|Still life under lamp
Helen 16 February 2020
It is Sunday, 16 February, and I am on my way to a life painting session in Amsterdam. The last time was two weeks ago. The previous Sunday model session was canceled because the model could not come.
Today it is windy, again. Last weekend the storm Ciara swept over Europe, and this weekend it is the storm Dennis. It is warm. I brought with me my shawl, an extra sweater, rain pants, gloves, and a reused plastic bag. Now all the extra clothing is in the plastic bag, and I am steaming hot. A little bit of my excess heat is caused by the wind because it was hitting me frontal while biking to the station. On the way home, I will have the wind in the back, looking forward to it now already.
This week we received the final contract of the mortgage. It is signed and returned to the bank. We also got a date at the notary for transferring the ownership of the ground to us. That will be on Friday 13 March. Obviously, we get that date because no one else would like to become the owner of a plot on a Friday 13. So the notary had spots free for us on that day, no wonder. Since we are free from a superstition that day suits us well.
I feel like I have not been painting for a long time. Last Thursday, I painted a still life in aquarelle, but for the rest, there has been a little less painting the last couple of weeks.
Yesterday we went to the plot to see how the work is going on the road. The road builders dug out the ground to a depth of about 60 cm. At the bottom, they placed a construction fabric. I call it construction fabric because I found a manufacturer calling it so. It is a kind of fabric or tarp, probably very sturdy that keeps the upper part of the road materials from floating away. On top of the fabric, sand. The top layer will be dirt with bigger stones. We walked past the place where our plot is, and it feels big. Gigantic, to be honest. Later, when the area is more finished, there will be another top layer of asphalt on the road.
After the visit to the future plot, we went to a second-hand shop, and I found a 61 keys midi keyboard for 30 euros! At home, I connected it, and it works. It even got sensitive keys. When I hit harder, it plays harder. Right now, I am in a hiatus in my music creation, but I can assure you that I am not planning to stop composing music. This keyboard will serve me well when I restart my music creation. The keys were very hard played, but I think it does not matter for me. I will not play Beethoven on this keyboard. Instead, I will press a key or a chord, and that is about it. On the other hand, with a keyboard, I could try to learn to play it.
Now I am in Amsterdam.
The artists today were Ron, Saskia, Irene, Floor, and me. The model was Helen.
At first, Saskia was a bit off mood today, it was noticeable. She recovered, though. I took the same place as last time two weeks ago. For today I had the ambition to start the painting by shading it. I had seen a YouTuber do that. I have seen many painting tutorials where they are doing that, but I cannot recall that they explained why they did that. It appears that "real" artists are always starting from a shaded background. Well, I am also an aquarellist, so I have not been thinking about why you should shade the canvas, and until now, no-one has explained it to me in a way I understood it.
He did his shading very thoroughly, and I have no ambition to be thorough in my shading. He also talked about gridding the canvas, and I am not doing that either, and frankly, I have no plans to start doing that. On the other hand, while explaining the gridding, he also talked about that it is good to learn the proportions of a face and let the neurons of your brain get used to working the proportions of the face, I liked that.
The idea with shading, as I take it from the video, is that if you have a white background, then that is the lightest shade the painting can get, ever. White is not a good reference point because it is at one end of the range. Any paint you apply will be darker than the white of the background. The risk is that the artist can be influenced by the whiteness of the background and adapt to it. By having the entire canvas shaded in a middle tone, you can apply both lighter and darker colors compared to the background shading.
The YouTuber did not call it a dynamic range, but I think what it is about, like the image to the right. You find the musicians and photographers talk about dynamic range. In music, it is that you are using the frequencies to the fullest, and for a photographer, it is that a photo got dark, mid, and highlights. Use the stuff to the fullest. Haha, I am back on the theme of last Thursday!
I did a quick shading in a combination of brown and blue and let it dry a little bit. Then when I started painting, I could tell why it has to be done thoroughly because my shading paint could be pushed around back and forth. It occurred to me that a few years back, I stopped using charcoal because when I started painting, I was pushing around the dust of the charcoal, and it started mixing in with my painting, making it dirty. This was very much the same. I wiped away my drawing and the layer of shading and started over.
I could try shading another time, but then I would do it by preparing the panel with acrylic/gesso in the middle tone shade. When doing that, the possibility to lift off the shade is missing, but I prefer that compared to pushing paint around.
One alternative way to paint, let's say, "my current strategy" is to cover all parts of the painting in an early stage. I try to do this when I paint in oil, at least. When all not intended white is covered, it is time to think about the dynamic range. Is black, black enough? Where is the light, and where is the dark, and is the range spread evenly?
There is another aspect, as well. Some say that you should avoid using white or at least be precise in not mixing white with everything because white makes other paint dull. With a white background, I can choose what white to use. Either we can let the white canvas shine through, or we can use white from a tube and mix that into the paint. If the background is shaded, then one option is gone, and the only option left is to mix white from a tube.
I did not get any lift with Irene back to Almere this Sunday. Perhaps she did not like having me in her car two weeks ago, I probably talked too much about the climate. Irene is always super-fast in packing her things. I have no idea how she is doing that. When I pack, I need to get my daylight saving lamp packed into my bag. The cup with water needs to be emptied. The glass plate that I use as a pallet needs to be wiped. The brushes need to be rolled into the brush sleeve. Consider that I am not even cleaning my brushes. For a long time, I did that as well while packing. That added a good 20 minutes to the whole packing procedure. Now I usually clean my brushes at home. This Sunday, I finished my painting 20 minutes early.
When I arrived at the train station in Amsterdam, I was almost in time to catch the 16:38 train to Almere. I was running on the platform and arrived at the doors of the train. There the conductor signed to me that I was too late. The door closed in front of me. My bag is really heavy, so this running takes its toll. They say it is good for your heart to make sprints from time to time. My heart is in a mint condition. I was standing there and did not feel very happy about the situation. Seeing my favorite train leave the station without me. I sat down and considered my options. I decided on going to a café at the station and treat myself a cup of coffee and blog about the day. 30 minutes later, I got another chance to get on my favorite train with a private tray at a perfect distance for blogging.
When I biked home from the train station, the rain was pouring down. Indeed, I had the wind in the back, so that was good.
I was born 1967 in Stockholm, Sweden. I grew up in the small village Vågdalen in north Sweden. 1989 I moved to Umeå to study Computer Science at University of Umeå. 1995 I moved to the Netherlands where I live in Almere not far from Amsterdam.
Here on this site I let you see my creations.
I create, that is my hobby.