Tag Archives: drawing

A spring commission

With the spring shows hung and the winter commission complete, I was thinking I would be able to turn next to some plein air painting, or perhaps to develop a couple of my James River plein air paintings into larger studio works. But that will have to wait, as I have gotten another commission! :-)

But first, a couple of shots of the garden, which, when last photographed was in a state of sad dishevelment! The gardens around the studio really come into greater color in the summer. But with the rubbish cleared and weeds pulled, things are coming alive in the side garden with Creeping Jenny on the path, flanked by Mountian Bluets (Bachelor’s Buttons) and creeping phlox. A flowering Dogwood makes a nice canopy, and the lilac in the fore is just starting to put off its heady scent.

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Here’s another shot below of the garden opposite the studio. In summer there are lilies, cone flowers, tall phlox and a butterfly bush. But my big thing lately is succulents. I love that they are water-wise and so marvelously sculptural. In the center is a succulent topiary I made last year. I will need to replenish a few of the tender plants that didn’t survive our winter, but it hasn’t been quite warm enough here to see much variety in the garden centers yet.

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Now that my daughter is a toddler, I can usually patch together enough time to noodle in the garden while she plays nearby. Working in the studio is a different story. At just 2 1/2 years old, her attention span is still pretty limited. So while she loves being in the studio, (and I love having her there,) I do have to shoo her out when it comes time to work, amidst howls of protest (and a certain amount of Mommy guilt as well).

…Which leads me to the commission! If you have been a reader for some time, this image might be familiar to you. In fact, I have painted variations of this scene a few times, beginning with the small painting done en plein air in the Blue Ridge mountains, and following with two larger 30×40 versions.

The commission came about as the result of my April show currently taking place at Design Domaine Gallery in Bernardsville, New Jersey. The client loved the painting “Morning Meadow” (click here to read my blog about this painting in the making) but it was much too large for her space. So my task is to recreate this scene in a 16×20 format.

Since a 30×40″ painting doesn’t exactly scale down to 16×20″, we thought it best to start with a sketch of the new painting so that the client could have a visual idea of how it would look compositionally.

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While on the one hand, it may seem easier to recreate something I have basically already done a number of times, it can sometimes be a challenge to meet client expectations. Sometimes, though not always, a client may, for instance, expect the new painting to be exactly like the first, only smaller. So an effort always has to be made to explain in advance that as an original work of art, a painting can’t be recreated stroke-for-stroke like the last.

The client does understand this, though she would like the color of the new piece to be as close as possible to the last. It was, after all, the combination of colors in Morning Meadow that she fell in love with.

Luckily, my prior blog post listed the exact color palette I used to create the larger piece! :) (I can’t tell you how often I have referenced my own blog to get this kind of historical information.) So while I won’t be able to remember exactly the combinations of color mixtures, I will be able to take some of the guesswork out of the process and use the same palette for this piece.

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Above is the sketch, reinterpreted onto canvas. At this point in sketch stage, I want to make sure I get an accurate placement for the various elements in the composition, so I’ve marked off in pencil the horizontal and vertical mid-points in the pencil sketch as well as on the painting to guide me. More to come in an upcoming post, where I will get into some color!

Lake Como W.I.P. & Demo

I mentioned in my last post that I had a new painting in the works, and I thought I’d attempt a little demo with this one. I say “attempt” because my laptop finally gave up the ghost, and these days I tend to do a lot of my writing via my mobile. Not only am I “all thumbs” (literally) but I have to sneak it in before my phone gets snatched away by the chubby little hands of my daughter who wants to “see pictures” whenever she sees it emerge from my pocket.

This will be a painting of the beautiful fishing village of Pescallo. Pescallo is a tiny, sleepy  little place that sits just down the slope from Bellagio (also very beautiful). In fact, I could see Pescallo from the balcony of my Bellagio hotel, and the drama of the light as it poured over the mountains and harbor beckoned me to take a stroll down there many mornings before we started the day’s touring.

I begin by sketching out a compositional plan that is also a value plan for the painting. I do this using light, middle, and dark value gray oil paints in my sketchbook. I often do a similar thing with Tombo pens (the grayscale ones), but mostly when I am painting outdoors as a way to quickly hone in and get a handle on my composition (in an environment that is bombarded with stimuli). But it is a good practice with studio work too. The oils are mentioned in Kevin Macpherson’s book, “Landscape Painting Inside and Out,” and I have long wanted to buy these paints so I could give it a try. They are Portland Gray Light, Medium, and Deep, by Gamblin. Hey, if it’s good enough for “KMac”, (as my husband calls him) it’s good enough for me!

notan sketch

The point of this is to see if your painting has a strong underlying structure with a unifying value plan without getting bogged down in details. This is really supposed to be more of a notan sketch at this stage, which is a very simplified thing and addresses more of the armature of the painting rather than the pinpoint accuracy of objects and shapes. It’s been a while since I’ve done this kind of study, and I realized at some point that I had not allowed much for the fourth value I was working with, which was the white of the paper. Oops! So I had to amend my sketch a little and add in some white for the lightest areas.

Still, I feel that my plan is solid and I’m ready to move forward by sketching out a line drawing on my 24×30″ canvas.

oil sketch lake como painting by Jennifer Young

For this I am using burnt sienna (Winsor Newton), thinned with Gamsol mineral spirits. I don’t much use this earth color in the rest of my painting stages, and while I could mix up  a good earth for such a job using my standard red, yellow, and blue, it is more of a convenience for me to use a premixed paint at this preliminary stage. I also like it because it lends a nice warm undertone to the canvas as I go along, and it doesn’t bleed into my other colors (especially the light ones like the sky) when I move beyond the sketching stage.

