Saturday, September 18, 2010

Finished realist CT farm landscape, oil on mounted linen by Paul Baldassini

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Hay Tedder completed painting

Here is the Hay Tedder painting completed after the last stage of overpainting.  Once the painting had dried out in the sun for a day, I brought it back into the studio and placed it back up on the easel.  After a couple of days I had a look with fresh eyes and it became immediately apparent that a few things were bothering me and some adjustments were in order.  I put out a bit of fresh paint and finessed a bit here, a bit there, glazed some areas that were too light and applied some highlights here and there with thicker paint.  Changed a few hues and values, signed it and called it quits.  One could noodle a painting to death -- its important to know when to stop.  The painting will tell you when its done.

After two weeks (minimum) or longer I applied two coats of Old Masters Mastic Varnish which brought the whole painting to life and now it just needs to be framed.

I will most likely do a couple of field studies before beginning my next large studio work and will post them here, so please visit again.

Until my next post, then.  Thank-you.


Friday, September 17, 2010

Realist Landscape of CT farm in-progress, oil on mounted linen by Paul Baldassini

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Hay Tedder overpainting day 2

Here is Stage 3 of my work-in-progress which is proceeding much the same way as the previous couple of days work.  I tend to work in areas of similar colors. That is, I finished all of the green tractor areas before moving on to the tires.  That way I’m only mixing, for the most part, colors that I need for a particular area.  In the case of the mostly darker values in the tires, I kept my darks lively and mixed my “blacks” by many variations of Indigo, Perylene Maroon, and Burnt Sienna Dark cooling or warming as necessary and never adding whites, instead lightening with Sennelier Warm Grey.  That is my “mother” color and I mix it into nearly of my color mixtures to gray everything down.  That way, toward the end of the painting when I place some mid-value local color stokes here and there, I omit the Grey.  The color then appears jewel-like against the more neutralized other grayed-down colors.

The darkest values are glazed on thinly using my jelly medium (Old Masters Maroger, Flemish Formula) and progressively lighter and thicker values worked onto and into the thin dark glaze.  My palette eventually has many small patches of many different similar values and I just grab from this one and that one, creating more patches.  I use only one or two brushes, usually flats, and always with a rag at the ready in my left hand, I constantly wipe paint off before dipping into another color patch.  At this stage I will often work the entire painting with just one brush.  The work-up proceeds very fast and once I get into the painting zone some force takes over and its all very automatic.  Its great fun.

Next post will feature the finished painting.  Thanks for visiting


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Thoughts on painting the familiar by Paul Baldassini

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Tables, chairs, coffee & café patrons;
Fields; tractors, farmers & haybales

Since putting up my website about a year ago now I’ve received numerous emails commenting on my recent work, along with a number of emails regarding my Café Watercolor Series.  Recently this has included inquiries regarding purchase and purchase price.  I’ve explained how I don’t really (at least for now) do the café paintings anymore because I’m concentrating on the Working Land Series instead.  So I thought I would provide some clarification and explanation of where I’m coming from on all of this.  Like most of my posts this will be a long discussion so I hope you will read on and post me some commentary.

I firmly believe that artist’s most emotional and sincere work will only happen after one has fully assimilated and absorbed their immediate surroundings.  That is to say the sights, sounds, smells and feelings one experiences everyday in their ordinary living, working, playing and family life.  Since most of these experiences happen on an unconscious level, the familiarity of “place” allows, at least for me, a certain recall of sensations and the ability to translate to canvas deep meaning and feelings exclusive of my resource material, be they camera, sketchbook, or field studies.

This is not the same as “imagination” which is different than “memory.” The dictionary defines imagination as “...the power of the mind to form images and things not present to the senses or within the actual experience of the person involved.”  That is not to say that imagination is a bad thing in the creation of visual images, indeed it is a motivating force for many artists and much great art has been created as a result of the “imagined landscape” or imagined whatever.  For me only assiduous observation and study of things in my immediate environs can lead to a fully realized work.

For example, I do not think that I could produce a very good work of say, the Grand Canyon.  Having been there twice, it certainly is a majestic and beautiful sight to behold.  I was moved, humbled and in awe of the vastness of the landscape and even think I experienced the “life force vortex” of the Canyon so often written about in that part of the country.  But that is not enough for me to go home and “do a painting” of the Grand Canyon from say, some source photographs.  The work would lack a certain power and quality that can only come from living in Arizona or nearby that part of the country, thus assimilating all of the sensory inputs both consciously and unconsciously over a period of time.

