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Apr 13, 2014

More Cowbell…oops, I meant More Paint...

Here is a recent email exchange with a reader I want to share with you. With permission from Hal...

On Apr 5, 2014, at 3:04PM, Hal DeWaltoff wrote:

Hi, I read your blog all the time—and was especially interested in your info re other artist’s palettes.  Would you happen to know what Michael Lynch puts out to paint?  Looking at his work, I’d be amazed if he didn’t include black.

Keep up the good work and thanks,  Hal    

On Apr 13, 2014, at 1:44 PM, Thomas Jefferson Kitts wrote: 
Hello Hal:

Thank you for your question. If you mean this Michael: http://michaeljlynchstudio.com then I could not definitively say what his palette is without asking him directly but I would guess he is using tertiary earth colors, a few pure primaries and secondaries as modifiers, and black to reach the darker values.

It's great work and I am quite impressed at the veracity of it. Thank you for introducing Michael to me.

I took a quick look at your work too. Good foundation to build on. Why don't you contact Michael yourself and ask? Then let me know what you find out. We all like to talk about our process.



On Apr 13, 2014, at 11:18AM, Hal DeWaltoff wrote:
Thanks for getting back to me.  I did try to contact Mike Lynch but no answer, and he lists galleries where he isn’t showing anymore—mystery man.  So, in one word or two tell me what hits you about my work that needs building. First impressions are usually pretty accurate.  Just what hits you.  And, I won’t bug you anymore!  Though I am very jealous of your travels! 
Best, Hal

On Apr 13, 2014, at 1:44 PM, Thomas Jefferson Kitts wrote:

Easy-peasy, Hal.

I think the values you establish in your paintings are good and for the most part the color feels naturalistic. So if those are your primary goals then you are doing well with them.

Early Peaches
12 x 16 | oil on panel | Available

However, it may be time to start putting down more paint so you can push it around for further effect. Especially if you are enamored of Lynch's work. Think of your existing method as an underpainting that determines the essential light and dark value masses and use it for blocking in approximate color. Don't worry about maintaining a consistent surface or adding detail, just work rapidly and as accurately as possible at the outset and set up the painting for what will happen on your second pass. What will come next is you putting more paint down in select areas. In regards to where to put the thicker paint, you can follow the classical approach of the lighter the value, the thicker the paint while keeping your darks thin and transparent. Another way to think about this is the old adage, 'lean darks and loaded lights'. Or, if you prefer a more contemporary feel you can instead throw down thicker lights and darks in the area you want the viewer to read as the focal point. Almost everyone will interpret thicker paint as a directive to "look here!" if it is also contrasted by areas of thinner paint.

Early Peaches, enlarged detail

I would also recommend you start breaking your color along the surface planes of your subject more clearly. (This is the true definition of 'broken color', Not at all what the Impressionists were doing.) For example, when you are painting outdoors, depending upon the position of the sun, the top of a green tree may exhibit a blue bias from the sky as the foliage rolls away from you. Or, instead, if the sun is directly overhead that same tree top may exhibit a yellow shift. My point is when a plane changes so will the underlying hue, not just the value. This is what is meant to turn the form with color. 

So here one of the few rules in observational painting: Every time a plane turns towards or away from the light there will be a corresponding change in value. But there will also be a change in hue as well. For example: a red may shift towards orange or towards purple, a yellow may go more green or blue, and a blue may become more green or purple...that sort of thing. This is an color change which can be difficult to see at times but it is always present and such subtleties are often lost or unrecordable by cameras. So use your eye and look to Sargent, Sorolla, and Zorn for clear examples of how effective broken color can be. Or as I keep repeating, simply remember each time you see a plane shift know that the local hue will be affected as well.

When you put more paint down some very interesting things occur. Sure, the color become more opaque, which some view as a bad thing, but when the edges of thick paint come together it can create beautiful marbling and rich surprising blends. You can see this in Michael's work and he appears to be in full control of it.

Admittedly, forcing yourself to throw down more paint will be daunting at first. It is a entirely new game with new rules to learn and master. And trips to the art store will become more common. But thicker paint is what separates you from the colored renderer. So squeeze out those tubes onto your palette. Scoop the color up with your brush and lay it onto your canvas. Push it around. And start buying your paint by the pound.

Good luck. And remember, more cowbell...


4 reader comments:

Tim Young said...

Wonderful, thank you Thomas.

Thomas Jefferson Kitts said...

Thanks Tim! Good to be home.

Judy P. said...

'The true definition of broken color'- that helps as a sort of directional map in how to use it- to define plane changes instead of as a random effect to make a passage more 'interesting'. That makes it a concrete technique to create form, not a 'decorative' style. Logical tips like that really give a solid foundation for understanding this difficult thing called Painting- thank you!
But I wonder if you will be inundated with painters wanting personal critiques, now that you have opened the floodgates!

Thomas Jefferson Kitts said...

Thank you for your comments, Judy.

Yes, to break one's color along the planes of your subject is a good approach to creating the illusion of form. Cezanne introduced us to that way of painting, although to some degree it was already in place. (Note that I said illusion of form since we are painting on a flat surface.)

Until the invention of stronger hues during mid- to late 19th century, contrasting light and shadow was the principle approach to generating form and mass, and the old masters were quite skilled at wringing the most they could out of the limited range of color they had at their disposal. In any case, eve today a solid value structure remains essential, but being able to exaggerate cool and warm color relationships increases our ability to generate form. (Or, as some painters have already shown, one can dispense with light and dark for the most part and still create form out of similar values of contrasting hues and chroma – which is what French and American Impressionists on the Eastern seaboard eventually led to – if you are curious about my statement.)

As for personal critiques, no worries, as I'll pick and choose depending upon whether or not I believe an individual's work will help illuminate the way for the readers of this blog. And I will do so only with permission. Because sometimes I wonder if the topics I raise are of interest to many. (ha!)

If you have a specific question just let me know and I'll respond.

Thanks for reading the blog. Tell your friends as well.