Now that I have a plan, I am ready to start painting with color! I’ll get into that in the next post .

Back to Tuscany; Vineyard W.I.P.

I think I will just make a deal with you readers (and, for that matter, with myself) to stop making lofty statements like, “I’m finally getting a regular schedule!” because something (like a 9 month-old cutting new teeth or reaching new milestones, for instance!) always seems to come up right afterwards. Still, I know I am fortunate to be able to do anything art-related at all, and  I have finally worked out my compositional pencil sketch for the next studio painting that  I thought I’d at least share. (Incidentally, I just want to say thank you to those of you who have sent me such nice, encouraging comments lately. I am glad to know that these W.I.P.s offer some interest. It’s a format that works well for me in that it keeps me posting regularly here on the blog, so I will try to stick to it at least for a while.)

This is again a scene of the visually dramatic area in Tuscany known as La Crete.

Tuscany pencil sketch

These little sketches are definitely not meant to be any kind of finished drawings, but with all the stops and starts in studio time nowadays, I am finding them really helpful. They help me to determine whether the composition will work , what I need to  edit out and include, how I might create interest with line,  light and shadow, etc. Though more detailed, they serve a similar purpose to the thumbnail sketches I have used from time to time while plein air painting.

Watercolorists know this approach well, but until recently it has typically not been my way with my studio oils. It takes a little bit more time when some days all I want to do is just dive right on into painting and get ON with it already! But with little sleep and even less free time, it’s helped me to feel less disjointed and to backtrack less when I am standing in front of the easel, bleary-eyed with a cuppa jo, trying to get my brain to start.

In case you can’t tell what this is to be, it’s a vineyard in the fore with a small outbuilding in the middle ground and a little Tuscan hamlet in the distance. What interested me most about this scene is the movement of line from front to back. There is a lot of information in this scene, (maybe too much? We’ll see…) and not much sky at all to speak of, so I feel that in order to make my present plan work I should use a canvas of at least 24×30″. Well, that’s a whole lot of writing for such a simple little sketch, but what can I say? Baby girl has napped well this morning. :-)

Pigeonniere W.I.P.

I am short on time today, so this post will be short on words (rare, I know!) I do have pictures to share, however, of my current 20×24″ painting on the easel. The plan is for this to be a larger, more developed version of the plein air piece I did in France (shown here) with more of the sky featured.

Compositional sketch:

France painting work-in-progress by Jennifer Young

Tonal sketch:

France landscape painting in progress by Jennifer Young

Sky lay-in (first go):

France landscape painting in progress by Jennifer Young

Ground and shrubs lay-in:

France landscape oil painting by Jennifer Young

France landscape painting in progress by Jennifer Young

Now the fun begins! :-)

A small commission, with just weeks away…

Given how long it has been since I’ve posted anything new here at all, I am almost embarrassed to write another “yes I’m still here” post. But here goes! The baby is now less than a month away from her due date and I am finally feeling as if I have gotten our household in some kind of order to prepare for her arrival. Unfortunately, now that I’m getting a little respite from the baby books, the shower, the classes, and prepping the nursery, I am, in this final trimester, also feeling my least energetic and creative. In truth, I don’t think I was prepared for just how exhausted I’d feel throughout the pregnancy. But now that I’m getting really big, I can’t really seem to do any one thing for very long before I start to feel quite uncomfortable.

So needless to say, painting has pretty much taken a back seat during most of my pregnancy, and it’s hard to say when that will change to any great extent after the baby comes. However, I do have one new little piece to share. It’s a small watercolor/pen and ink painting  (8×10″ on 11×14″ paper) that a client commissioned to commemorate her daughter’s upcoming wedding:

watercolor tuscany painting by Jennifer E. Young, all rights reserved.

“Flavor of Fagiolari”
Watercolor and Pen & Ink on Paper
sold

The scene is of a B&B in the Chianti region, not far from where I myself have traveled a number of times. It’s a special place to the betrothed because they met in Italy and stayed at Fagiolari during their travels through Tuscany together.

When I paint from photos, I prefer to work from my own references. I just have a much better feeling for the place if I, myself, have traveled and painted there, and my photos serve as a trigger to call forth those experiences. I also take several different viewpoints of a given scene, plus a number of details, so that I can have as much information as possible when I get to work. So it’s always with a bit of reservation when I consider working from a client’s photo, which is normally more of a one-off tourist snapshot.

But this commission was actually quite a joy for me. Not only was it great to be doing something in the painting realm again, but the photos provided were excellent. Having also traveled the area fairly extensively myself helped a good deal as well.  Plus I was given much leeway as to how I wanted to interpret them (the photos) and what I wanted to include, rather than being tied to making an exact, literal interpretation  (a.k.a. an illustration) of a scene.

What was most important to the client was that I caputre the “flavor” of the place (hence the painting’s title). Luckily, the client was delighted with the finished piece, and I had a good time getting my hands back in some art-making to boot. I tend to feel somewhat more intimidated by watercolors (as opposed to oils) but given its manageable size and the properties of the medium, I was able to stop and start more easily than I can with oils. It’s not without reason to think that maybe I can even attempt a few more before “D-day” (or make that B-day) but we’ll see. The one thing I can say about my life this past year is that it is anything but predictable!