Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Farmall C in-progress oil on panel by Paul Baldassini

Please contact me via email:
paul@baldassinifineart.com

“To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.”  — Joseph Chilton Pearce


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I have been quite busy with paying commercial work for the past 5 weeks or so, and have finally found some time to prepare new panels and  start a new painting.  It's an old Farmall C that belongs to a neighbor at the end of my street.  Several of his old tractors have ended up in previous works, but this is the first painting of one of his Farmall tractors. I particularly like the double front wheel and the rather wide spaced rear wheels.

There was no need to composite two or more images along with an invented background to create this composition.  I managed to get everything I wanted and needed in just a single reference shot, which rarely happens. The usual digital editing in the way of  contrast and tonal  adjustments and color tweaking, and I was off and running.

P. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Yellow MMZ; completed oil on panel by Paul Baldassini

Please contact me via email:
paul@baldassinifineart.com

“Art that does not attempt the impossible is not performing its function.”  — W.B. Yeats


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Here is the completed painting, a total of 62 hours, the most time I’ve spent on a painting in this series so far.  But it’s definitely a keeper and I’m looking forward to seeing it framed.

The foreground grasses began as a glaze coat mixed from a base mixture of Indigo (Williamsburg), Chinese Orange (Sennelier), a bit of Viridian (Williamsburg) and a bit of Warm Grey (Sennelier).  With a lot of jelly medium added (Old Masters Maroger, Flemish Formula) to a pile of mixed color, I brushed this on using a Monarch Flat No. 8, and switched to smaller brush around the tires.

While that coat was setting and starting to get a bit tacky I mixed up lots of small piles of warm and cool greens in various values as necessary to match the value plan of the underpainting.  All of the colors were grayed down with Warm Grey and/or Raw Sienna. To create the illusion of lots of field grasses, I added some detail grasses here and there with progressively smaller Filbert brushes.  The whole thing came together pretty quickly in less than 3 hours.  Its the most fun part of the painting as I can stay pretty loose compared to all of the steadiness required on the tractor mechanics.  The next morning I examined the painting with a fresh eye and a fresh cup of coffee in hand.  After a bit of fiddling and diddling, I knew it was done.  After a few days of drying I signed it and immediately went on to prepare panels for the next two paintings.

btw:  I am now a Member of the Lyme Art Association after having two paintings accepted recently into their “Deck the Walls” holiday show.  The two paintings are titled The Hay Tedder and Study in Red & Gray.

P.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Yellow MMZ; in-progress oil on panel by Paul Baldassini

Please contact me via email:
paul@baldassinifineart.com

“He who does not understand your silence will probably not understand your words.”  — Elbert Hubbard


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Here’s a shot of the painting in-progress to date with tires and wheels completed and only the foreground field and grasses left to paint.    I’ve spent 59 hours on this new work.

The tire mixtures began as a puddle of “black” mixed from Indigo, Perylene Crimson and Burnt Sienna Dark.  Makes a nice rich black and is easily modulated warm or cool with the addition of more or less of one of those colors.  Sometimes I add Ultramarine Blue Deep or a touch of Raw Sienna but I never really know when or why, and just try it and see if it works with the overall harmony of convincing outdoor light of the painting.  This black is lightened by adding Warm Gray and warmed or cooled as necessary by the addition of either Ultramarine Blue Deep or Indigo.

The wheels are painted with a mixture of Fanchon (Napthol Red) and Perylene Crimson.  I grab from this starter pile and add, as necessary, in smaller piles Cadmium Yellow Deep, Warm Grey and Chinese Orange.  For highlights I might mix up some Quinacridone Magenta, a touch of Ultramarine Blue Deep and white.

Somehow it all comes together and when I am convinced that it looks like tires and wheels in harmony with the overall lighting scheme of the composition, I stop and call it a day.  After a day or two of drying and with a fresh eye, I go in and glaze and scumble as necessary to add additional highlights, deepen shadows or whatever to enhance the illusion of realism.

See you soon.

P.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Yellow MMZ; in-progress oil on panel by Paul Baldassini

Please contact me via email:
paul@baldassinifineart.com

“The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.”  — Albert Einstein


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Above is the overpainting in-progress of a new work entitled Yellow MMZ.  Actually I’ve completed quite a bit more on the overpainting than this in-progress image shows but I was one of those households in CT that got whacked by the freak October storm that left us without power for almost 5 days.  It was the week from hell and I hope I never have to go through anything like that again.
 

So far, I’ve spent 52 hours on this new work.

See you soon.

P.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Yellow MMZ; in-progress oil on panel by Paul Baldassini

Please contact me via email:
paul@baldassinifineart.com

“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a
profoundly sick society.”
  — J. Krishnamurti


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Above is the overpainting in-progress of a new work entitled Yellow MMZ.  So far, I’ve spent 35 hours on this new work.  I have been wanting to paint a yellow tractor for a while now as so many tractors are either red or green.  My base mid-tone color is a warmish dark-yellow mixture of Cadmium Yellow Deep, Viridian and touch of Quinacridone Magenta and a bit of Warm Grey.  I add some magic medium (Old Masters Flemish Maroger) and brush over a section of the underpainting.  I usually chose a section that can stand alone, a front grill assembly or example, something (or things) that I can complete with direct painting within a 4-hour block of time.  Then I will take a break and if I have no graphic design, photo-restoration work or errands to run, I will paint some more but I must be done and allow for clean up before my daughter arrives home from school around 2:15pm or so.