In other words, since I lacked the assimilated Grand Canyon life experience I could not be moved from source material alone to produce a compelling image.  And if I could not produce a compelling image then no one would be compelled to enjoy it either.  I believe that if I do a good job with something that I am passionate about -- and nothing is accomplished without passion -- if I make a painting about something I love, someone else will love it also.

That does not mean, of course, that I could not set up in the field and paint a Grand Canyon scene or any other scene anywhere en plein air. I would and could most likely, produce an acceptable work.  Most of my work, however, is realized in the studio mainly through the use of photographic reference material, taken in the field over and over again nearly every day with an eye honed and trained in design and composition, for over 30 years.  Thus I am very attuned and sympathetic to the quality of light and color, shapes and shadows of my surroundings and can bring all of that to bear on photographic sources in a way that I could not by utilizing the photo-reference taken from the rim of the Grand Canyon, for example.  Not to mention the fact that its taken me years to develop a working palette to deal with the overwhelming amount GREEN all around me here in CT. I also like to get very up close and personal with my subject matter so painting a Canyon scene from say, some vantage point on the south rim, would not be suitable for my personal artistic vision.  At least not today.

Perhaps this sounds limiting to some of you, but I do not find it limiting in any way.  There is unlimited subject matter all around, you just have find it or better yet, let it come to you.  To get back to where this post started, I will say that because I worked 12-hours days at my very busy design studio in Boston’s Back Bay, I had no time to paint during the day finding, at best and not often, time to paint only at night at home. But, I had coffee every morning at a wonderful European-style café around the corner from my studio -- the Travis Café -- now long gone and since replaced with a high-end designer kitchen boutique.  I sketched and photographed café patrons there every morning and many afternoons for nearly a decade and got quite accustomed to the quality of light and color, shapes and shadows of my surroundings.  I have many sketchbooks that attest to a certain “café sensibility.”  This meant that I was able to assimilate, integrate and translate my European café experiences back in the studio into what eventually became my Café Watercolor Series of paintings.

So here I am living in Middletown, CT with my family and two cats, a very nice place to live and work and paint.  Now, as then, I do not have to travel far to find source material for my paintings.  The “Café Watercolors” series of urban landscapes filled with café patrons, table, chairs and accoutrement have been replaced with the “Working Land” series of countrified pastoral landscapes replete with farmers, hayfields, tractors and haywagons executed in the medium of oil paint.

And I’m quite content with that.

Until my next post, thank-you for listening.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Realist Landscape in-progress, CT farm, oil on mounted linen by Paul Baldassini

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Hay Tedder overpainting day 1

Here is Stage 2 of my work-in-progress showing a couple of days of overpainting. Basically my paintings are painted twice -- once for the underpainting, then the overpainting, which takes longer. First I brush on a bit of medium (I use Old Masters Maroger Medium), Flemish Formula) and work the overpainting same as the underpainting, from the top down usually from left to right so I can rest my hand on the dry underpainting while I work on the left side. I define sections by looking for natural edges (the figure, tractor fenders, tires, etc.) and bring each section to completion before moving on the next section. This way I can blend edges of the sections together, if necessary, keeping some edges soft or hard as necessary.

Because I use Maroger medium (Old Masters ONLY) the painting remains tacky the next day which is great for blending the new sections into the previous days work. Otherwise the paint is completely dry within 2 days. If I don't get to paint the next day, which is often the case, then a bit of medium brushed over the edge of the dry work into the next sections allows for seamless integration of the next section. As you can see here the greens set up beautifully over the Quin. Magenta underpainting and all values are judged and matched against the value already in place in the grisaille.

The dark shadows are quite thin, and the paint gets applied heavier as the values lighten up, the whitest highlights almost straight out the tube and almost always tinted with a touch of yellow or blue depending on whether I want them warm or cool. Some glazing and additional overpainting occurs over previously painted areas that I feel are bothering me. But one has to be very careful with this last phase as it is VERY easy to fiddle and diddle to death and end up compromising a good work.