Plein Air at Papago Park

Mixed media plein air study, Papago Park, March 2017

Much better experience with plein air the second time out! A friend and I went to Papago Park in Phoenix in March, and fought high winds to paint the rounded red rocks and desert scenery that is next to the Phoenix Zoo, as well as the Botanical Gardens. At some point it just got too windy, our stuff was flying all over, but we each did some work. I did two and this was the better of them. Here’s some of the scenery:

“Hole in the rock” is a popular urban hiking trail.

We may revisit this spot another time, where we can see the hole from our painting vantage point. We were off to the side of it this time. I haven’t climbed up to the hole since I was in my teens or maybe early 20’s, but want to check it out again next time.

Panoramic shot of Papago Park.

The little painting was done on a SOHO cardboard painting panel (8×10 in.) that I had coated with thinned down white gesso days before. I wanted the surface to have a little “tooth” because I wasn’t sure in advance if I’d just draw, or mix painting and drawing. This ended up being done with acrylic paint watered down a bit to be more like a watercolor wash, (leaves the surface’s tooth intact), and Inktense colored pencil, (any dark shade should do; I used “bark”). This was a very limited palette of SOHO alizarin crimson, and one of SOHO’s light yellows comparable to cad yellow light, and Golden ultramarine blue, and some kind of sap green I think but didn’t really need it. I also didn’t end up using much of the manganese blue I’d taken.

I painted very quickly and loosely, going for big general shapes and blocks of light and shadow. After the last time at Brown’s Ranch, where I had “information overload” from all the details to see, I had vowed to take off my glasses if necessary, to filter out the noise and just go for the basics!

The Inktense pencil was great for roughly sketching in some of the branchy marks where there were trees and bushes, and I just blobbed some mixed greens where the bulk of the tree forms were in the foreground. Inktense is a richly pigmented water soluble colored pencil brand. With a wet brush you can get ink and wash like effects or tone underpainted washes, besides doing line work.

The sky changed so fast that I didn’t focus on any particular clouds but just put grayish, blue, or white, where I wanted it and didn’t worry about it. Using the paint both transparently, and opaquely, I was able to alter things a bit if I didn’t like it as it went along.

By the end, the whole surface was still pretty toothy and I could’ve continued working on it at home, even with pencils, but decided to just keep it as is and move on. It’s the first plein air study I’m satisfied with, so far.

Because I wasn’t sure if the Inktense would smear, I didn’t seal this with brushed on acrylic like GAC 100 like I normally do with paintings. A spray was called for so I used an archival aerosol satin varnish. I don’t like using that kind of product because of the chemical solvents etc, so a can of it lasts me a LONG time. Now it’s almost gone, so I’ll seek out a more environmentally friendly version soon.

Anyone have any favorite less-toxic spray finishes?

Papago isn’t far from where I live so future trips are pretty likely.

Available works; Shows; Plein Air trip

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“Birds Eating Birds” (Still available from my Fatal Farm solo show in fall 2016.) Acrylic on panel, 11×14 in., $250 © Cindy Schnackel 2016

You can see paintings and sculptures still available, as well as details like size, medium, and price, on my  Current Inventory page. (Note: Fatal Farm show pieces are linked on that page as there were so many!) If you’re in the area, and want to see pieces in person, and the tiny drawings etc, that often don’t get posted online, contact me about a Studio Visit! (artbycindy at Live dot com)

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Commissioned portrait, acrylic, 16 x 20 in. © Cindy Schnackel 2016

I also do Commissions, occasionally. If I don’t think I’m the right artist for your request I’ll just tell you up front; that way neither of us has to be disappointed! So far, bird portraits are what I’ve been doing as commissions and it has been working out well! I’m open to other subjects.

SHOWING RIGHT NOW

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“Love Birds,” 1 through 4, mixed media, each 6 x 6 in., $90 each, at The Artery thru Feb 2017. © Cindy Schnackel 2017

I have four small bird paintings in The Artery, 625 E. Indian School in February. There was a nice crowd at the opening for First Friday in Feb. This gallery is normally only open during art walk nights or by appointment, (602) 997-9339. Artery (aka Studio 6) Gallery Facebook page

See Previous Post for more info on how the Love Birds were made and other details.

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Not a lot of these left, but those that are, are at {9} The Gallery, in Phoenix! Miniatures, mixed media, most priced at $45, some cube shaped and sit on a shelf, others hang. © Cindy Schnackel 2016

Also, I still have work in the gift shop area of {9} The Gallery, 1229 Grand Ave., Phoenix, AZ. If you don’t find them, ask. They are tiny, and things get moved around depending on the current show. Usually, they’re on a shelf; feel free to ask the gallery if they have others not on display. http://9thegallery.com/

Two things are penciled in for March, the Icehouse in Phoenix during Art Detour, and the same time frame, the Mutant Pinata show at Chartreuse, also in Phoenix. Details TBA when I know more.