From the aforementioned large pile I pull out a bunch of smaller puddles and modulate the values and hues with Cad Yellow Medium or Chinese Orange.  After the mid-tone sets up for a few minutes, I just start right in painting into the tacky-wet mixture.  I usually add darks first by adding more Viridian, Chinese Orange and Quin Magenta to a pulled out puddle then the lights, by making a fresh starter pile with Cad Yellow Medium and white for the light values.

My underpainting provides the road map for value mixtures and I check my reference photo constantly, which is clamped right up next to and to the left of the painting, for hue and temperature.  Speaking of reference photos, I often hear in the popular art magazines that photographs are “notoriously unreliable” for color fidelity.  That’s really not true at all, just means that those folks are uninformed as how to properly process and manipulate their digital images.  Digital photography and Adobe Photoshop are truly awesome tools.  Knowing how to use them correctly will bring about a fundamental change in any preconceived notions you might have about using digital tools as part of the conceptual process and as compositional aids.  For sure, there is a lot to be gained for the experience of painting outdoors.  But for me, except for an occasional study or to challenge myself and break up the routine, I just can’t see any reason whatsoever to wander outside and chase sunlight and shadows to create a painting.  Not to mention the harmful effects of overexposure to the sun.  Personally, I think that the value of plein air painting is grossly overstated, approaching cult-like status with overzealous and dominating reportage in all of the national art publications.  And almost always featuring the same artists.

Even more important is the fact that VERY FEW artists using this technology do not utilize professional graphic arts monitors and color calibration hardware and software to produce accurate color.  Thus, not only is what is seen on their displays inaccurate, the color output from their inkjet printers most likely never matches what is seen on their screen display.  If your going to paint from photographs, then in-depth knowledge and implementation of color management is vitally important.  I can’t stress this enough.  Unfortunately it would take a book (many books, actually) to explain it all and there a great many of them out there to choose from.

But, I digress.  By the time I am done with my painting session my palette is covered with lots of little puddles in many values, hues, some warmer, some cooler.  So I just grab from here and there mixing even more puddles as necessary, often wiping my brush off with a rag and occasionally dipping it into one of my two OMS jars to clean it off and start right in again.  Before you know it 4 hours or so have gone by and its time to clean up.

Until the next installment.

P.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Yellow MMZ; in-progress oil on panel by Paul Baldassini

Please contact me via email:
paul@baldassinifineart.com

“If we did all the things we are capable of, we would astound ourselves.”  — Thomas Edison


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Here is the completed underpainting in-progress of a new work entitled Yellow MMZ.  After a few days to dry I'll begin the overpainting.  You can follow the progress here on my blog.  I've spent 15 hours on this new work to date.
 
Later.

P.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Yellow MMZ; in-progress oil on panel by Paul Baldassini

Please contact me via email:
paul@baldassinifineart.com

“Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.”  
— Oscar Wilde


Purchase or recommend this painting to a collector who makes a purchase and receive a plein air field study FREE!  
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Here is the underpainting in-progress of a new work entitled Yellow MMZ.  As usual the underpainting color is Quinacridone Magenta (Sennelier).  I am often asked "where did you paint that?" The easy answer is that I do not paint "out in the field" but in my studio. In fact, I only collect my reference images out in the field usually at tractor fairs or at one of the big fairs in CT during September and October. Sometimes while driving, I might catch a glimpse of a tractor somewhere on a farm or backyard somewhere in which case I ask permission to enter their property and photograph it.  It would be impossible to paint at one of these fairs or on location for many reasons, so I gather source material for analysis later back in my studio.

The answer requiring a more complicated explanation is that the scenes in my paintings simply do not exist. As a professional digital artist and master Photoshop image editor I much prefer to compose my landscape scenes digitally where I can manipulate the background and foreground elements, along with color, tonal characteristics, and object relationships as I see fit.  This is actually my favorite and the most important part of the entire creative process in developing a new composition.

In a couple of my Studio Notes (Silhouette & Replace Background; Image Editing to Develop Composition) I detailed some of these working methods, including some very technical commentary and screen captures of the composition in-progress.  In a future Blog posting I will chronicle the digital development of an upcoming work from start to finish but without the technical commentary. For those of you interested in working this way its worth checking out.

Until the next post then.

P.

