Sunday, December 9, 2012

Painting Apples


Apple is my final addition to a series of works of some favorite fruits and vegetables. They were so much fun to do, and I really love them all! But it’s time to move on...I took pictures of this last painting in progress to show how I think and work.

This is my favorite way to begin, with a neutral undertone scrubbed onto the surface and a simple drawing that divides the space pleasingly and captures the most important characteristics of the shapes. How one begins is very important; interesting composition makes or breaks the interest in a piece! Painting all these little works really helped me learn how to arrange a simple subject in a manner that highlights the character of the subject and flatters it. It’s all in how you allow the shapes to divide up your canvas. 

My brave, first stroke is also featured in this photo. A thousand insecurities rush to the fore when you’re pondering the opening shots. But once you get it down and have something REAL to analyze, those nagging fears go back to where they came from-the unknown. And most of the time, the most frightening part of the painting is over. Most of the time...

Here I am starting to block in some basic tones, and defining the very important edge between the apple and background. The edges that define boundaries of individual parts of the subject are very important to a painting. They give the eye lots of important information that tells us what we’re looking at, and they can be manipulated to create the illusion of depth. If I used a hard edge all around the apple, it would look flat and lifeless. Most edges in a painting need to be somewhat soft to communicate properly, reserving the hardest edges for the center of interest.

I’m still blocking in tones loosely. I often have to discipline myself at this stage of painting to stay loose and broad. The beautiful details in my subject tempt me to focus on them instead of my overall impression which can cost time and can fragment the complete vision of the piece.

I’m defining more important edges and continuing to block in color throughout these two pictures.

Now, I’m defining my range of values from lightest to darkest. I have a tendency to paint my darks too light if I put off blocking them in for too long. So, here I am trying to get the full range in an early stage of the painting.

Now, I’ve added transitional tones between the lights and darks in the right apple. I’m a great lover of simplicity; so, I have to discipline myself to put in enough transitional tones between the main values. If I don’t, the Form of the apple will look flat and unconvincing. 

The Form Principle is made up of six basic parts: highlight, direct light, mid-tone, shadow, reflected light, and cast shadow. The highlight has a somewhat hard edge and is the direct reflection of the light source on the subject. The direct light encompasses all of the values in the light side of the subject as opposed to the shadow side. The mid-tone is a small transitional area between the side in the light and the side in the dark; the most intense colors in the subject are found here because the color is not diluted by either bright light or the absence of it. Most artists make certain to put their brightest colors in this small but very important area of the painting. The shadow is the side of the subject that is not receiving any light. Reflected light is the small amount of light reflected into the shadow side of the subject from the surrounding surfaces. In Apple, you can observe this phenomenon just above the dark shadow under the right apple. The color here is usually influenced by the color of the surface reflecting the light; hence, in Apple, the reflected light area has a yellow brown feel to it. And the cast shadow is the shadow caused by the subject blocking the light falling onto a different surface. The cast shadow is always darkest directly beneath the object casting it and gets lighter and softer in edges the farther it gets away from the object casting it.

How an artist arranges these relative values into an interesting pattern is MOST important to the success of a painting in my opinion. It’s the first thing an observer will notice from a distance; it’s what invites the observer to come closer and be drawn in by beautiful color and edges. If a painting doesn’t stand out from a distance of 10 or 15 feet, it is likely to be passed by. And value pattern is what one notices first from that distance.

Whoop! I got really sucked into the painting, and forgot to take enough photos. Both apples have been blocked in, and I’ve refined the edges between color shapes within both apples. These edges will all be soft to communicate the roundness of the apple. The edges defining the exterior of the apples are harder by comparison.

I’m blocking in more of the surface beneath the left apple, and you can observe here how the bright orange red of the apple is influencing the color of the surface beneath it. 

I’m blocking in more of the surface that is not in shadow, here.

