling free to make mistakes, and to experiment. He said that when we choose our colors for our paintings, we should work to make it sing our song. The song we sing and our color choices are our own. We will decide on the mood or atmosphere we hope to achieve.

Through pre-mixing of colors, we can think about what the five or six big colors that we hope to highlight in our painting. There is no right or wrong, but there are guidelines available to help us reach our goals.

He introduced us to a number of techniques for preparing our paintings, including framing; selection of canvas or wood; how to use gesso or acrylics, or other mixes for preparing the canvas; pre-mixing techniques; glazing techniques; transitions encountered while painting, choosing under colors to top colors, starting from dark to light, or light to dark.

My head was spinning at the end of this session. It was just what my head needed. I realized the only way out of this dilemma of “too many choices” was to make some. And that would mean making some mistakes. The important thing, I hope, will be to learn from them.

Briefly, I chose two old paintings that I never hung up because I was not completely happy with them, as experimental pieces for trying out glazing techniques. The first one I chose is an oil painting of birds on the beach.

Learning How to Glaze

The birds that I started with were painted with ultramarine blue, with some various yellows mixed in to suggest beach sand colors. Through glazing, the birds were shifted to brighter, softer tones, more in line with the colors reflected off the ocean beach waters. As I worked with the same painting, I first tried glazing the birds with earth red tones. Then I wiped that down and tried glazing them with lemon yellow and manganese blue mixes added in. In each case, the entire mood of the painting changed. It startled me to see how much influence these techniques and decisions had on the painting’s mood and atmosphere. Below, is the painting that I started with.

I then switched to an old painting of our backyard that was too dark, but I couldn’t figure out what to do with it to get it to feel like spring, that time of year when light hits young plants and the garden starts to go wild. I tried the same glazing technique to this painting, then added some lighter yellows to the left chair to make my point about how the sun was filtering through.

Early Spring, oils, unglazed
Early Spring, oils, glazed with lemon orange and cad red

Is seems to me that if I continue to work on this old painting of our garden, using further glazing and some follow up on lighter colors, I am headed to where I wanted to originally go with it.

After these two experiments with old paintings, I chose one of my recent ones for some trial work on how color might affect the mood of this painting. As a reminder, I was trying to go from “Notan” to rough sketches, to underpainting of a mountain scene.

Earlier sketching and underpainting of mountain view

Now that I am at the point that I am supposed to paint this mountain view, I am still torn by what design I should be using for it, and what colors to emphasize.

Here comes my spectacular big mistake.

I tried glazing this painting before it was sufficiently dry, and ended up having most of the painting slip away. So, I used this failure as an opportunity to consider what my options are regarding color and mood for the middle part of a larger painting.

Searching for the right mood of this painting with oils, same painting, different glazes

I started with the under painting showing trees on the sides and front. The trees are now gone. At this point in the life of this mountain painting, I am working from this one:

What have I learned from these trials? For one thing, I see that I have a great deal of latitude at every step of the way. I think what I want to do is to put a soft blue glaze over these mountains, after it truly is dry, to give the middle mountains some uniformity. I think I want to return to some trees in the forefront.

Somewhere in the future, I know that there is a painting of mountains in my life, highlighted with a few carefully selected trees in the foreground. I still have design issues to work out before I can commit to painting this. Ah well, back to the drawing board.

Big mistakes, big learning environment.

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This is the second week of our course work held with Michael Orwick on The Value of Design offered by the Oregon Society of Artists. We are still focused on design and are now using a minimal set of oil colors. Our attention this week is on values, that is the lights and darks that will be used in our paintings. Our emphasis is not color. I used four recommended oil colors, that is Earth Red, Ultramarine Blue, Titanium White and also used some Indian Yellow in the preparations of the following “underpainting” to show my intended values.

Oil on composite board

For the first painting above, I used a small piece of composite board, 8″ x 10″. My goal was to show the moonlight and how it is reflecting on the ocean in front of our winter place. The light of the moon strikes the water in the early evening.

Ink, gesso and brush followed by oil paints, 16″ x 20″ wooden birch board

In this second painting, I used a two-part approach on a wooden birch board. First, I sketched the setting using black ink and a brush. Then I gessoed in the light. Once I thought I had what I wanted, I used oils to suggest additional values that I would like to paint in to the picture. This is closer to my more natural way of thinking of paintings.

The earlier ink and gesso looked like this.

Oil on Birch Wood Panel, 12 X 12″

The third design, shown above, is based on the Afghanistan photo and focuses on light and structure while using what is a rather complicated photograph of a settlement in Kabul for my inspiration. In this case, I started with earth red and added blues, as needed. It will be fun to consider how I will paint over this to emphasize the necessary details without overburdening the painting.

Oils, 16″x20″ birch panel

This fourth painting, based on a photo that I took while hiking Mt. Hood, Oregon, is the one that started out as an H design and is now modified in a larger U-shape to focus almost exclusively on the light and shadows of the background mountains, while still hopefully implying that the observer is tucked away into the woods and hills, looking out at the mountains.

