Thursday, August 29, 2013

"Plunge Pool"

"Plunge Pool" 14x11 acrylic
As a painter, the things that excite me, both in the studio and in the field, don't register much significance to my non-artist friends. It's nothing new when, after talking with me, someone wanders away muttering, "I always knew Bortz was nuts." I can't really disagree, but I'm quite happy in my little bubble of insanity.
In this painting, "Plunge Pool", I've achieved a couple of things that, in the past, have largely eluded me. I've been doing some experiments trying to get the natural green tones in my work to be more lifelike. I hit on some mixtures that seem to work well in most situations. Surprisingly enough, there is not a drop of "out of the tube" green paint in this piece. It was all worked out with subtle shifts in mixtures of various yellows and blues.
More importantly, there is an impressionistic quality to this piece not really noticeable in my previous work. Not that I haven't tried. Up to this point, most of my efforts toward this effect have come up miserably short. I like painting with bigger brushes. I'm just not very good at it. Smearing and blending big blobs of paint to get a desired look without a bunch of tiny brush strokes intrigues me. I smile every time I pull it off.
There are usually parts of a painting that are my favorites. This piece had several! I like the way the mossy boulders emerge from the background at the top of composition. It's out of character for me not to render a painting right out to the edges of the board. But here, the lack of detail in that area seems to work, allowing the viewers eye to take in the tumbling water without being distracted by unnecessary detail.
Even in the foreground of the painting, I've managed to paint the stream gravel with more of a suggestive technique rather than detailing every tiny stone. This makes me happy.
Is this a new direction for my art? Perhaps. I think there is a balance between "loose and painterly" and "photographic detail" that I'm constantly searching for. I may have found it with this painting. Now the challenge will be to do it again, prooving to myself this was no accident.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

"Flash - Rainbow Trout"

I thought it might be interesting to post some progress shots of my recent "Flash - Rainbow Trout" painting. Above, the preliminary block-in stage helps to establish the large shapes. The paint is pretty thin at this point and I work fast with a large brush. You can see some of the white charcoal outlines around the trout. I wanted to get the drawing correct on this important element at the very beginning. The colors seem pretty wild here and I was a bit concerned with how they would all fit together in the end.
In this image, I've refined the trout quite a bit. It's not quite where it needs to be, but at least it looks like a fish! I've also started to push the dark shape below the trout's head. It's a major element in the painting and the finished product will lean heavily on how well this area is handled.
Now things are really starting to take shape and it's starting to have an "underwater" feel. I've refined the mossy rocks on the bottom with rather large blobs of paint. Close up, the colors seem a bit ridiculous, but in the overall context of the painting, they're beginning to work. The blue swath of color behind the trout helps to give the image some depth.
More refinement and just about done. At this point, I need to set the painting aside for a few days. The rocks on the bottom are feeling a little overworked and I'm not happy with the transition between that blue swath in the middle and the rocks. That needs a bit of attention. Also, the slashes of light along the trout's body need some work. They're close, but not quite believable enough for my liking. The underside of the water's surface, on the other hand, is just about dead on.
"Flash - Rainbow Trout" 15x15 acrylic
FINISHED! I went back in with bigger brushes and simplified many of the shapes in the stream bed. I repainted nearly the entire trout to get the slashes of light to read properly and still have the trout recognizable as a rainbow. Now it's ready for a frame and the McKeever Show in September!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Wood Duck Drake Study

I'm not a big fan of this type of motif... the profile "field guide" pose. It's been done thousands of times and I usually make it a point NOT to paint things like this. The pose itself is pretty boring and the bright over-the-shoulder lighting in the reference photo wasn't really adding much. There are however, some redeeming qualities to this image that made it worth taking on.

"Woodie" 6x8 acrylic

I was immediately drawn to the iridescent feathers on this wood duck's head. I knew it would be a challenge to get this to look "right" and would likely make or break the painting. The subtle transitions between blues, greens, purples, and blacks also give the head some volume and hopefully keep the painting from looking flat.
There were a few issues with the head and neck in the photo I was working from... mostly the outstretched neck with the head upright and alert. This is a problem with a lot of reference photos (especially of waterfowl). Our mere presence is enough to put the birds on edge and they always seem ready to flee. I wanted the duck to appear more relaxed, so I tucked the head down and back a bit, all but eliminating the neck.
The biggest challenge and the main reason I didn't dismiss this image as a potential painting was the patterns reflected on the water around the bird. I knew if I was successful, the water would be a subtle, yet powerful element to the painting few people would notice. If I was not successful, it would be a glaring miscue and EVERYONE would notice.


"Cloudburst" 11x14 acrylic

I'm always experimenting with different styles of painting. This one took a while to put together, but I'm happy with the results. I wanted to work with mostly larger brushes and blend the paint on the canvas (not always an easy task with acrylics). I learned a lot while working on this piece and it should help me moving forward with my art.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

"Passing Through"

"Passing Through" 8x6 acrylic
This small study is another in my series of sky paintings. It also is the 3rd piece I've done using Golden's "Open" acrylics. The longer drying time is taking some getting used to, but has allowed some interesting brushwork. I've also noticed I'm having a bit of trouble photographing the open acrylics. I haven't quite figured out how to get the hues quite right. In other words... the painting looks a hell of a lot better than the image above!