Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Tan or Notan

After a couple of days scouting around the North Norfolk coast it was off to the Norfolk Painting School for two days of the most intense thinking and practice that I've ever had. The title of the course was 'On Location' and was to be a mixture of working both outside and in the studio.

As is usual with Martin's courses there was to be a healthy mix of theory, demonstration and practice. We began by looking at a variety of works by masters and asking ourselves how they worked as paintings. Then on to look at ways of recording for the purposes of preparation for studio painting, using sketches by people like Turner and Constable as exemplars. Here we were urged to see the difference between Mass and Line and asking ourselves where and when each technique is appropriate. The end of this session was to grasp the usefulness of the Notan as the basis of ensuring that we had an arrangement of elements that would produce a coherent composition. We all produced a series of notans in response to a picture of a cathedral depicting how we would select a method of presenting the basic elements in light and dark to make a pleasing picture. Below are a set produced by Martin, showing a range of options in terms of lighting and shadow.

Notans - Martin Kinnear

Our next task was to give some thought to rendering scenes by applying paint in a simplified way but using the same underlying principle - outline the way the final image will be presented.

The next two pictures show different approaches to another cathedral picture.

Durham - M. Kinnear

Durham - M. Carney

Martin then demonstrated how the most complex scenes could be reduced to simple working sketches, but more of this later. It was now time to head outdoors. The venue for our afternoon session was Burnham Overy Staithe, a fascinating small village on the coast with typical Norfolk creeks, rapidly changing water levels and lots of boats. A place that would test us in terms of simplifying the scene in front of us. Our object was to produce working studies for future use. The group was small, three students, and we all produced at least four oil sketches that could be used as the basis for further paintings. Interested passers-by stopped regularly to comment on the mounting body of work being produced and laid on the grass at our feet. An intense session with lots to think about and criticise.
The two panels below are indicative of the work that I did. They show a similar view but the second demonstrates a different degree of decision making in terms of how I saw potential in the scene before me. The second will be the source sketch for a studio painting, hopefully started soon. Hopefully there is a greater feeling of light in this interpretation.

Burnham Overy Staithe 1 - Oil on MDF panel 11"x 9"

Burnham Overy Staithe 2 - Oil on MDF panel 11" x 9"

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Back to Norfolk - Part 1

Fortune strikes from time to time. Sheila was to head off to Lancashire for a reunion with friends from college days. The fortune lay in the fact that there was a course at Martin Kinnnear's Norfolk Painting School taking place the same weekend so I enrolled and had the benefit of a couple of extra days in the area. My first two days there were spent looking around the fascinating range of creeks, bays, beaches and little harbours scouting out venues for future painting expeditions. Of course the opportunity was not lost to unload the paints and have a go.

Readers will know that recent weeks have been a bit difficult and that I have been trying to assimilate some of the lessons from friends in the on line community as well as reading the works of some eminent paractioners and teachers. What a way to get confused. Never mind it's all churning around inside and hopefully will emerge fully formed in a 'Carney' style at some stage down the line, although reading some of the greats would seem to suggest that I may not live long enough to get there. Nevertheless the journey is fun and stretching and keeping me thinking.

The two paintings below were done whilst investigating the North Norfolk coast and were put down in fairly short order, more as a record than as completed works, although both will be used to inform other work. More of that later.

Scolt Head - Oil on canvas board 12" x 10"

Morston Creek - Oil on canvas board 12" x 10"
The next post will be based on the work done at the Norfolk Painting School.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Still Life

This week has been one of reflection, musing upon the lessons learned about recession and chroma. The last post showed a little improvement in this regard. On the advice of Wet Canvas regular, Michael McGuire, I decided to look at the work of Susan Sarback, a teacher in the tradition of Henry Hensche and Charles Hawthorne. The main messages that I have got so far relate to full colour seeing and using a staged process to build the painting. It makes so much sense to me that I am about to follow some of the exercises, particularly the block exercises advocated in the book, 'Capturing Radiant Light and Colour'. In the meantime I used the four stage process in making this still life image.

Steps are: 1) Establish the masses;
2) Refine the masses;
3) Establish variation in the masses;
4) Add more variation in the masses.

Whilst I have a way to go to assimilate the process into my regular practice, I found it a good way to channel the thinking process during painting. My aim is to build sufficient confidence to use the process during my plein air sessions and this next week will see me get the opportunity to do that. I am off to the Norfolk Painting School to spend a couple of days doing a plein air workshop with Martin Kinnear. With any luck I'll have some improving work to show when I next post.

Still Life - Oil on canvas board 10" x 8"

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Chemical Beach

Values, recession, chroma all nagging away in the back of my mind, I decided to return to a spot I painted a couple of weeks ago. This is an interesting beach, named after an adjacent chemical works that existed in the early part of the last century. The headland beyond has a number of facets not visible and collectively they are known as Noses Point. Whilst these beaches have long been frequented by sea anglers they have been cleaned up in recent years and are becoming popular spots for locals to walk along newly created cliff top paths. A coast that was despoiled by various industries, particularly the coal industry, is being returned to a more natural state. One of the few benefits to the area of the demise of the main source of employment.

The painting was attacked with an expanded palette. Ultramarine replaced Indathrone Blue and Cadmium Yellow, Cadmium Lemon were added to Naples Yellow, Venetian Red and Titanium White. Hopefully, increased chroma in the foreground has created a greater illusion of recession and a little more interest. Maybe another step along the way has occurred.

Chemical Beach - Oil on canvas board 12" x 10"