Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Green Cabbage

"Green Cabbage" -- plein air field study -- oil on canvas  18x24" -- Margie Guyot

Sunday morning I went kayaking out on Lake Michigan with a couple friends.  I'd have gladly quit after an hour -- the sun was blazing, it was going up to 90 degrees and the waves made it rather challenging.  But nooooo -- we stayed out 3 hours!  I was pretty well tuckered-out by the time I got home.  Had to take a nap.
Ah, there's nothing like a little rest and cup of Starbucks to get me going again!  I loaded my Soltek, BestBrella, Gamsol and paints into the car and drove over to my neighbor's garden.  OK -- call me soft.  I could have carried it all over, but why suffer needlessly?  I'd had my exercise for the day.

Wearing my long bumblebee-free jeans, socks and shoes, I felt confident I would be safe from marauding insects, although I sweated like a pig.  90 degrees at 4 PM.  Did I mention I'm not a "heat person"?  But I had been wanting to paint one of the green cabbages for days.  Nothing was going to stop me.  Except rain.

How quickly the sun was sinking behind the row of trees to the west!  Brushes, don't fail me now!  I painted as fast as I possibly could.  Slap that paint around, girl!!!  It would be no good to try to paint without strong sunlight and shadows.  Notice how the sunlight seemed to make one of the leaves on the left side appear to almost glow?  It made the central vein appear a surprisingly strong yellow.
There's nothing like painting in good-old, strong sunlight!  You see colors you'd never be able to get if you were using a photograph as reference.  Depending on the angle of the leaf, some sections would be reflecting the blue of the sky; others would be reflecting the warm gold of the sun.  It's the strong shadow shapes that make an object "pop".   To me, if something doesn't "pop", it's just blah.  And why paint "blah"?

I usually do plein air in smaller sizes just because the light changes so quickly.  But I wanted to paint larger, showing the cabbage nearly life-size.  Impossible to do it proper justice on an 8x10" canvas.
The most difficult part of any painting, for me, is drawing it in.  I always use a little view-finder to help figure out the composition.  And I always use skills I learned from Betty Edward's wonderful book, "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain".  I used my brush handle as a kind of measuring stick, basing all the drawings of the leaves on the gauge of the tight cabbage head.  Otherwise this would have been impossible for me to draw.  And yes, I always have lots of wipe-outs!  But that's the great thing about oil paint -- it dries so slowly, it's easy to wipe out what you don't like.

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