This painting has frustrated me the most. I may still ditch it, but am following through for now since I am doing this for a class session and am supposed to be learning from it. My frustration stems from not being perfectly happy with the design. I prefer, in many ways, an earlier sketch that I made and may go back and paint it from this other perspective. Or maybe I will end up doing both?

Earlier sketch of the same place done with ink and gesso, on paper.

In all fairness, however, I would like to add that I do not think that the design that I am painting is necessarily the problem. I may have to go back and capture the light better, like I was doing when I started off. I lost some of the spirit of the painting when I moved to “adding” colors while shaping the mountains. Below shows how my underpainting started off, prior to my adding and painting in earth red. I prefer this to the final underpainting that I made. Perhaps Michael might help me figure out where I fell off the rails with this one?

Earlier design using subtraction method, supplemented with gesso for light.

To summarize, I experimented with several things while working on my underpainting and emphasizing value and structure.

  • I changed the emphasis on the oil colors chosen for the value paintings, to see whether it will help me focus on the values rather than the colors;
  • In some cases I used what Michael Orwick calls a subtraction method of taking paint away to set values; in others, I used addition by adding values to base paint, putting in darks and lights as needed. Although both ways are effective, I personally found the subtraction method more interesting;
  • In the case of the bridge painting, I experimented with using ink to sketch the drawing and gesso to define the light, then painted oils over this design, using additional oils both brushed and rubbed on to the surface, as needed. I really enjoyed working on this as a way of emphasizing light and reflection.
  • Fourth, and finally, I am doing several paintings at once to encourage me to keep looking at the design and to not get too involved in finishing the painting.

It is helping me to go slowly through these exercises and to remind myself what I am doing at this point of the painting. I am focused on structure and value. This approach is a bit like doing physical exercise, where it is usually helpful to take some time out and consider one’s physical positions while doing the exercise, rather than simply aiming to finish, come hell or high water.

In all, I am finding this to be a whole lot of fun.

End of second week.

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Below are photos, sketches and paintings that I prepared for our zoom class called The Value of Design taught by Michael Orwick offered through the Oregon Society of Artists.

Note: First week of morning class beginning 6 January, 2020, a day in American History never to be forgotten.

Personal photo, Willamette River, Portland Oregon, 2020

This first week is focused on design, primarily using photography, thumb sketches and Notans. Below are four perspectives on future paintings that I propose to work on for this course using these techniques.

Perspective 1: “The Bridge”

Biking on the Steel Bridge of Portland looking winter north up the Willamette River, soft pink and blue pastels interrupted by soft grey circular shape of the bridge. Heavy machinery, bridges and equipment come with the natural territory of major rivers around here. I am wondering how many buildings, ships and types of equipment to include, and what their purpose might be. Reflective colors bounce across the water leaving impressions of shifting currents as light streams past. The shadows and reflections on the water are deep from the big boats and buildings.

Black and white photo rendition
Ink Pen Sketch on Paper
Softer ink tones added

Ink and gesso
Brushed ink with gesso
Three “Bridge” Notans in a collage, painted with ink, pen and brushes

Perspective II: “Unity”

Children play a game in Mumbai, India, on a busy street. Their feet touch, defining their play area. The sidewalk patterns mimic the shape of children’s feet and legs, demonstrating land ownership and unity.

Street pattern mimics the design created by the boys’ touching feet, emphasizing their coalition.

Personal photo, Mumbai, India, 2006
Notan, Ink withBrush and Pen on Paper
Notan using Ink with Brush, Pen, and Some Gesso

Perspective III “Outward”

Personal photo, Mt. Hood, Oregon, 2020

Hills present through the trees, with their soft, undulating blues. Dark evergreens make calligraphy painted with a big black brush, light piercing through the big H defining intimacy of location. It is a hiker’s perspective.

Ink and gesso perspective, some brush, some pen on paper
Three Notans in a collage, hand painted ink and brush
My Favorite Notan from this Perspective on Trees. Ink and brushes, some Gesso

Perspective IV “Upwards”

This photo taken in Kabul, Afghanistan in 2003 during a UN mission, census planning.

Settlements build up the hills as families relocate out of the rubble from heavily war-torn areas below. Homes in old area made from locally produced brick, mud and cement, walls remembering a more traditional construction. Homes above, cemented on to the hills, many without electricity or septic systems. Some sudden bursts of color on home exteriors, blue pastels.

There is a woman in traditional blue burkah, children walking alongside her, others communing on the street encircled by trees and mud puddles on major dirt road.

Hill homes simulate rock rubble, seeming like natural landscape, but not quite. Homes and land are a soft, brown, natural tone, a common overlay of communities, past and present.

Personal photo, Kabul, Afghanistan, 2003
Black and white photo, edited
Scribble Pen and Ink Sketch on Paper
Collage of 3 Notons, Ink and Brush

My favorite notan of this perspective:

Ink and brush on Paper

Other Thoughts on Perspectives for this Class

There are a couple other photos of our island home providing ideas for possible paintings and here they are, along with the Notans thus far completed using ink and brush on paper.

End of first week of class.

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