 

PLEIN AIR TRIP, FEB 2017

 

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Cholla cactus, backlit, photographed as we were leaving the ranch, in late afternoon light.

Last week, I went on my first plein air painting trip! It was good just to get out of the city, even though the spot, Brown’s Ranch, is just a few miles NE of the Valley. I was surprised it seemed as dry and subdued looking as it did, because we’d had pretty good winter rains. Maybe it’s just enough higher than the Valley that things haven’t started to pop yet. I took quite a few reference photos that should come in handy for general desert backgrounds where a giant creature, or errant animated tea pot, happens to be tromping through.

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My awful first plein air “painting.” Must ignore overwhelming details next time!

The term “editing” came to mind when I tried to start painting. My eyes saw every blade of grass, every bit of gravel, thorn, leaf, and rock. I had a really hard time just seeing the basic shapes and making my hand obey, which is not something I normally have difficulty with when I’m in my own little world. It was truly an example of how a person has to be willing to fall on their face to get where they want to go.

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Panoramic shot of Brown’s Ranch, NE of Scottsdale, AZ.

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The rocks looked smooth from a distance but were quite rough up close. You wouldn’t want to slide down one of these rocks on your butt!

 

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Close up of saguaro cactus ribs and thorns.

I had previously worked out a very limited palette so I wouldn’t have to take many tubes of paint. In the end, I also did as many artists do, and added a warmer or cooler version of each ‘primary’ just in case. Plus white and black, but I never got around to using everything. I did kind of miss my favorite colors from home, so since paints didn’t really take up that much room I may add them at some point, (transparent red and yellow iron oxides, and green gold maybe), and perhaps leave home one or two colors I didn’t use much. My stay-wet palette was about like it is at home when I paint out on the patio. It bought me a few minutes of time, but not a miracle worker. I may switch to Golden’s “Open” version, (slower drying paint) just for the plein air kit, but right now I’ll use up what I have. I did take Open mediums and used them and it helped some. When I wanted something to dry instantly, setting it in the sun for a few minutes accomplished that.

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Acrylic paint brands really differed in Alizarin Crimson, but SOHO’s made a good red in this very limited color palette.

What took up room and added weight was water, for drinking and painting. I poured my dirty paint water into an empty bottle at the end of the day and took it back home to dispose of. I didn’t see anyplace there that looked like it’d be ok to dispose of it at the ranch, and would expect that to be the case just about anywhere.

Everything carried pretty well in a small rolling cart: rags, plastic bags for wet things, a small mister bottle of water, sun hat. I took two packs of SOHO cardboard painting panels in 8×10 in size. These worked really well, didn’t warp, and were cheap. A lightweight piece of cardboard, rolled into a cone and secured with rubber bands, kept my brush heads from getting mashed in the cart. The inexpensive travel easel I got worked just great. We were lucky that there was no wind. If it had been windy I’d have probably sat on the ground and held the painting panel in my lap.

Some of my mural/’primitive’ location painting tips came back to me so it looked like I was really organized but it was an illusion. I will do a few things differently next time. Also, I should have brought healthy snacks as my food for the entire day ended up being chips and stuff purchased while waiting for buses. Somehow, “food” entirely escaped my mind until I was well away from home.

All in all, it was a challenging and different experience, and that’s exactly what I was after. I also took up one non art related thing this year, archery. If I could take a selfie of myself shooting an arrow, I’d show you a picture of that, too.

New Colors; Limited Palette; Comments?

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Photoshop Elements doodle, Cindy Schnackel. Gradient tool, brush tool, ‘plastic wrap’ filter.

NEW COLORS

There are some “super-colors” out now, that are more intense than traditional pigments. Availability ranges from No Way, to Out of Stock, so I’ve not tried them, but am curious!

The first is Vantablack , which only one artist, Anish Kapoor, has access to. It is so dark that it makes anything painted with it appear as a black hole, (so I’ve read). Something about nanotubes…

Around the same time as Vantablack hit the news, we learned there was a new blue that was more intense than all others,  YInMn Blue (possibly even more intense that Klein Blue ?). YInmn blue is made with a new process, too, and from some rare minerals. [Edited to add I happened to run across a paint brand that might be offering Yin Min Blue pigment powder eventually: http://www.derivan.com.au/derivan-products/yin-min-blue.html Derivan makes Matisse acrylic paint.]

Recently, I read about the “Pinkest Pink” on Blouin Art Info about artist Stuart Semple’s fluorescent pigments. The artist’s site also offers green, yellow, and a glass glitter. These are available to everyone EXCEPT Kapoor. Though I don’t know if Semple actually expects to enforce the disclaimer that you are not Kapoor, and won’t supply Kapoor with the pigment, it is an interesting statement about Kapoor’s exclusive use of Vantablack.