And here, I’ve finished up what is called a vignette. A vignetted painting does not cover the canvas from edge to edge. It’s a fun “arty” approach to finishing a painting. I think it mirrors how the eye naturally sees. The eye naturally zeros in on a focal point, and everything surrounding the focal point is blurry and gets more blurry as it approaches your peripheral vision. 

Vignettes can be challenging to do as there are no hard and fast rules to follow for success; you have to really “feel” your way through them. I like my vignettes to feel as though they are an extension of the subject and to divide up the space interestingly with a variety of edge work. This basic criteria usually works for me, but is not guaranteed. But the more you do them, the more natural they feel. And I’m happy with how this vignette turned out.

In this final picture, I’ve added a stem to the right apple to help communicate that it’s an apple. The actual apple I painted didn’t have one; but without it, a casual observer may have difficulty identifying what they’re looking at. This is something else that an artist has to watch out for and especially me. I get caught up in the beautiful abstract shapes of my subject and forget that it may appear differently to some one who hasn’t seen the original subject. My husband is especially good at watching out for this, and he helped me see how the clarity of the painting would benefit from adding the stem. In retrospect, with some distance between me and the process of this artwork, it was clearly a good idea!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Local Exhibition

I like to be active in all the local art events, and I was fortunate to win 2 ribbons in this year’s Pensacola Interstate Fair! This was the first year in several years that they allowed an artist to be awarded more than one ribbon, and I was one of three artists to be so honored!

Westport Fishing Boats received a second place ribbon.

Their Favorite Story received a fourth place ribbon.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Their Favorite Story

Their Favorite Story

If you’re asking yourself if this artwork is a drawing or a painting, the answer is both! This is a little known technique called charcoal wash, and the way it’s created is with both wet and dry applications of charcoal to a surface. Using a brush dipped in charcoal powder and water, I begin by painting in simple tones creating beautiful brush strokes. One awesome benefit is that it’s much faster to cover large areas with a brush as opposed to a pencil point. After the first application of wet charcoal dries, I decide whether I need to paint darker anywhere or if I want to switch over to conventional charcoal sticks. The charcoal sticks come in handy to draw the fine details, and I switch back and forth between drawing and painting until I’m satisfied. So, the finished piece is a painting and drawing combination and looks more artful than a regular drawing.

Why paint in black and white when you can paint in color? You’d be surprised at the moods you can capture when you’re focusing on value patterns and edges alone. These pieces can really teach artists the importance of having well-developed value patterns.

The other interesting thing that charcoal wash illustrates is how an artist overcomes the physical limitations of our materials to create beautiful effects. This charcoal wash doesn't have a full range of values from brightest white to darkest black, but it’s still interesting because I’ve created a beautiful pattern within a limited value scheme.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

What’s on my palette.

I recently had some one ask me what colors I paint with; and I thought, “Hey, I should blog about that!” This thick piece of glass with the edges rounded off is my palette, and the pigments are from left to right: titanium white, cadmium yellow light, cadmium yellow deep, yellow ochre, viridian, manganese blue hue, cobalt blue, cadmium red, alizarin crimson, terra rosa, and the blue blob floating above alizarin is some really old french ultramarine that I should just scrape off.

I paint with all Winsor Newton artist oil colors except for titanium white and yellow ochre. I got used to the Winton student grade in school; and when I tried upgrading to the artists oil color, I didn’t like how different the colors and textures were.

I have 3 yellows, 1 green, 3 blues, and 3 reds on my palette. Yellow ochre, cadmium yellow deep, and cadmium yellow light are the yellows; I use cad yellow light pretty much just when the other yellows aren’t giving me what I want which doesn’t happen often. Viridian is my green; I also like to mix ochre and cobalt for green. Manganese blue hue, cobalt blue, and french ultramarine are my blues; although I haven’t used ultramarine in a really long time. I really like the manganese for sky and ocean blues and skin tones; it leans toward yellow and saves me time when I’m mixing lights and mid tones. Because manganese is a more transparent than opaque pigment, I usually need to use cobalt for the darkest shadows in the skin tones. I’m particularly fond of mixing a touch of alizarin and cad yellow deep with manganese for sky and ocean blues and purples because it gives them a “magical” feel. Cadmium red medium, alizarin crimson, and terra rosa are my reds. Cad red is warmer, alizarin is cooler, and terra rosa is my earth tone red. I’ve also gotten in the habit of mixing cobalt, cad red, and yellow ochre for dark browns, particularly in hair.