Monday, August 22, 2011

John Deere 2640; oil on panel by Paul Baldassini

Please contact me via email:
paul@baldassinifineart.com

“There is no difficulty in painting detail — the real difficulty lies in getting the truth of tone and tint.”  
— John Collier, 1850-1934


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Here is the completed painting, 53 hours work total.  As I’ve noted before I try not to overpaint any previously painted areas.  But it so happens that every now and then some changes need to be made.  This always happens towards the end of the painting of after the work is “completed.”  Values or colors that seemed right at the time just don’t work when as the painting nears completion and things need to be tweaked here and there.  After looking with fresh eyes a day or two later, I was bothered by the front and rear wheels facing the viewer.  They were too saturated and too orange to I scumbled on some grayed down neutral mixtures of both shadow and body colors. I shifted the reflected light inside the    wheels shadows  to a slightly violet neutral which worked nicely with the neutralized yellows.  When everything looked right, I went back in and hit the mid-tones with some saturated yellows and yellow-oranges and introduced a bit of reflected grass greens into the top inside edges of the rims.  I liked it and put the brushes down. The painting was done.

So the lesson learned on this one was that during the time I spent on this painting I discovered a most useful color and exceptional mixer, Cadmium Yellow Deep, which is now a permanent addition to my palette.  Also, I have replaced my  Willamsburg French Ultramarine with Holbien Ultramarine Blue Deep.



Here's the current line-up: arranged along top edge of my palette from left to right they are: Cadmium Yellow Lemon (Rembrandt); Cadmium Yellow Medium (Rembrandt); Cadmium Yellow Deep (Holbien); Raw Sienna (Williamsburg); Chinese Orange (Sennelier); Fanchon (Napthol) Red (Williamsburg); Quinacridone Magenta (Sennelier); Perylene Crimson (Williamsburg); Burnt Sienna Deep (Blockx); Viridian (Williamsburg); Ultramarine Blue Deep (Holbien); Indigo (Williamsburg); Warm Grey (Sennelier); Titanium Zinc White (Gamblin).

And with that, I’m already onto the next one.

P.

Monday, August 15, 2011

John Deere 2640 overpainting; in-progress oil on panel by Paul Baldassini

Please contact me via email:
paul@baldassinifineart.com

“The first virtue of a painting is to be a feast for the eyes.”  
— Eugene Delacroix



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The overpainting in-progress with nearly all of the upper to lower bottom left side completed, 28 hours work, to date.  The mechanical stuff is very challenging and time consuming to paint.  It’s very important that the values match those of the underpainting “map” and even more important that the hues are consistent with the effects of light keyed to a certain time of day and weather conditions.  It doesn’t matter whether or not that the light in the painting was actually the situation when the reference source image was taken, just so long as the light and shadows make a convincing statement of light.

In other words the cooler more yellowish light of early morning until about 2pm and its warmish bluish-violet shadows should remain consistent throughout all light effects as opposed to the warmer orange light of early to late afternoon with its cooler violet-blue shadows.  Mixing the two up would present an unconvincing light effect.  Since we are all conditioned internally to react visually to those stimuli in our daily natural environments whether or not we are aware of it, its our job as painters to try and get it right, so that viewers of our paintings will react positively and not “sense” that something is not quite right.  The quality of the light as painted should just “feel right.”

So then, to accomplish that effectively, I use a great deal of gray mixtures which I vary warm or cool and bias towards oranges, greens, blues and violets to play off against their full-chroma counterparts.  As I noted in my last post, most everything in nature is quite neutralized — a dulled down grayish hue — so things really sparkle and come to life when more saturated hues are introduced here and there.  And it doesn’t take much to do the trick.  I learned this after a decade of painting in watercolor and constantly apply these principles to the way I handle oil paint.

I also mentioned in the last post about a new color I discovered totally by accident.  I wanted to try a Cadmium Orange which is quite opaque as opposite the very transparent orange I use (Sennelier Chinese Orange).  I grabbed an old tube of Holbien Cadmium Yellow Deep, which I thought was Cadmium Orange — the color on the label is pretty close to a tube of some Cadmium Orange I had lying around — and squirted some out on my palette.  When I mixed it with Viridian I got some really nice dull warm greens, mixed with Burnt and/or Raw Sienna some nice dull gray browns, mixed with Perylene Crimson some nice dull red-violets.  All great low-light and shadow value hues.

There certainly are a lot of different painting methods and they are all good, if you use your materials correctly.  My technique is very simple given that I use a limited palette of about 14 colors.  The trick is to obtain as many colors as possible by using as few tubes of paint as possible, and use a “mother color” to modulate the mixtures.  Except for the few fully saturated visual points of interest hues, no color is applied unmixed, and all my mixtures contain at least two colors, often three, plus my mother color Warm Gray (Sennelier).  Mixing the paint in very small quantities means that new colors are formed constantly and that these colors always differ from each other.  Many variations are obtained within the same basic color mixture.  I am not really that mindful of where on my palette I make these color mixtures, just that the new paint is next to the previous mixtures.  Almost always I mix in some jelly medium (Old Masters Maroger, Flemish formula) the amount depending on whether I want to glaze or scumble on the new color.  In a very short amount time I obtain a rich palette with a lot of values and neutralized shades.  I need to work fast as the addition of the jelly medium to the little mixtures makes them dry and harden rapidly, so I just grab from this one and that one and move right along.  Here's a shot of a working palette with some growing mixture piles. (NOTE: not the above painting.)


