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Saturday, June 14, 2014

Richard Schmid's Three Out of Six ways To Begin

Saturday, June 14th, Line Mass Block-in continued
After Holbein, The Younger, Lady in a (Cycling) Helmet.
After Schmid, an experiment with the Line/mass Method of starting a painting.

This week I experimented with three of Schmid's ways to begin a painting:
1) Line and Mass. 
2)  Transparent (Oils) Monochrome Block-In [with coloration].
3)  Transparent Monochrome as A Finished Painting

Line/mass construction is not for me. I have been so conditioned to seeing shapes over the years, that outlining seems totally foreign. I prefer the monochrome starts that Schmid prefers.  Of the first three methods of starting a painting, method two and three suit my vision of things--particularly figurative things. The line drawing copies of Holbein's sketches did, however, get me to recall the use of line for creating the illusion of depth--to gain the elegance that Schmid has with line, a return to brush and ink drawing may be helpful.  The Holbein evening also brought up the importance of hard and soft edge treatments in painting.

 Week three into Schmid, the 2-13 edition of his Alla Prima, Everything I know About Painting book, I am getting the advantages of scumbling and wiping off paint and the supplies I must have on hand --like acetone (to be used with a mask) for total wipe outs when the paint dries and you see that the helmet is too high and needs correction.  For making corrections, it's either acetone-- or long enough sessions to finish a painting--or paintings sized to fit in the freezer for overnight keeping so the paint will still be workable in the morning. 

My wealth of flat sturdy bristle brushes collected over the years and cared for poorly have also become treasures for  scumbling--and the filberts and house-painter brushes are just as valuable.

My head is so full of Schmid information  percolating I don't want to read another page. It's time to concentrate on Transparent Monochrome Block-Ins As Finished Paintings and slowly move into the addition of color.   It's also time to shop the different brands of oils; certain colors on the 12 color palette are used constantly, while others aren't in demand very often-- or just a tiny dab will do ya like Alizarin and Cadmium Yellow Medium.  Before Schmid,   I never had any thoughts about oil paint brands or the necessary quantities. Now, I'm shopping and comparing manufacturer's color charts, the size of tubes and their pricing.

To see the rest of my week at the easel, scroll through the week that was and have a happy fathers' day. May the children call. May you get a table at your favorite place to dine along with excellent service.

Sunday, June 8th. A Day of Rest

I took time off Schmid to ogle  the flowers. His observations and conclusions are mind boggling.

Macro setting, Nikon Coolpix, standard color with Jasc Paint Shop Photo Album adjustments.

And The Popcorn--Popcorn Everblooming Roses That is.

Nikon Coolpix L120, Popcorn Roses, Everblooming

Monday, June 9th, Too Many Distractions.

But plenty of time to hunt through photograph files for heads worth painting. The two I selected were my dad, Harry and Ellis's dad, the Commander. My dad was crazy about his kids. I chose a photo of him with my niece.  The Commander was in the Medical Corp of the Navy during WWII. He was a trauma surgeon on leave smelling the roses in his garden. These are .this week's reference photos. No time to start today. Today there's too many household interruptions to break my concentration.  Don't paint when there's going to be distractions; disruptions keep you from doing your best.

In my twenties, portraits were taped to the wall--as were sport
 action paintings--and laundry was always a nemesis.
This photo was a fun find.


Tuesday, June 10th, Starting a painting; Schmid's Six Ways

1) Line and Mass. 
2)  Transparent (Oils) Monochrome Block-In [with coloration].
3)  Transparent Monochrome as A Finished Painting
4)  Impressionistic Block-In
5)  Full Color Accurate Block In
6)  Selective Start (Or The Big Bang)

I intend to try all of them, but for the dads, I chose what I'm most comfortable with: Number Three.
It's a lot like doing a Charcoal Block-in, which is my cup of tea. Method two adds color in the end stages. The Commander didn't need any color.  If I was to color my dad, I'd probably add it to the dark side of his face and the right side of my nieces along with portions of the little girl's sweater.

The Commander stopping to smell the roses during WWII.

This is what I didn't know about Monochrome Block-ins as a finished painting:

1) They should be done on a surface primed with real gesso, not acrylic gesso. Acryic gesso is porous and the color can't be lifted off down to the white of the surface for highlights and value variations.

