Friday, September 24, 2010

Field study CT farm landscape with bull, oil on mounted linen by Paul Baldassini

Please contact me via email:

Field study "Best Friends"  9 x 12 oil on mounted linen -- $150

Since I was unable to complete the underpainting for my new work this morning I am posting a recent field study instead. If I get a chance to paint today and complete the underpainitng I wil post it later or tomorrow. This work is entitled "Best Friends" and was painted en plein air at a local farm here in CT. Like most of the farm owners I've met in and around CT, they are very generous in allowing me access to their property and don't seem to mind me composing and snapping images while they work, or me painting out in their fields. It was very hot and the the bulls were very lazy and passive like big black shiny lumps on the ground in the morning light. I had to work rather quickly and made some adjustments later back at the studio which I usually try not do. I prefer to let the field studios stand alone as they were painted, good or bad but really felt that this sone needed some refinements.

My palette for this piece included Cadmium Yellow Medium (Rembrandt); Cadmium Orange (Winsor newton); Fanchon (Napthol) Red (Williamsburg); Perylene Crimson (Williamsburg); Burnt Sienna Deep (Blockx); Viridian (Williamsburg); Ultramarine Blue French (Williamsburg); Indigo (Williamsburg) and Titanium Zinc White (Gamblin). I don’t use any medium when painting outdoors and keep my OMS in an 8oz. Anderson Stainless Steel Airtight Brush Washer. My field kit is an Easy L Versa horizontal pochade box, tripod, and umbrella from Artwork Essentials. I modified the inside of the box by fitting a piece of photo-gray matte board to the bottom over which a piece of 3/16-inch glass has been fitted and caulked with clear solvent-resistant caulking. This makes nice large mixing area and perfectly mimics the ergonomics of my studio set-up.

Thats it for now. Thanks for checking in again!


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Underpainting of rural CT landscape with tractor, on mounted linen panel by Paul Baldassini

Please contact me via email:

In-progress underpainting using just Quinacridone Magenta.

Its a gorgeous morning here in CT, pleasantly warm and plenty of yellow-orange sunlight streaming in the studio doors. My studio is a rather small intimate space -- a built-out basement actually. Much smaller than both of the studios where I worked in Boston before moving to CT six years ago. A lot less natural light but I’ve gotten quite used to it and supplement with two 4-foot overhead industrial light fixtures each fitted with two OTT-LITE VisionSaver fluorescent tubes. 65-watt Phillips Daylight floods provide additional overhead lighting. My muses have found there way here and I’m producing my best work ever right now, so I’m happy about that. I stay very busy juggling graphic design assignments and restoring antique photographs to create an income stream, and help to take care of my 5-year old daughter, but I still manage to paint almost every day. On my previous post I discussed and previewed both the source image and the drawing on a prepared panel of my new painting tentatively titled “Yellow MMZ in morning light”.

Today I began the underpainting and went as far as I could before time ran out and I had to see my daughter home from kindergarten. Once again, I’m using just Quinacridone Magenta for the underpainting, a jar full or OMS (Odorless Mineral Spirits), a couple of crappy brushes -- old filberts that have turned into flats, and old flats that have turned into brights -- and a rag at the ready for wiping out. I usually start at the top left and work my way down and to the right as it allows my to rest my hand on the unpainted part of the panel, if necessary. I try to use my hand AND arm to paint, holding the brush way back on the handle, never on the ferrule so as not to nudge about on the details. What appears to be detail in my work is really just a collection of careful placed marks put down in some kind of correct color and value scheme to create an illusion of detail. The mind will believe there is much more detail then there really is from carefully painted “suggestions” of detail. Although I work from photographs, I’m not a photo-realist and I am not trying to achieve a surface where evidence of process is subordinated to the slickness of the source image. I prefer to see some evidence of the hand in the process.

This morning I listened to Peter Green Splinter Group first studio recording “Destiny Road”, recorded in 1999 from Snapper Music, Inc., England. Check out “Say that you want to” and “You’ll be sorry someday.” Somewhat in the shadow of many great lead guitarist during rock’s primal years in late 60’s through mid-70’s or so, Green’s style was was sublime and underrated. He was the original founder of Fleetwood Mac, and after a very long illness and absence from the music scene, returned in the late nineties and formed the exceptional Splinter Group. The subsequent live recordings are really great and superbly engineered. I had the pleasure of seeing them live in Boston back then -- great stuff.

More in-progress action on the next post.

Thanks again for visiting.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Drawing of rural CT landscape with tractor, on mounted linen panel by Paul Baldassini

Please contact me via email:

On my last post I discussed and illustrated how I go about creating a source image for a painting, normally a large studio work.  That final reference image for the new panting tentatively titled “Yellow MMZ in morning light” is below.  I’m ready to begin the new work and today I’ve taken the first step in my working process, getting the drawing on the panel.  I’ve prepared a mounted linen on panel in my customary manner.  You can read more about that in greater detail on my website at

Reference image for new painting
I like to listen to music when I’m working -- it really gets me into the painting zone fast.  This morning I listened to John Mayall’s “The Turning Point”.  Originally recorded in July 1969 at Bill Graham’s Fillmore East and engineered by Eddie Kramer, the 2001 reissue from Universal Records has been exceptionally remastered and includes 3 new tracks unavailable on the original vinyl or early CD release. Especially nice is the new “Sleeping by her Side.”  The beautiful early morning sunlight coming in the studio doors and the superb musical set really set the mood for the morning.