One last note regarding changes on my color palette, another that also came about by accident.  I have always used Willamsburg French Ultramarine as my warm blue.  But I have never been quite happy about its consistency in mixtures.  A bit dull, slippery and very little covering power in mixtures.  So when I ran out and could not wait to get another tube of the Willamsburg French Ultramarine, I tried an old tube of Holbien Ultramarine Blue Deep (I have a cache of old oil paint tubes going back over twenty years).  I really like this paint much better than the Willamsburg version.  It’s a gorgeous blue, great in mixtures and has just the right opacity I was looking for in my warm blue.. 
Holbien Ultramarine Blue Deep and Cadmium Yellow Deep will definitely be permanent additions to my palette.  I have a couple of tubes of each left and I'd rather spend the money on new brushes.

Next post should be the wrap post.  Stay tuned.

P.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

John Deere 2640 overpainting; in-progress oil on panel by Paul Baldassini

Please contact me via email:
paul@baldassinifineart.com

“I don’t trust men who smile too much.”  — Kor, Klingon commander



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and receive a plein air field study FREE!  
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This is my overpainting in-progress.  Five hours work, so far.  The predominantly green background was a challenge as not only did I have to mix a variety of different greens, this tractor like all John Deere tractors is  also predominantly green.

My starter piles were mixed from 1. Chinese Orange (Sennelier) and Indigo (Willamsburg) and 2. Perylene Crimson (Willamsburg) and Indigo .  I mixed up a bunch of each of those transparent mixtures along with a large glob of medium (Old Masters Maroger, Flemish formula) and oiled up the background.  This allowed me to further develop my value plan already on the background with my Quin magenta underpainting.  I proceeded to glaze an orangey-greenish color on the left moving across the panel to violety-blues on the right — warm to cool.  After that set up, I got right to work direct painting with more opaque mixtures using ever-growing little piles of warm and cool greens.  These are made up from my master piles modified with all three  yellows on my palette: Cadmium Yellow Lemon and Medium (Sennelier) and a new color I’m introducing into my palette, Cadmium Yellow Deep (Holbein).  The Cad Yellow Deep and Viridian (Willamsburg) mixtures make stunning warm greens and the Indigo/Chinese Orange mixed with Warm Gray (Sennelier) or Raw Sienna (Willamsburg) make lovely cool blue-greens.  In fact Warm Gray is mixed into just about every color I mix to neutralize it as necessary.  Most everything in nature is really a dulled down hue anyway.  When I come back later with more full chroma hues here and there, they really sparkle.

I tried (very hard) not to noodle around after the fact and made every brush stroke matter.  The (almost) unconsciously considered strokes have great presence and I’d rather leave a mistake in there than mess everything up with overworked fix-ups, which are, unfortunately sometimes necessary.  Once I get in the zone I can move along without really thinking about what I am doing and many hours later when I stop and step back and really take a good look, I am  usually quite pleased.


Thanks for visiting.

P

Thursday, August 4, 2011

John Deere 2640 underpainting; in-progress oil on panel by Paul Baldassini

Please contact me via email:
paul@baldassinifineart.com

“If we did all the things we are capable of, we would astound ourselves.” — Thomas Edison



Place a reserve deposit on this in-progress painting
and receive a plein air field study FREE!  
contact paul@baldassinifineart.com for details

I've been very busy during these summer months with commercial work.  The bulk of the work was a large estate archive from a New Hampshire family who commissioned me to restore 160 of their family photographs.  This in addition to my regular theater arts graphic design advertising and marketing projects allowed me very little time to develop new work.  But I did manage to pick away at a new painting during the down time between client approvals and have finally finished the underpainting.

With the composition laid out, I completed the underpainting, again using Quinacridone Magenta (Sennelier) straight out of the tube. As usual, I’m painting on a primed panel — 1/2-inch MDF sealed and primed with two coats of latex exterior white housepaint and two coats of Gamblin Oil Painting Ground, a mixture of alkyd resin, titanium dioxide and barium sulfate — no lead. Trim size of this panel is 30 1/2 x 24 inches.

I’ve tried many different  underpainting colors including Burnt Sienna (nice), Transparent Red Oxide, Burnt Umber, Raw Umber, Raw Sienna (nice for plein air), and Asphaltum (the worst).  For my modified glaze & scumble technique, I’m convinced that Quinacridone Magenta is the perfect underpainting color.  Its transparent, not overly dark, dries fast and greens painted over the rich pinkish underpainting just glow.  In fact every color painted over this underpainting color has this magical and elusive quality that I’ve never been able to replicate any other way.

If you paint landscapes either plein air or in the studio and rely on a monochrome underpainting to block in your composition, give Quinacridone Magenta a try and let me know what you think.

Thanks for visiting.