2)  Though this Method has the word Monochrome in its title, Schmid  defines monochrome as  a color family to build up the tonal values he needs.  A typical monochrome color family is:  Transparent Red Oxide, Transparent Brown Oxide, Alizarin, Yellow Ochre and Terra Rosa. I used Transparent Red Oxide, Transparent Brown Oxide and Cobalt Blue, Schmid's student mix, for this exercise.

3)  For this additive/subtractive starting method, I need more tools in my tool box like q-tips, fine sandpaper, fine steel wool, fine sponges, lots of bristle brushes, a goodly supply of clean rags plus a Swiss Army knife for fine line highlights.  I was ill equipped.  Charcoal block-ins only require a large knead eraser, stubs, soft brushes, alcohol, a pastel white if drawing on a gray tone paper. Nothin' to it.

Wednesday, June 11, Carry On Nonetheless
Dad and Lee Marlow 
Did you ever bake a cake using all substitutions for the ingredients?  I did--and it came out fine.  Using a canvas pad that was white with a very smooth tooth for the Commander and my dad didn't work.  It was weird painting on a slick surface and I tried to build up the paint to establish the darks way too quickly. Schmid is a painter, who does a lot of scumbling and the gradual build up dark values with dry brush strokes.  I will try these again, next time moving slowly, using a family of monochrome colors and a hard surface, lead gesso primed support, (wherever I may find such a thing in).  I'll also give the Commander back the hand that saved a lot of limbs for a lot of guys. I ran out of room.
The two Monochrome Block-in Methods for starting a painting require supports of size; they are not good for small paintings--8 x 12 and up. The beauty of  Gestural painting, Alla Prima is the "loose" brushstrokes accurately placed. Well, a stroke with bravado needs space.
My compositional errors on both these paintings would not have happened if I had bothered to do a scaled thumbnail block-in first. 
Thursday, June 12th, Line and Mass Block-in, otherwise called cartoons (by me, not Schmid).

As close as I ever got to contour drawing was this cartoon I
worked on briefly when my second grandchild was a toddler-- now the HS graduate.
What ended the idea was a lack of contact with the children, which eliminated researching text.

Starting a painting via the line and mass method has never occurred to me. I think there are no lines in painting, just edges and  directional shapes and colors. When I went to the studio with the idea of trying the method, I froze up.  In all my photographs, I couldn't find one where I saw line and not shapes. I tried one that seemed like it had possibilities,  but it didn't work. Discouraged, I chose to cut a bolt of canvas into usable sizes. I kept thinking about contour drawing the whole time.  Contour wasn't one of my strengths; it was a skill more suitable for cartooning and I always wanted to look down on the paper. So I cleaned the oven.  Bummer day till I couldn't stand it anymore.

Unwilling to just let the day go by with no art, I picked up my Holbein In England book--ordered because Schmid mentioned Holbein, the Younger, has a lot to offer with regards to skin tones--and tried copying his line drawings, (cartoons), in which the masses were then colored in allowing the lines to show through--no doubt done with ink.  I'm fine with pencils, but can I do clean, elegant line work using paint after thinking shapes for so long? I'll find out.  (BTB, Hans Holbein, the Elder, and a Holbein cousin were no slouches either drafting). I colored in much more than Holbein. A hat enthusiast, I found the styles of the 1550's quite alluring--and the furs. King Henry VIII's castle must have been freezing.  Everybody looks bundled up.

Friday, June 13th,

Line and Mass Block-in using paint.  Again I used myself as my model, to protect the innocent.
My cycling helmet is as elaborate as those worn in Holbein's time. Hats do have fascinating lines.
Line and Mass drawing.
This was as far as I got when Ellis asked, "Want to go to lunch?"  I said, "You bet. TGIF!"
I packed up the paints, stuck the palettes in the freezer and got my purse. 


  1. Linda: This is a terrific post. I must say you are getting better and better. This post is uplifting.

    1. Thanks JJ. You know I love writing all most as much as I love painting, so blogging is a perfect outlet. Trouble is building up my painting skills seems more important to me than polishing my writing skills at this point in life. I had a fantastic writing education in high school--1000 word compositions due every Monday morning sharp. My English teacher was my favorite teacher. She was as tough as they come. Cartooning would have been a good career choice, IF contour drawing had been my cup of tea. I love stumbling across myself in my Golden Years.

