Friday, March 19, 2010
This was one very important mass. It couldn't be too dark as it wouldn't recede. It couldn't be too detailed as it would have competed for attention with the focal point.
I've learned there should be no more than three focal points or areas of interest within a painting; the Primary Focal Point, the Secondary Focal Point, and then the Third suggested area of interest. All should be placed withing the composition so that the viewers' eye moves continuously around the painting in a rhythmic manner from the 1st, to the second, then third, then back to the first, and so on...etc. Forever moving, never static.
The colors I am using were derived from the palette of a WWII era aviation artist who spent time sketching scenes right on location during the war. His palette of greens seemed to grab me, and gave me a sense of nostalgia, sort of like the WWII in Color films we now see on the History Channel. These films are rare, and so is the color. Before their discovery and publication I viewed WWII as a Black and White war.
The colors of that time period were mostly muted and simplified tones. They were easy on the eye! So this was a goal; to utilize the color palette in a way that reflected that time period of 1942, give the painting some authenticity and antiquity.
I was once again delving in to the "Spirit", or Energy behind the content. I was a conduit for bringing "Spirit into Form".
I am an Alchemist.
Ya Gotta start somewhere.
In oil painting one paints from dark to light, or masses in the darkest values to the lightest values. I don't paint the darkest values as dark as they appear; I make them slightly lighter. I don't paint the lighter values as light as they appear; I make them darker. This way the painting can develop in "Middle Key" value range.
Every brush stroke I lay in is in anticipation of the highlights to come.
Their contrast or "Pop" will be determined by the values and intensity of the color(s) adjacent to them.
I know this seems technical, but it's critical that the first strokes are right in every manner because every subsequent stroke will be determined by and related back to them. In the case of this photo, from the very start I am laying in the mass which will be in contrast to the highlights on the spinner of the front P-40.
If the values are right, the colors will be right, and the painting will take on a holographic 3-D effect.
Thursday, March 18, 2010
Here is the size and scale of the painting, as it hung on my studio wall. It is hard to see them, however if you look closely you can see the contours (outlined shapes) of all the major players in the composition. I drew them in with conte' crayon to maintain a red harmony with the under painting.
The painting stayed in this position for another four months, staring me in the face every time I came in to the studio, As if to say, "when ya gonna paint me??" Oh Oh.
This painting was representing art for art sake, I had no intention of selling it. I knew once I started it, it would become an obsession until I finished it. The question was, when would I find the time to paint this monster??
I was already juggling my life with family, friends, coaching, teaching, traveling, hobbies, and producing art for exhibitions. This was going to be a long process, but I'd better git'er going soon cause I needed the wall space to display my other work of art.
Now that I have committed to the concept of the Flying Tiger's Painting, It's time to prep the canvas. After stretching the canvas I gessoed it three times, took it outside and toned it. The colors I chose to tone it were based on the fact the overall harmony of the painting would be gray green. I wanted a contrast of complementary colors, thus I chose an brownish orange tone for the underpainting. This tone would be allowed to show through in certain areas throughout the painting and activate the eye of the viewer, making it "Pop". It's all about contrast.
This photo shows me with my mask on, outside my studio, doing the toning. I am mixing the color with Damar Varnish. The Damar Varnish seals the surface of the canvas, making it less absorbent, and so the oil paints sit on top of the canvas, not get soaked in. After about a minute, the toned varnish is completely dry to touch, and will remain that way until it is touched by another oil based medium. When that happens, it becomes wet again, and starts to dry that next layer or wash.
One wants the oil painting to dry from the surface of the canvas outward; and this technique insures that process. After this process, I hung the painting by pulleys inside my studio. Next, the sketch is done on the canvas and I start working on the painting; massing it in from dark to light, and thin layers to thick layers.
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
There was a problem...
The Canvas I stretched was the wrong format in relationship to the format for John Sexton's Photograph. So, I xeroxed the image, and increased the size to fit the shape of the canvas I had stretched. If you look closely you can see on the right side of the photocopy I used my imagination to create a wider image. Also, if you look closely, I added an inch to the bottom of the photocopy, drawing in with an ink pen my vision of a continuous rice paddy. This satisfied the criteria.
Now, The images I used for the aircraft were a crude cut and paste reversal of a P-40E "War Hawk. That is the large aircraft on the left. The Japanese Zero I got off the computer, from my MS Flight Combat Simulator. The other P-40 in the distance is taken from a photo (reversed), I took years ago, when attending the opening of the P-38 Museum, at March Air Force Base near Ontario, California.
The next challenge would be to decide my color palette, and do a couple of 8x10 thumbnail sketches...
Thumbnail sketches are preliminary sketches. Their benefit is to create a road map for the sub-conscious, so one can work out and satisfy or solve as many questions and/or
problems which may arise along the way, during the evolution of the painting.
