Thursday, June 16, 2011

Explorations and Demos in the Forest

I've been teaching some classes the last few weeks at work. The last one was a 5 day workshop for lighting td's where we painted outside at different locations around the East Bay. Great fun and an energetic group. When the weather got warm enough during the week, we painted several times down in Canyon, a small, almost invisible, community in a small redwood and bay laurel forest on Pinehurst Rd.

In most locations I would scout a bit, maybe discuss possible views, then set up and paint until someone asked for help, or my 'guilt-meter' kicked in, and I would start doing walk arounds. In some classes I have taught, a group of students have watched me paint, but in this one, they were all more interested in tackling the painting issues themselves. Either way is good, but I do like to try and solve something for myself, as well as whomever is interested. A few times I was inspired by the views others had picked and tried to hammer something out to get a sense of how to express it.

It is more evident that light is in motion in the forest than in a wide open, brightly lit environment, as the sun is coming into a shadowed realm in shafts and dapples that glide across the ground, rocks, tree trunks, and foliage, with no guarantee that another spot of light will conveniently take its place.

This was painted at the turnout to the Post Office in Canyon.
I liked the juxtaposition of the solid redwood trunk on the left with the explosive, dancing light on the sapling branches and foliage to the right. The background is composed of a shaded, fern covered hillside, and then a moss covered concrete retaining wall below, bordering a road and creek.



This is a more incoherent, rapid expression of a backlit mass of foliage against a steep, shadowed slope of ferns. Amazing light
and color, crazy to paint, but it was fun to try. I don't expect these kinds of efforts to make much sense after the fact, I just want to explore what is going on. The light was really moving.


A clump of redwoods with a lot of backlit spots and regions to explore. This part of the forest was carpeted in dried foliage from the tree. Still exploring how the edges of bright light behave against a shadowed space. Is it a bounce effect? Diffusion? Is it a rich, reduction of color of the key light?
Something's going on! Research continues....


We were painting on the banks of a very shallow creek, and I had been advising a student to paint a few of the rocks in the bottom of the creek that were easily seen in the reflections of the tree trunks, as that would make the water appear transparent. She joked that she would "..rather wash dishes than paint the rocks in the bottom of the creek!" This comment, along with another student's question about deciphering complexity in such a spot, prompted me to paint a quick study of the creek, and call folks over to watch. I was fired up, and was able to babble about laying down a middle value for a shadow, putting a few lights on top, then punching in the dark values for a depiction of the stream bank. The shaft of light hitting the water had slid off to the right in a matter of minutes, but I put it back where I first saw it, referencing the value and color by looking at where it currently was. The pebbles on the bottom of the creek were more of an afterthought after laying in the reflection shapes and colors. This was a quickie, but I was motivated to paint, and it made a huge difference. The level of energy one has at any given time really has an impact on the work. The right comments from students can really get you going!

12 comments:

Michael Mercer said...

love the redwoods

Nick Wan said...

love reading your descriptions!
gorgeous work as always.

B Boylan said...

Incredible reflection with such simplicity!

Mathias said...

the third one is absolutely stunning! "less is more"

TJ said...

I appreciate your student bringing up the rocks in the creek. We have many areas with shallow pools of water with rocks shimmering at the bottom. You have so often captured that which evades me.

Also, I love the bits of backlight or shafts of light coming into the forest floor by the redwood. Reads perfectly to me.

Thanks again!

Ida M. Glazier said...

I can hardly wait for the workshop I get to attend with you in July!! this last post of yours is amazing and gives me a glimpse of what kind of teacher you will be!! I am so lucky!!!

Bill Cone said...

Thanks all for your kind remarks.

BBoylan and TJ: Water can be broken down into component parts: reflection, color of the water, surface, and the bottom (if it is visible). Another component can be motion from current, and wind. In terms of reflection vs. what is visible, the simple rule is that the brightest element 'wins'. If the bottom of the creek is brighter, you'll see it manifested, in at least the darkest parts of the reflection, if not in other areas as well.
One can paint water just by patient observation, but it can be useful to understand where the visual elements are coming from.

Ida: I'm looking forward to the workshop as well. Where we'll be there are plenty of boulders and water to paint.

abhishek singh said...

THESE ARE SUBLIME.

Måns Sjöberg said...

Your paintings have a fantastic lighting and perspective. It's a great pleasure to look thru your blog.

canvas artwork said...

love the paintings, keep the good work up

Dan Mc said...

Great Stuff william, You be the man of the now!

Anonymous said...

All you paintings have a beautiful fantastic,and great