P

Friday, April 8, 2011

Even more painting Studio Tech by Paul Baldassini

 Please contact me via email:
paul@baldassinifineart.com

“Photography, as a powerful medium of expression and communication, offers an infinite variety of perception, interpretation and execution.”     —Ansel Adams

Studio Tech 4
How I compose and paint
I compose and shoot all of my reference images with a Canon G10 — a wonderful little digital camera for under $400. To the stock camera I have attached a Lensmate G10 hood and extension, 72mm UV filter and occasionally a Polarizing filter.  Mostly I use the Auto settings but using the Program Mode set to an automatic one F-stop bracket over- and underexposure is the best way to collect all of the data necessary to composite an accurate reading of the subject.  This can easily be done in Photoshop and will produce an image that more realistically mimics how our eyes perceive color and lighting conditions outdoors.  After all of my post-image production is done in Photoshop, I convert the image to grayscale using the Channel Mixer function and/or channel-blending operations.  (You can read all about how I compose my images in Photoshop by visiting the Resource pages on my website at http://baldassinifineart.com/resources1.html.  There are many FREE Studio Notes that are available as downloadable .pdf files).  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.

For my underpainting I prefer a transparent monochrome value painting or  imprimatura and draw directly with an earth-colored paint, usually Blockx Burnt Sienna Deep, although lately I have been underpainting with Sennelier Quinacridone Magenta and I really like it a lot.  My overall painting technique is an eclectic mix developed after a long and continuing study of the great 16th century master Peter Paul Rubens and his contemporaries, the Antwerp School of Painting (Jacob Jordaens, Anthony van Dyck, Bartholomeus Spranger, to name a few), and contemporary painters too numerous to mention here.

Influenced and conditioned from many years of painting only in watermedia, my underpainting proceeds much as watercolor. A white-primed panel with the graphite transfer drawing replaces cold-press watercolor paper, and OMS and diluted oil paint replace water and diluted watercolor paint.

Using mostly flats, some small filberts for details, lots of OMS and rag at the ready for wiping out, I block in the entire composition.  I paint as much with a rag over my fingers as I do with a brush.  The oil paint stays fluid on the panel for hours and can be easily be wiped off without disturbing the graphite drawing and repainted, if I’m not satisifed with something.  This combination of wiping out with a rag and controlled loose painting with a brush is a great way to establish a tonal underpainting.  When done, you have a toned panel in which not only the composition has been fully realized in monochrome, but all shadow, highlight and value issues have been worked out. Below are underpaintings in Burnt Sienna Deep and Quinacridone Magenta.


 With the composition and value study completed all thats left to do is apply color, using a combination of glazing, scumbling and direct painting.  You can read much more about about this on many of my previous in-progress Blog postings.

The panel is allowed to dry for a couple of days before beginning the color overpainting.  I won’t elaborate in great detail about that except to say that using my jelly medium (Old Masters Maroger Medium is the ONLY brand worth using), I first “oil up” the area I’m going be working on and then, using a combination of glazing, scumbling and direct painting proceed to paint over the entire panel a section at a time.  The medium stays tacky and accepts pigment beautifully for hours and dries overnight, ready to repeat the process for another section of the painting the next day or whenever.  I sometimes may have to apply a very light application of Retouch Varnish the next day if any colors have “sunk in” and dulled.

Lastly, after at least a month of drying I apply a protective varnish to the panels. I use Old Masters Mastic Varnish and occaisionally Dorland’s Wax medium, which buffs out to a lovely satin finish.

Thanks.  Please visit again and send me your comments.

P.

More painting Studio Tech by Paul Baldassini

 Please contact me via email:
paul@baldassinifineart.com

“To live a creative life, we must lose
  our fear of being wrong.”    — Joseph Chilton Pearce

Studio Tech 3
My oil brushes are Winsor & Newton Monarch flats and Filberts, sizes 0 through 12. I’ve recently tried some Princeton Art & Brush Co. short filberts and they’re quite nice. For scrubbing in larger areas of background color I use old large Langnickel Series 404 filberts that can really take a beating.  I also use a lot of cotton rags (old white bed sheets make great rags) and always have one in my left hand — I’m actually right-handed —  as I paint ready to wipe out lighter areas.  Watercolor brushes include Winsor & Newton Series 7 Sable sizes 12 through 2, Grumbacher No. 6142 Sable 3/4- and 1/2-inch flats, and a 1 1/2-inch Strathmore Series 386 Wash brush.  I also use bristle oil brushes for scrubbing out and textural effects along with an Incredible Nib.  My watercolor paper of choice is Arche 300lb coldpress which never warps and can really take a beating. Saunders Waterford 300lb is very nice also.

Not enough time for plein air painting
Although I consider myself a studio painter, I also enjoy painting out of doors (en plein air) and find that it significantly adds to my ability to translate my source material to canvas.  In fact there is no greater feeling of accomplishment for me than to successfully complete a small panel outdoors and take home a winner. But that is rare, so here’s why I don’t do more painting out of doors: 1. I am just not very good at painting en plein air  2.  My favorite times of the day to paint outdoors are early morning and late afternoon (the best light and shadows). An outdoor painting session can last a good 2 - 3 hours, not including getting to the destination. It takes a full half day commitment to plan and execute a decent field study and unfortunately I am just not able to get out often enough and paint at those times of the day because of parental obligations and/or commercial deadlines.  3.  The incidences of deadly forms of melanoma (skin cancer) is rising dramatically around the world.  I just don't trust being exposed to full sun for 2 or 3 hours at a time even wearing SPF 30 sunblock.