With my post-image production done, I convert the image to grayscale using the Channel Mixer function and/or channel-blending operations (more info on that in a previous post).  The grayscale image is then scaled up to actual size and output to lightweight presentation paper on a large format inkjet printer. The print is then trimmed and attached to my panel with a large piece of Sally’s Graphite Transfer Paper sandwiched in between.  I then trace the essential lines and shapes with a red ballpoint pen and my drawing is nicely transferred to the panel and ready to be underpainted.  The drawing is shown below.  Note that I have purposely darkened the image so it will display better on the post.

Drawing on linen mounted panel

More in-progress action on the next post.

Thanks for visiting.


Monday, September 20, 2010

Photoshop image editing technique of contemporary realist landscape in progress by Paul Baldassini.

Please contact me via email:

In a previous post I discussed how I prefer to use image editing software -- mostly Adobe Photoshop -- to develop compositions based on field photography source images.  My working method is to compose and crop images in the viewfinder paying attention mostly to the light and shadow of the subject or main foreground object.  For me these days, that would most likely be a tractor or a haywagon.  Very often when I get back to the studio to view the images I find that I don’t really like the background.  No problem.  I always have my camera with me wherever I go and constantly shoot new landscape reference images that might be used in the future to generate and develop new compositions.  So, over the years, I have amassed quite a large archive of background landscape images taken in all seasons, times of the day, weather and light conditions.  Removing and substituting a new background for an existing background is, with a bit of work, easily accomplished.

I’ll illustrate how here using the reference image for my next painting.  Below is the original image after color correction, Shadow & Highlight adjustment and cropping (more on that in a future post).  It was taken at one of the many tractor fairs I go to during the year.  Its a great composition but the background just doesn’t do anything for me.  Next to the original image is a landscape from my archives matching, for the most part, the light direction and time of day and should integrate convincingly into the background.

Left: original cropped  image;  right: replacement background image
First step is to silhouette the main subject of the composition and create a Mask.  This mask will then be used to delete the original background allowing easy substitution of the new background.  I have found that over the years, and because of my graphic arts training that the best way to silhouette part of an image is to use the Path (Pen) tool to create an editable vector path.  Making vector paths using the path/pen tool can seem very difficult, if not impossible, if you haven’t had much experience using this tool.  But its well worth the effort and produces VERY clean silos that seamlessly integrate into new compositions.  Like everything in Photoshop, there are many ways to accomplish the same thing and you should use any method comfortable to you to get the job done.  I’ve been creating silo paths for so many years in both Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, its just automatic and a natural way for me to work.  A path can be saved and then used to create a new Channel which itself can be modified as necessary to create a working mask.  Once thats done the mask channel can be loaded and used to clear and extract the old background.

The original image also needed some retouching before I made my silo path.  The headlight was cut off at the top and I wanted more image above the headlight, so I created a new headlight and extended the top of the image a bit. Once the path is complete is can be made into a selection by selecting the path and pressing the Command key and hitting the Enter key.  You’ll see the “marching ants” indicating a loaded selection.  Then Click on the New Channel icon in the Channel palette (dog-eared icon at bottom right of the layers palette next to the little trash can).  Below left is the edited image and on the right is the Channel mask generated from the carefully drawn path.  I added a gradation along the “horizon line” to soften the transition between the edited image and the new background.  Then I softened the hard edges by applying a 1-pixel Gaussian Blur filter to the entire image.  In the Channel mask image the black areas represent the part of the image that will be PROTECTED and the white areas represent the parts of the image that will be DELETED when the mask is applied.

Left: original silo  image;  right: silo channel mask image
Next, in the Layers palette ALWAYS be sure to duplicate the background image before altering the original image by hold-clicking and dragging the background image into the little dog-eared New Layer icon at the bottom right of the layers palette next to the little trash can.  By default the duplicate image is called “Background copy”, now has TRANSPARENCY and the title is no longer in italic. Name the layer something appropriate, and turn off the bottom (Background) image by clicking on the little eye icon left of the layer thumbnail.

Load the Channel Mask by Command-clicking it in the Channel palette, hit the Delete key and the old background is gone.  You can its gone tell because of the checkerboard default pattern showing through.  Deselect by pressing Command-D BEFORE placing a new background image underneath the layer with the deleted background.

Once I decided on a suitable new background image I made sure it was at least as large as my working file and had lots of extra image all around.  Its important that the resolution of the new background image matches the resolution of the original image or it will appear too large or too small and be unusable.  Then, open the new background image file so that both files are open at the same time and click-drag it over into the working file.  If you had the bottom most Layer (Background) selected (but turned off) then the new image should have been placed above it and below the silo layer.  If not then click-drag it under the silo layer.  You also could have copied and pasted the image but I like to click and drag.

You can immediately see the effect of new background below the silo image layer.  Because I did not crop the new background image, using the Move (V) tool I could move it around quite a bit until I had something that looked good.  Its a great way to compose and change in real time.  Once I was happy, I cloned out some of the bulls head, color-corrected, applied the Shadow & Highlight adjustment and retouched the sky and tree line.

At left below is the final composited image.  Below right is the same image with a Mexican beach scene background instead of a compatible CT landscape just to show how seamlessly this method can effectively integrate separate images.  I could have used an image taken by the Mars Rover (free public domain image),  a winter snow scene or an image of my livingroom.  The point is to experiment and see what happens.  You may end up with something interesting enough to spark an idea that you never would have thought of otherwise.  It expands and builds confidence in your image editing skills, and its also great fun.

Left: new composite  image;  right: new image with silly background

My next post will feature this demonstration image as my next in-progress painting.  Please visit again and follow along.