Does it seem amazing that artist’s can create so much color magic with these few colors? With the help of some color theory basics the possibilities can appear practically endless!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

21 under 31 Cover Artist

Each year since 2000, Southwest Art Magazine has published an article spotlighting 21 emerging artists under the age of 31. I am honored to be a part of this year’s feature.

My painting Sophie’s Seashell is on the cover, and The Sidelong Glance is pictured in the article.

I also want to congratulate my friends Adam Clague, Jonathan Stasko, and Angela Burns, all phenomenal artists, who are also included in the article.

Look for the magazine on stands this month!

Southwest Art Magazine
September 2012
Cover painting by Sarah Keller

Kitchen Art Series

When I was a younger artist, I used to think painting fruit and vegetables was BORING. Now, I understand this subject matter isn’t so much about ideas as it is about COLOR. I set up all of these vegetables right in front of me and painted them “from life.” An artists sees SO much more color and emotion painting this way, and I LOVE the results.








Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Portrait in Pink

My etsy shop MadAboutHue has given me the opportunity to do custom portrait work for clients all around and outside the United States. I do enjoy painting children. My palette is very well suited to the subject matter, and children are so delightfully straightforward in their expressions. As a painter,  I like to think that most people have one dominant feature that sums up their personality. With Katherine, it was her brow...thoughtful and intent. I like to imagine she grew into the rational child that always needed to know "why."


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Lake Lucerne

Lake Lucerne

Here’s another view I enjoyed from that golden summer spent in Washington state!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Westport Fishing Boats

Westport Fishing Boats

Before I married my husband, I was fortunate to spend a magical summer with him and his family near beautiful Seattle, WA. It really is a place worth visiting! The mountains, mists, and ocean weave an enchanting spell over visitors and residents alike. You can’t help but want to slow down, relax and drink in the outdoors. 

Westport Fishing Boats is a scene I enjoyed on a day trip with the family to the coast. I snapped this picture when the women were trapping crabs on the docks, and the men were out deep sea fishing. We enjoyed quite a catch of crabs and fish later that evening!

I really enjoyed painting how the blue sky and water influenced the colors throughout the painting, and the way the rigging and orange buoys caught the light was a very fun center of interest!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

My Nana’s Tea

My Nana’s Tea features a cup of tea from the antique china set I inherited from my nana; this is my favorite still life to date.

My preferred method of working is to paint “from life” not from a photograph. Painting this way helps me see deep into the soul of my subject, resulting in beautiful and insightful images. Most of my still lifes and small portraits and landscapes are painted this way. The larger studio pieces are painted from photographs for convenience’s sake. But I still attempt to paint quickly and decisively for the beautiful edges that can be achieved with wet paint. This painting method is called “alla prima.”

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Her First Glimpse

Her First Glimpse is actually a painting of the same place as The Sidelong Glance but from a different angle and with a different girl. The Dharma Blue cafe is one of my favorite places in historic, downtown Pensacola. I wanted to paint a chance meeting in a place where romance was, I purposefully shifted my palette toward pink, lavender, and blue to infuse the the mood with romance.

Her First Glimpse

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Sidelong Glance

Hello world! My name is Sarah Keller, and I’m a painter and a designer with a passion for color! The Sidelong Glance is a studio piece that I put a lot of time and thought into. I wanted to express in paint the idea of a girl’s reverie interrupted by something glimpsed from the corner of the her eye. WHO or WHAT? She’ll always have you wondering...

The Sidelong Glance