Sunday, December 30, 2012

Angel Oak revisited

untangling a giant knot!
     It's been almost a year since my last series of paintings of the Angel Oak tree. Since then, I had an idea for another one, from a different spot, where all the branches are reaching towards me (actually the sun and water in back of me) It was nice to return there, feeling the calm and quiet stoicism of the mighty tree. My heart skipped a few beats when I pulled up one day and saw a large chipper and some guys hanging down from ropes with chain saws, but it was just her annual routine maintenance pruning.
pencil drawing, sketchbook
     I started with this quick pencil sketch. Since you're not allowed to set-up equipment just anywhere under the tree, my options are somewhat limited as to positions to work from. I already knew the spot where I wanted the painting to be, and actually, I have also picked out another spot for a painting in the future (as it turns out, all the paintings and drawings I've done will be at points around the canopy's circumference). In this quick sketch, my main objective was to capture the energy and movement of the branches and try and determine the scope of what I wanted to paint.

charcoal, 22" x 30"
     I returned later to work on a larger drawing in charcoal. This drawing took about 2 or 3 hours. I think of these larger drawings that I do as pieces that can stand alone, but their main purpose is to inform the painting and allow me to get to know the forms. Along with the sketch and photos, I used this one to determine the over-all composition and size of the painting. After the drawing was finished, I took a bunch of photos as reference for the light. Although most of my work is done from observation in front of the motif, I'm not a strict purist in regards to this. In this season of my life (with a new 4-month old), most of my painting time is at night after my kids go to bed. The photos allow me to continue the work in the studio, between visits to the tree.
photo collage mock-up

     With the photos, I made a mock up about the size as the final canvas (24" x 36"). I use this to grid out and transfer the image. My biggest problem working from the photo is that the space of the tree limbs are compressed and flattened; no sense of the space between things. Having painted and drawn this tree so many times, I can sort of move through the space in my minds eye, which helps a little. Obviously the color is different than in real life too. The photo does allow me to lock in the 'drawing' part of the tree.

in progress- 24" x 36"
     Here's the painting after about 3 painting sessions. At this point, it's all about blocking in the shapes and keeping the flow of the paint loose. In this initial stage, the most important thing is to capture the sense of space and the light; the details and form comes later and at a slower pace. At the beginning of the painting I use larger bristle brushes, which hold more paint and allow for a quicker build-up of the surface. After that, I can proceed with smaller sable brushes, but usually alternate between them depending on what kind of mark is needed. I plan on documenting each stage of the painting process...I might try and put these together to show the chronology of the painting through it's completion.

     This will be my last post for 2012. I don't keep up with this blog as much as I should; but I like to maintain it as a public journal for my paintings and my process behind the work. I would encourage you to 'like' my Facebook page: Francis Sills, artist. That has more frequent updates on paintings and drawings that I do and it's easier for me to dialog about them there. Hoping you have a blessed and prosperous New Year!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Marion Square

oil study: 10" x 15"
     I've decided to continue the with a series of paintings of Charleston from an elevated vantage point....my parking garage series. The highest points downtown (besides the church steeples) are the top floors of parking garages, and they offer me a good spot to paint. Nobody's there, the parking fees are low and the views are great. 
     This one is of Marion Square, a large public square at the heart of downtown. I was there a few weeks ago for a holiday celebration for my kids' school, and afterwards I went up to the roof deck to check out the view. A large "X" forms as two walking paths cross diagonally across the square; I found these shapes interesting...a pattern only appreciated from this elevated view. I decided create a symmetrical composition with the steeple of the Baptist church in the center and having it slightly off-set with this large X.

charcoal: 22" x 30"
       I did a few drawings in my sketch book and returned to do a larger charcoal drawing. A few weeks had passed and most of the leaves had dropped from my initial viewing. A few of the trees had wonderful yellow leaves, and I would have liked to had them to work from for the painting...The small oil sketch has them, but now the landscape looks somewhat more barren and muted. The sun is extremely low in the sky now, so there are some nice raking shadows to play with. Not sure how this will evolve as I just started the larger painting. I've got some photos to work off of, but it might be interesting to work on it through the winter and see how the scene changes with the coming of the new leaves in the spring. Another advantage of working in the South is that the Winters are really mild and short....I might have leaves start coming in March.
     I'm planning out another Angel Oak painting which I will blog about soon, and I will also be working towards putting a show together of about 12 paintings and drawings to show in Charleston in May. Check back soon for more updates...