That said, when I CAN get out to paint in the field I use 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.  My field palette varies, but usually includes 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.

For painting outdoors in watercolor I use a Weber Italia XG portable watercolor easel.  This is a very nice easel but has a serious design flaw that warrants immediate attention.  The mechanism that attaches the tray that supports the watercolor paper to the tripod is made out of a cheap plastic and is easily broken.  I had a local machine shop create replacement parts machined out of solid aluminum that’s far stronger than the original mechanism. I traded a painting for the labor. Outdoors, I use a John Pike palette and a pared down palette of colors from my standard watercolor palette, and take along lots of water and paper towels.

Thanks for visiting.

P.

More painting Studio Tech by Paul Baldassini

 Please contact me via email:
paul@baldassinifineart.com

“The meek shall inherit nothing.”     —Frank Zappa

Studio Tech 2 
Painting supports and preparation
As I mentioned earlier I prefer to paint on a rigid surface and my choice of substrate for large studio work is 1/2-inch MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard). Home Depot sells 2 x 4 foot pieces for under $8 and I cut them to size on my table saw. These panels are noticeably heavier than a stretched linen canvas of similar dimensions but they never warp and require no cradling. My method of preparing a panels is as follows:

Panel only. Using 150-grit sandpaper, rough sand one side of the panel and apply two coats of Sandable Hard Gesso (I use Golden) or Premium White Latex Exterior house paint (I use Behr from Home Depot) to that side and the edges, sanding in-between coats. Since the 1/2-inch panels don’t warp there is no need to apply Gesso the back.  Whichever one you use, mix in a bit of Raw Sienna or some other yellowish acrylic paint to tint the first two coats or won’t be able to see final coats of the Williamsburg Oil Painting Ground on top.

When dry to the touch I apply two coats of Williamsburg Oil Painting Ground thinned with just a touch of solvent to make it a bit easier to apply. Baking the panels out in full sun will make them dry to the touch in a couple of days, otherwise it could take over a week to put on the second coat. A light sanding between coats if optional depending on how smooth a surface you desire. You can produce an almost burnished eggshell-like finish with multiple coats and sanding with 600-grit sandpaper but I find that sanding with  320-grit between coats works just fine. Let dry, even after baking in the sun for at least two weeks before using.

Linen mounted on panel. Cut a piece of linen about an inch or so all around larger than the panel and have it ready nearby. Using 120-grit sandpaper, rough sand one side of the panel and apply one coat of Sandable Hard Gesso to that side and the edges. When dry, spread a on a generous coat of bookbinders glue (I use Lineco Neutral pH Adhesive) with a high-quality housepainting brush all over the surface. Carefully attach the linen making sure that the threading runs in a parallel direction to the length of the panel. I use my hands to make sure that there are no bubbles and the linen is firmly attached. Then I dip the brush in some glue and grind and paint it into the entire surface of the linen. Then, using a 4-inch Speedball soft rubber brayer I roll all over surface back and forth slightly stretching the linen until I’m sure it is firmly attached with no bubbles anywhere, crimping and pressing all around the edges.  When done I cover the surface with wax paper, lay another piece of MDF on top and place heavy books or objects on top and let dry overnight.

The next day, remove the weights and wax paper. Using a single-edged razor blade carefully trim away the excess linen. Sand the rough surface down so that its smooth and run the sandpaper over the edges a bit. Apply two coats of Williamsburg Oil Painting Ground as described previously and let dry, even after baking in the sun, for at least two weeks before using.

A palette that works for me
I struggled for years to find a palette of colors that works for me. Seemingly endless substitutions of colors that I read about some other painter was using, warm-cool palette, limited palette, expanded palette, must have this color, must use that color and so on. I tried many tubes of paint from many manufacturers and now have a huge collection of tubes of paint I’ll probably never use again. If you’re reading this then you know what I mean.

So, after years of trial and error, and countless coloring mixing swatch charts, I finally have a stable palette of colors that I’m comfortable with, and can reliably mix the right colors when I need them.  Below is one of the color swatch charts.  They are a LOT of work and you’ll use up a LOT of paint but they are definitely worth doing. You’ll be amazed at the extraordinary range of colors that exists within your personal palette, many of which you may never have mixed before.  Send me a note and I’ll tell you exactly how to do it and where to get the 1/4-inch painter’s masking tape that you’ll need plenty of to do it right.


Arranged along top edge of my palette from left to right the tube paints I use are: Gamboge Lake Extra (Old Holland); Cadmium Yellow Medium (Rembrandt); Raw Sienna (Williamsburg); Chinese Orange (Sennelier); Fanchon (Napthol) Red (Williamsburg); Quinacridone Magenta (Sennelier); Perylene Crimson (Williamsburg); Burnt Sienna Deep (Blockx); Viridian (Williamsburg); Ultramarine Blue French (Williamsburg); Indigo (Williamsburg); Warm Grey (Sennelier); Titanium Zinc White (Gamblin).

For a medium I use Maroger Painting Medium from Old Masters, Flemish formula.