An artist I know locally has said he has some of the Pinkest Pink and that it is really intense. I’m anxious to see what he does with it. In the meantime, the price is not bad, so I plan to try it when it’s in stock again.

One wonders how different these new colors really are, or if photos online do them justice. It’d be great to see works in person that were created with them, and fun if we could try them out. Seems like they’d be best for artists who use large fields of more or less unsullied color. My work might not show them off to their best advantage, however, artists are inspired by new things, and I could see finding a way to use them.

Do you think you’d like to try these? If you did, would you feel like no other black, blue or pink would satisfy you anymore?

COMMENTS?

I’d love to know what you think about the new colors, so tried to turn Comments back on, but they are not showing up! I’ve been through my dashboard settings for discussion/comments etc, with a fine tooth comb, and checked or unchecked all the appropriate boxes, (the same places I was in when I turned comments OFF a few weeks ago). Still, no Comment option appears on new posts like it should. It says I can turn comments on or off on each post, too, but there’s no option to do that while creating or editing posts, that I can find.

[Edited, the old format apparently wasn’t supporting making changes, but I dared to click the new improved editor and that does have a way to turn on comments on individual posts. Still working on figuring out why turning them back on for everything wasn’t working.]

Of course, no one can leave any thoughts on that, either, because the Comments do not work.

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LIMITED PALETTE

Deciding to go out plein air painting later this month required thinking about a limited palette again, so I don’t have to carry as many paint tubes. (I didn’t want to include fluid acrylics as the lids can pop open.) Away from the house, I didn’t want to be thinking, “Damn, I wish I’d brought _______.”

Often, when painting at home, I end up using a palette that’d be considered “limited,” but the particular colors vary from piece to piece. I like having a lot to choose from. Some become favorites and are in most paintings, like ultramarine blue, whichever yellow makes sense at the time, and red iron oxide. I can always grab a brighter red, or a premixed purple or green, or a cerulean blue if need be. I prefer to mix greens, though Green Gold is a favorite premixed green.

After doing some research on plein air sites about what colors regular plein air painters take with them, there was not just one answer, but quite a few sites/artists mentioned the ones in the photo. They are SOHO’s Alizaron Crimson, Golden’s Ultramarine Blue, and Derivan Matisse Flow Primary Yellow, (which was the closest yellow I had in a tube form to the cadmium light or lemon yellow some plein air sites suggested).  This worked very well to make secondary colors plus a functional “black,” and a range of browns. I’ll also take titanium white.

We’ll be painting in the desert most likely, and there is a lot of color there. By the time our winter rains have made the spring flowers bloom, it will be a riot of color in some areas. The rest of the time, the desert still has plenty of rusty reds, purples, and dusky greens, plus usually brilliant blue sky.

As for an actual palette, I have a Stay Wet plastic kind with a sponge and special paper, but it’s large. I might just take plastic lids from food containers and pitch them in recycling when I get home. I will already have to carry water for painting and drinking, and at least a cursory brush washing, so the Stay Wet Palette may be too cumbersome. We shall see.

I have Golden’s Open gel, so the paint will not dry quite so fast. Wasn’t quite willing to start a whole new kit with Open colors, but maybe if drying is too fast and a problem out there, I might eventually switch over, at least for tube colors.

Some good finds:

A decent tripod type easel for only $20! While the wooden French easels with space for supplies are very tempting, they were kind of expensive for an activity I haven’t even tried yet. And heavy…most were made of wood.

A small, lightweight cart to carry everything, and even if I never use it for art again, it is a stand in for my “old lady cart” when the wheels finally fall off. The new cart has bigger, rubbery wheels, than than my old cart which is only made for use on paved surfaces.

A Cockatoo Commission

Happy 2017!

Twenty-sixteen’s last painting was a commissioned portrait of a family’s cockatoo. I was so happy that the buyer and her family were pleased with it! Even their cockatoo seemed to approve. The painting is 16 x 20 inches. The photos it was done from were supplied by the bird’s humans. I moved a few things around and added some detail like a lizard and a bug. The buyer supplied me with info about character, and close ups of her bird’s toes and face so I could get the details personalized.

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Commissioned cockatoo portrait

2017

This year, I plan to try two new things, or at least that I haven’t done in a long, long time. One is plein air painting, the other is drawing from a live (human) model. I will probably suck at both, but hopefully it’ll serve as a way to challenge myself, recharge my batteries, and enhance my more imaginary work, as well as just be a fun time with other artists.

My husband requested that I paint some Juncos, a cute little song bird with a tiny pink beak. We don’t see them much here in Phoenix AZ because they breed far North, and even some of their winter range is still in colder climates than here. We lived a few years in the Oklahoma City area some years ago, and that’s where we became acquainted with them, at our feeders, usually after there was snow on the ground. I plan on painting them in a snow scene. Hopefully, we’ll see a few in our yard here this winter, too, so I can sketch them in person again.