  2. Wow, what a week you have Had! I am in total awe of everything you have done. But then I adore monochrome and the initial stage of a painting is favourite, I lose interest then. You are working so hard....I applaud you.

    1. I have to catch up to you. I love the beginning stages the best too. Thanks. This oil painting is some serious hard work :-)). And I'm loving every minute.

  3. Hi Linda,
    Wow! I can now understand why you hadn't posted for several days. You were busy!! You shouldn't torture your fans like that, LInda. I was nearly driven to write you an email to make sure you were okay. I imagined you suffering with the new mosquito virus or even MERS. Horrors. Luckily, the worries were for naught.
    I was always too cheap to buy Mr. Schmid's book(s), so thanks to your detailed posts, I'm enjoying learning from him vicariously. Or, maybe that should be, "economically". :)) The flower photos and one of a younger you were great, too. It was easy to see why you modeled.
    Keep up the great work and I have no doubt you'll be "Teacher of the Year".

    1. No illness here, just extreme curiosity. I can't seem to shake it even though I heard somewhere it killed a cat ! Buying the books was a bargain next to the price of a class. And I don't have to schlep a lot of stuff somewhere where the coffee comes out of a machine tasting stale and the people are snobs. I'm saving that pleasure for September maybe? There's something about our art association that ticks me off and keeps me away. There's a lot of 'good ole gals' there who put on aires of superiority. Then there's no chatting or sharing or laughing among the ladies (and one or two guys) who paint, so forget the social aspect. It's like being with a bunch of interior designers who are so competitive and so full of malarkey you could throw up chintz. Reading Schmid and trying his ways out where the coffee is good, the wine is better and you can fold a load of laundry on break then blog about it has been-- note the folded laundry on the side in the photo of me painting--and is my style. It's lonely sometimes, but that's when I hop on my bike or tickle Beethoven on the piano. It's a good life for a recluse.

      Meanwhile our spring/early summer weather has been superb. No humidity. Temps in the high seventies, low eighties, sunny during the day, sprinkles for the flowers at night, a nice change from the winter nightmare--if it doesn't kill us, it'll make us better drivers. Give a hug to Michele. Tell her I think she has quite a guy, but then I'm sure she knows it.

  4. Very classy yesteryear photo of you, L.W! You were a knockout (and you're still a great looking person) Good genes! Well, this has been a really fun post to read. I love the flower photos and all the great starts. I wrote an answer to your query about what became of the portrait on my blog in the comments section. I deleted it after I blogged it because it was just disturbingly wrong. lol! I will keep on working with portrait, however, because, like you, I just find it endlessly interesting. You are very good at capturing likeness. I read in your comments section here how dubious you are of your art association. I understand and agree. We have an art association here too and I stay away. They do have great guest speakers sometimes,and I sometimes go for those. I am lucky that we have the weekly art discussions (that is not a "real" group at all) and it is good because so many abilities show up and there is no one-upmanship. The Schmid book has been discussed at our meetings....but following with you on your blog is great--much more in depth. I just have to get the book. I agree with you, that fighting against poor materials is a bad deal. I can't bear to practice on very expensive supports though. I have lots of painting friends who just prime boards with gesso. Have you used "real" gesso yet?

    1. No, but it's on my hardware list. From earlier heavy duty painting sprees, I have a bolt of good, cotton canvas. A diagram in the Van Gogh book showing how many paintings came out of one of his canvas bolts pushed me to get it out of storage and fit it to size. I did that for the dad starts and A couple of other heads. Might as well use it up, but my paint board is only so big and that size sets a limit on the size of the canvas. If I want a 16 x 12 practice size, I cut a piece 20 x 16 allowing a two inch margin for possible stretching if anything good comes from the painting. That seems to work.

      Schmid makes me think. The couple of classes I broke down and took, did not. When someone is talking, directing, teaching while I'm in the throes of a painting, not much sinks in. Reading about painting first let's that happen. Then putting that knowledge to work in the studio goes pretty well. Schmid gets me excited about painting.

  5. Well, you're always busy. =)
    Thanks for sharing your "memory lane", You work incredible hard to improve yourself, you are an inspiration.

    1. I am always curious. I have to work hard to catch up to where I might have been had I not chosen another art oriented profession. Besides, i really like understanding the process that I've used, but never knew why. Art education isn't as good as it could be, something that ticks me off even if I understand why.