My watercolor palette is pretty much the same pigments as the oil palette with a couple of additional colors. They are: Indian Yellow Orange Lake Extra (Old Holland); Cadmium Yellow Medium (Old Holland); Quinacridone Gold (Winsor Newton); Chinese Orange (Sennelier); Permanent (Napthol) Red (Holbein); Perylene Maroon (Daniel Smith); Quinacridone Magenta (Winsor Newton); Quinacridone Burnt Orange (Daniel Smith); Phthalo Green (M. Graham); Ultramarine Blue (M. Graham); Indigo (Holbein); Quinacridone Violet (DaVinci) and Brown Madder (Holbein).\

Thanks for visiting.

P.

Painting Studio Tech by Paul Baldassini

 Please contact me via email:
paul@baldassinifineart.com

“Successful people do the things that unsuccessful people are unwilling to do.”     — John Maxwell

Studio Tech 1
My current studio is in the basement of my home in Middletown, CT. The large, dry basement has been remodeled with about 2/3 of the space taken up by my studio and studio storage. Like most basements in the average American home, the ceiling is only 8 feet high which, for the most part, dictates the maximum height of my paintings, rarely more than 24 inches. Which is just fine for me since I like to paint on wood panels and can purchase 2 x 4 foot "handy panels" at just about any lumber yard and cut them down to size. This I do in my shop, which takes up the back half of my attached garage. I do all of the messy stuff there including preparing panels, stretch linen canvas, or on occasion, make stretcher strips and frames.

Shop & tools
In the shop are a handful of industrial-quality power tools including vintage 1953 5 1/2 hp Delta 10-inch, Unisaw, Delta 14-inch bandsaw, Delta 10-inch motorized miter box (aka chop saw) for cutting frames, Cummins Machinery 5-speed drill press, heavy-duty Milwaukee router, and a light-duty Stanley dome-top router. Rolling chests of drawers contain a great many tools including hand-planes, chisels, hammers, screwdrivers, scribes and measuring tools. Hanging from racks are dozens of Jorgenson wood clamps and bar clamps of various sizes. These I use to build cradles for panels or build frames when necessary. Frames are assembled using an old Stanley No. 400 Mitre Vise.

I assemble stretcher frames or cradle panels using premium wood glue and a pneumatic Porter-Cable BN 200A 18-gauge Brad Nailer. To stretch linen canvas I use a Stanley-Bostich EHS-300 Electric Tacker, 5/16-inch T50 staples and wide-mouth canvas pliers.

Maximum use of a minimal amount of space
The small floor plan conveniently accommodates two painting areas: a rolling easel for oils and a pneumatic-lift drafting table for watercolors. In between is a heavy rolling 26 x 48-inch work table with a 1/4-inch glass top for storage of paints, brushes, mediums and solvents. In the opposite corner is a professional graphic arts workstation with twin monitors, trackball and digital stylus. There is an Epson Stylus Photo R2400 inkjet printer used for producing the high-quality photographic prints for my photo restoration clients and reference prints for my studio paintings.

Opposite my easel and drafting table is a large glass sliding patio-style door which provides ample east/south-east light most of the day. Additional lighting is is provided by two 4-foot overhead industrial light fixtures each fitted with two OTT-LITE VisionSaver fluorescent tubes. 65-watt Phillips Daylight floods provide overhead lighting.

Low-tech meets high-tech in the studio
My easel is an antique French-made upright floor design of unknown manufacture. It is large and heavy and features a machined steel hand-crank mechanism for effortlessly raising and lowering the transom that holds the canvas or panel. Under the transom is a built-in paint box on top of which I have added a larger modified transom that measures 12 x 36 inches. On top of that is a piece of 1/4-inch beveled-edge plate glass which serves as my palette. In between the transom and glass is a piece of photo-gray or neutral matte board whose value is similar to an underpainting grisaille. This arrangement is ideal for me for several reasons: 1. It sits directly below my painting surface so I can easily mix colors and apply paint.  2.There is minimal distance my arm has to travel to get to the paint or that my eye has to move to see it — for the most part, just up and down.  3. Its easy to clean with a scraper blade, solvent and a rag.  Below is  a photo of easel and work table.


The part of the easel that holds the top of the canvas or panel in place has a dado along the top edge in which slides a 32-inch wooden bar onto which I affix and hang my reference image. Almost always a photograph, and occasionally a sketch, it conveniently hangs to the left and a little above eye level and requires very little eye movement to see it — for the most part, just left to right.

While painting I also keep the same reference image displayed on the large display monitor (a new HP  ZR24W incredible graphic arts display monitor) — usually in grayscale — just in case I need to open up a shadow to examine detail that appears overly dark on the print, and to compare values. I can also zoom in to enlarge an area of my reference image to clarify and reveal detail indistinct in the print.

Thanks for visiting.

