Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The people's parks turn 100!

 Gulf Islands National Seashore,© Theresa Grillo Laird -Golden Hour- 24x48 -oil on canvas
for purchase contact The Studio Gallery 
If I wasn't an artist, my perfect job would be working as a ranger in the National Park Service. What could be more amazing than greeting everyday surrounded by the beauty of nature! I think half the reason painters paint out in the open air (en plein air), is because being out in nature so perfectly revitalizes the creative soul.

Last week on August 25th, we celebrated the hundred year anniversary of the National Park Service. I'll forever be grateful to Teddy Roosevelt for his vision and foresight in preserving lands for future generations!

In Pensacola, we have the good fortune to live in a town with a National Park. The Gulf Islands National Seashore stretches from Mississippi to Florida in parcels of coastal land and barrier islands. Parts of it like Horn Island in Mississippi, made famous by artist Walter Anderson, can only be accessed by boat. 

Minus a boat, I explore my park on foot, which in my opinion is the best way. It's slow enough that you can take in all the details and side paths that you miss with faster modes of travel. 

Gulf Islands National Seashore - ©Theresa Grillo Laird - Just Passin' Through- oil on linen 14x18
click here for purchase
Until I moved here, I'd never seen coastal land like this. Sugar white sand covers both the beaches and woodland paths, and is never hot underfoot despite the Gulf Coast's intense heat and humidity.The Gulf itself has crystal clear emerald colored water worlds apart from the bone chilling grey water of the Atlantic Coast. Various pines, live oaks, holly and wax myrtle cover the dunes and fill the coastal forest.

I particularly like the National Seashore in the Pensacola area. The land is bordered on one side by Pensacola Bay and on the other by the Gulf. One side has the beach and the other is full of coves that wind in and out for miles. There are dunes and marsh and fresh water ponds. The land seems to shimmer under the light of the Florida sun, and the scent of salt water and beach rosemary fills the air. Can you blame me for wanting to spend tranquil days hidden in the dunes with my easel and paints, peacefully attuned to the sights and sounds of my coastal Paradise?

Gulf Islands National Seashore - ©Theresa Grillo Laird - Through the Dunes - oil on canvas -  12x16
click here to purchase 

Monday, August 8, 2016

How Do I Start a Painting?

©Theresa Grillo Laird

Well, lately I don't have any one way. Sometimes I paint on a colored ground, sometimes I don't. Sometimes I block in a value pattern and build the colors up on top of it. Sometimes I cover the canvas in colors roughly of the shape of the objects then let the objects emerge from the field of colors. Lately I've been starting with my area of interest and building outward. Each method has it's advantages and drawbacks. 

One thing that does stay constant no matter how I begin is that I start with a very loose sketch in thin paint. The sketch is so loose that often it's hard for an onlooker to see what's there. But I know what the marks represent and they're enough to remind me of what I intended. I don't do a detailed sketch because it's going to get quickly covered up anyway.

So, let's take a look at these starts. Actually, each of these paintings are just a little bit past their beginning stage.

©Theresa Grillo Laird
This painting is part of a year long project to celebrate the centennial year of the National Park System. Go here to read about that project. As you can see, the painting was started on a toned ground. I've been working with a warm undertone, playing it against the cooler tones of the outdoors. One of the distinct advantages of working with a toned ground is that bits of the color show through the finished painting. This is especially useful when you're aiming to finish the painting quickly in one shot. Untoned, you get a lot of jarring bits of bright white showing through. You can barely see the original reddish sketch lines in the bottom right and between the unfinished houses in the background. With the shadow shapes changing rapidly, I started with the fort since I want it to stand out more than anything else. As I finished the walls, I painted the colors around them to make sure I had the values right.
Working section by section, rather than all over the canvas at once, I'll have to check that it all still works together when it gets close to the finish.

©Theresa Grillo Laird

Here's one, again on a toned ground, that started with value shapes. After the sketch, I blocked in the value and shapes of the land and coastal brush. From there I started applying colors keeping the colors lighter and greyer in the background. Next I'll focus on the area around the tree using stronger colors and thicker paint.

©Theresa Grillo Laird

This was not started on a toned ground. The advantage there is that the colors look the closest to how you've mixed them. The white of the ground shines through giving them a bright clarity that you don't get on a toned ground.You can just barely see the outlines of the original sketch in the tree reflection area. In this one I started right in with color focusing on getting the value relationship between sky and water, trees and tree reflections accurate.

©Theresa Grillo Laird
Finally here's one on an untoned ground.You can see the as yet shapeless strokes of different greens. To finish this one, I'll start pulling shapes forward and pushing other back using warm, cool and greyed colors. It's a fun way to work! Bit by bit the sense of depth and dimension comes to life in the scene. Right now the vegetation on the dune in the back and the vegetation in the foreground, read as being equally close to the viewer.

So, try different approaches. Study artists who teach to see how they begin a work, and choose what works best for you in whatever painting situation you find yourself in. And if you want to learn with me, now is the time to sign up for fall classes at Pensacola State College Continuing Ed.Click here for information.

Happy painting!

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