  6. You are a talented woman. I can do a lot of things, but draw or paint are not among them :)

    1. Thanks Rick. An award winning writer counts a lot in this day and age of texting no sentence more complex than: Don't u think? LOL and all that stuff? :-))

  7. A wonderful post Linda! So much wonderful art, magnificent text, and beautiful flowers! All that said, the precious photo of you from a "few years" back steals the show! So much fun to see photo of you from " back in the day!"
    Your portraits are all stunning buddy! Keep on keeping on!
    Your so very happy to check out your blog art buddy!

    1. You should see the current photo of me painting, hardly a year has past, I look the same :-)) Portraits are what keep me interested, so I am concentrating on them this year and Schmid's loose style that is so fitting for the casual poses I prefer. Since portraits have been done throughout history in oil, so I am concentrating on that medium. I'd rather paint a flag now and then. You really are giving Hussein a push to the side with your flags. And no one I've seen comes close to how well you do turbulent seas. Really great. Thanks for commenting Michael. Happy painting with hugs.

  8. You really have packed a lot into one post! I know nothing about oils, line/mass vs. shape, so I won't say a thing. But your flowers are divine - that iris is to die for!!! I love all the older photos; and the studies you have created of your dad, and the commander are superb!

    1. Thanks. I like them too. Monochrome paintings do have that sepia old fashioned photo look . I might do another of my father in-law. I just found the photo I was looking for; he's dressed in his whites. Well, you do too know about line/mass. Watercolor starts begin with a line drawing of forms, then the coloring in of the masses with glazed details to follow. That, according to this fellow, is a Line Mass start. In Mexico, I'm going to start my watercolors his way rather than the free hand, wet into wet, free flinging method I love to use for sketches. See what happens. My posts are a collection of thoughts over a week's time and published once. That way I get to paint and write each day and hopefully edit more efficiently. But by the time I get to editing, I am a little sick of looking at it all so faux pas do get away from me. I'm just trying out this journalistic style. I'm also toying with short and sweet like the majority of art bloggers. Nobody likes a lot of text UNLESS it's them who is texting. As run away as I am at the keyboard, I don't text unless pushed. Arthritic thumbs. Everybody is going to have them. :-))

  9. So much to read and catch up with on your last few blog posts. I completely understand how alluring it is to paint from Schmid's book. He is an incredible teacher and does not seem to hold back on generously sharing his processes and understandings. He is a modern master for sure. When I was first starting out, I learned from Thomas Buechner's book, How I Paint - Secrets of a Sunday Painter. It has such a special place in my heart as I think it gave me a firm groundwork upon which to build. A few years ago, I leafed through it again to discover how much he had taught me and realized how much I owe to him for the solid information he provided me. I became rather emotional and dashed off a thank you email to him. He was kind enough to answer me with a heartfelt reply. He died a few years ago and sadly, I never got to attend a workshop with him.
    By the way - that is a great photo of you from younger years - very dynamic and you are a knockout!

    1. Thank you! But the operative word is were. I'll post a more up to date photo sometime. Like night and day.

      I've heard of the book you mentioned, but never had the pleasure. I think Schmid is all I can handle right now. There's a lot of information to be read, tried and digested. The main thing is to paint and get past all the errors one makes in the beginning. Isn't that odd? I've been painting off and on my whole life, yet here am I taking the time to learn how in the third act and feeling quite at home. How fortunate is that?

    2. Did I write "in the beginning?" Errors are commonplace in what we do. We just have to accept them, live with them and learn from them. And to think I once said, you shouldn't think too much when painting. There's as much planning to do for a painting as there is for designing living spaces.

  10. Dear Linda, here there are so many things!
    Really nice to see you very busy and I feel like you are happy in this whirlwind of life, information, studies, acquisitions ... ART.
    Lifestyle and paint with fullness ... you're
    great, my friend.
    Your Iris seems ready to paint ...
    Thanks for this post, shining like a FIREWORK!

    1. It is ready to be painted by you. I need to stick with skin tones and getting accurate values. That is very time consuming. I am amazed at how much time must be spent mixing paint on the palette familiarizing yourself with how much of what goes into how much of what to get a tone that matches. I've got a good eye, but not as good as it has to be. Practice. Practice. Practice. That's my summer.