P.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

McCormick 350 tractor in landscape in-progress; oil on panel by Paul Baldassini

Please contact me via email:
paul@baldassinifineart.com

““Success is the ability to go from one failure to the next with no loss of enthusiasm.”    — Winston Churchill


“McCormick 350.”    Above is an in-progress snapshot of new work started on Feb. 26.  I recently read about a new color — Asphaltum from Gamblin — in an art magazine or on some online forum, Wet Canvas perhaps.  The writer said it was a beautiful color, nice for underpainting.  So I though I would give a try.  It is indeed a nice color but I did not like it at all for underpainting.  I found it to be very gritty and too dense in darker values when building up my underpainting and was not able to manipulate it the way I can other underpainting colors.  You can still see some of it in the cast shadow under the tractor, but I had to repaint the entire top of the underpainting in my signature Quincridone Magenta before it was too late.  Also had to repaint some of the overpainting up top which I really don't like to do. Rather not go over something I already painted because its so easy to lose the thin shadows. It became a bit of a salvage job but certainly could have been much worse and I just hate to tank a painting that I already spent considerable time on.

I still think that Quincridone Magenta (I use Sennelier) is by far the best color for underpainting landscapes when the composition indicates a dominance of green hues.  Quin Magenta handles beautifully thinned out with lots of OMS or used straight out the tube. It yields the lightest values and rich deep dark shadow values without ever getting too dense and always remains transparent.  After the underpainting dries in day or two, any color glazed over and then directly painted into looks just incredible. Greens vibrate over the complimentary underpainting especially if you leave some of it showing through.  Areas in shadow remain lively and glow with darker values glazed and/or scumbled over, keeping them thin and interesting. Save the thicker paint for midtones and body color and the thickest for the lightest values and highlights.

Its a great way to paint.  I just love it.

FYI:  I have a major new update to my website including new design, new copywriting, recent work,  and an FAQ page.  Check it out at:

baldassinifineart.com

Until the next post, thanks for visiting.

P.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Red & gray Ford tractor in landscape completed; oil on panel by Paul Baldassini

Please contact me via email:
paul@baldassinifineart.com

“Beauty is ever present like the light of the sun — even in the most humble object, only it takes an artist’s vision to detect it, and an artist’s skill to reproduce it.”    — Soren Emil Carlsen



“Study in Red and Gray.”   After 2 months of relentless snowfall, ice and rain, and a very busy January of commercial paying graphic design and photo restoration work, I have finally managed to get in some quality painting time again. Posted here after a final 16 hours of work is the completed painting entitled “Study in Red and Gray.” Everything pretty much progressed as noted in previous postings, saving my favorite part for last — the foreground field.

As usual, I started by “oiling up” the field with my usual green, a medium-dark mixture of Williamsburg Indigo and Sennelier Chinese Orange mixed with a generous amount of jelly medium Old Master’s Maroger Flemish Medium). Some more hot coffee at the ready, a tacky surface ready to accept brushwork I create a couple of piles of green mixtures using the base green neutralized with Sennelier Warm Grey, which I add into just about every color mixture.  From there it’s just making lots of different greens and carefully matching the values in the underpainting.  I modulate the temperature of base green with Viridian, Cad. Yellow Medium and/or Raw Sienna as necessary adding brushstokes of cool and warm colors for variety paying special attention to lively shadows.  I use a couple of brushes, wiped clean with a rag as necessary and as the different colored green piles begin multiplying all over the palette surface I grab from here and there without really thinking about it.

I have mentioned before in my posts how once I get into the painting zone — always with the help of background music played very loudly — I put down marks without intellectualizing in any way what I am doing. And I do this in 3 - 4 hour bursts and then rest.  If I stop and think about what I’m doing even for a few seconds then all is lost. I put down the paint and that’s that.  I pay VERY close attention to the VALUES of my mixes. Incorrect colors are somewhat forgiving; incorrect values are not.  Correct values are of paramount importance, after design and drawing.  I would rather have something be wrong with an unconscious honesty about it then go back and fiddle and diddle it to death. It just never works for me.  The next day I will examine what I did with fresh eye and RARELY, if necessary, and with great restraint retouch a previously painted passage.  I may glaze and/or scumble this or that mainly knocking back something appearing too loud or arresting.

Up to this point all color mixtures have been grayed down with Sennelier Warm Grey (most everything in natural light is grayed down anyway).  A trick I learned from watercolor painting was that high-chroma colors sparkle like jewels in a sea of neutralized color and it only takes a few of them here and there to liven things up convincingly.  So, when all is dry I come back with the finishing touches of pure high-chroma color practically straight out of the tube, and bright white catchlights. Judicious use of these final touches is great fun, breathing life into the painting and serving to keep the eye continuously moving through the composition.

To get into painting zone for the final session I listened to a lot of Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band material, mainly the superbly crafted “Lick My Decals Off Baby,” “The Spotlight Kid” and “Clear Spot” from 70 – 72.  I am a hard-core Don Van Vliet fan and was greatly saddened by this master artist’s passing on December 17.  I was lucky enough to catch every performance of The Magic Band in the 70’s up until his last Boston performance in the early 80’s.  The sine qua non of Van Vliet’s singular genius was abundantly evident in not only in his music, but in his painting and drawing. Those performances still linger and resonate with me to this day.

Thanks for visiting. Please let me know what you think or ask me a question.