The Ohio Plein Air Society is hosting a show at the Springfield Museum of Art later this year. The show will feature paintings of Ohio prairies in all mediums. Monday a friend and I visited the Oak Openings area and painted one of the old growth prairies in the park. I've painted this prairie a few times and it's always interesting to see how it changes with the seasons.
This is one of the stranger (but fun!) pieces I have done as a custom order on Etsy. The client produced a photo of a dog sitting on a chair in a slightly awkward pose. She asked if I could put the dog on a throne and maybe dress him up like a king. I'll try anything (artistically speaking) once so I told her if she could find me some samples of what she was talking about I would do it. I had visions of hounds playing pool and poker in my head but the job turned out to be simpler than that. I did have a lot of fun creating this piece for Cathy and it is a gift for someone special. I hope they appreciate her ingenuity and my willingness to bring her idea to life. The dog is actually a puggle, a mix of a beagle and a puggle and he is quite cute. I'm showing the painting and the picture of the dog sitting on the chair like a little person that inspired her gift idea. ;)
I don't always use my own reference photos for paintings. If the image is simple enough and the message obvious enough, as it is in this image, I can usually make an interesting piece. I have done a lot of beach paintings of kids. I'm always careful to make the kids generic enough so people won't recognize them. I used a photograph by Rachael Curry, an artist friend, of her two children on a beach in Queensland. Rachael and her family live in Australia and I love the internet for this very reason. You 'meet' friends from all over when you share common interests-- in this case art. She posted a gorgeous picture in our online photo sharing forum of her children on the beach. They are obviously posing but the pose is adorable (to me) and has love written all over it.
I cropped this picture into a square format and used a warm peachy underpainting to counteract the huge quantity of blue. I also used a very limited palette of ultramarine blue, cadmium red light, raw sienna, viridian, alizarin crimson and cad yellow light. I love that she is taller than him. It just wouldn't have the same impact if they were the same height.
I'll talk a little bit about how I come up with subjects for smaller figurative paintings. My number one source, of course, is pictures I take myself. Sometimes others allow me to use their pictures but for the most part I am interested in my own subjects, which is why I took their pictures in the first place.
Last week I pulled out some pictures from September that I took at the local county fair. Our fair is the largest in Ohio, other than the state fair, and I love to walk around with my camera and photograph people. Sometimes I'll go through my files looking at photos when I only have an hour or so to paint and I want to do a small study. The bright colors and interesting people are what really draw me to the fair and those are the subjects I look for. Editing the digital images in Photoshop and experimenting with different crops allows me to isolate parts of a scene I find interesting. When the image is cropped to the size of the canvas I am using, in this instance a small 6" x 6", I adjust the contrast and run the threshold filter to simplify the composition and see if it works.
Above is the image I came up with and I like the abstract shapes. My goal will be to simplify them even further in the painting process but it's hard to do (for me). I get so bogged down in the details that I often lose the dynamic darks and forget to pump up the lights.
It's OK, and maybe even better, to change your painting when you use a reference of kids that you don't know. The sex of the child wasn't important to the story here so I changed her to a boy. I also moved the boy's arm and gave him a little action. In my version he is actually ready to toss the ball and try to win a goldfish. The incidental things in this painting really make me chuckle. What's up with the large funky elephant sitting in the background, staring directly at the child? The nondescript carny in the red ball cap seems suspicious. Luckily we have the suggestion of a dad standing beside him, so he is completely safe.