The direction you are facing has much to do with your destination."--D. McCaw
Monday, March 15, 2010
I've learned to seek out masters to teach me about the Zen of art.
I once studied for a few years with a Russian Armenian Master Artist named Ovanes Berberian, (who chuckled at the fact that I sometimes paint at night on location).
One of the things he encouraged me to do is try to paint the effect of luminosity of lightning in clouds. When the master suggests something to me, I do my best to follow up and follow through with the suggestion.
Now, I don't remember how that large canvas came to me, but it was my intention to take it, stretch it, and do an extraordinary painting to please my master.
After I stretched the canvas, it stayed on my studio wall for a month or two while I charted my approach to this problem. I was unclear about how to do it. Then one day I was at Specialty Photo in Santa Barbara, when I looked on the wall and saw an image on a calender, by a master photographer named John Sexton. The image was of a landscape, somewhere in China; of Karst formations.
The way it was lit was extraordinary. It could have been done by Ansel Adams! I was intrigued enough to order a calender for myself; just for this one image alone.
After that, became sort of an obsession; to find out more about this place. I eventually found the location on a map, then curiosity arose in me and I researched into the Flying Tigers. I learned the fact that they had a base right in the neighborhood of where this photo was taken!
A light went on in my head; an inner voice screamed at me that this was what I was to do next! I knew I needed to paint this painting of the Flying Tigers and dedicate it to the A.V.G.
So now the question was, How was I going to do it? I hadn't a clue.
Karst Formations Near Guilin, China
Photograph by John Sexton
Sunday, March 14, 2010
What follows is the story of the evolution of the largest painting I've ever produced, "Tigers Over Kweilin". The Painting took over two years to complete. It is 72x96 in size...
Ever since I was a little boy I was captivated with the photos and stories of the "Flying Tigers". The A.V.G., or "American Volunteer Group". Both my parents were involve in one way or the other with the war effort during WWII. Growing up I had seen images in an American Heritage Book on the History of Flight, which my parents had in their library in our home.
There was one photo in the book of General Claire Chennault. I'd seen his weathered face standing firm and confident against the painted nose art of a Curtis P-40 "Kitty hawk". It stuck me deeply.
There was something about this image that stuck with me throughout my life, and when my father told me stories about how he supplied fuel for Chennault and the A.V.G., a seed was planted. Something inside me felt proud to be an American. I felt an inner drive to acknowledge the A.V.G. in some way, some day.
This man, Claire Chennault had the vision; to enroll a small group of American Warrior Pilots, in the idea of resigning their commissions in the U.S. Army Air Corps, and fly as mercenary pilots for the Chinese Air Force; against the Japanese Imperial Forces, who were expanding into Indonesia in the early days of WWII. At the time the U.S. had an Isolationist Policy and was merely fighting a proxy war against Japan and Germany through a lend lease program; to supply armaments in order to battle the axis powers.
Chennault was able to convince the U.S. Gov. to lend around 80 aircraft to the Chinese Government, (who had been under occupation by Japan since 1936), but the U.S. Gov. would not allow U.S. Pilots to fly the aircraft. Chennault convinced a hand full of American pilots to resigned their commissions (sacrificing their futures for the sake of stemming the spread of Japanese Imperialism).
This was not a popular thing to do. In fact it was preposterous: who ever thought it appropriate to resign their commissions to fight for a foreign country? But it had to be done! These men flew training missions in the six months prior to America's entry into WWII, and on Dec. 7, 1941, as if by divine guidance, they were serendipitously in place; all ready to take on the enemy!
In the beginning of the conflict, these men flew missions against the Japanese with little support from the home front; and they would not be resupplied either in aircraft or in parts. Instead, if a plane was lost or so badly shot up that it could no longer fly, ground crews would "cannibalize" the plane for parts, just to keep the other planes flying.
Through attrition: little by little the Tiger's numbers dwindled as they, along with their aircraft, would die in their fight against the Japanese. Fortunately, their successful exploits in turning back the Japanese were reported in the newspapers back in the U.S.A., which was good for public morale. America had been caught flat footed at Pearl Harbor, but because of the vision and foresight of Chennault, the Tigers would be like a cog in a wheel for the enemy.
After the Tigers were successful in turning back the Japanese in their quest for Indochina, they were were eventually relieved of duty by the 'Official' U.S. Army Air Corps under Gen. Stilwell. These A.V.G. pilots; many of whom were double aces (denoted by five or more enemy kills), were told they could stay on and fight under the 14Th Air Force, and would lose their rank, (be demoted). Or, they go home to the USA without any future career in the U.S. Air Corps.
Many A.V.G Pilots, feeling insulted, left for home and gave up the fight. Some though continued the fight through speaking publicly about their exploits in order to raise money for the war effort. Only a handful of the original A.V.G. stayed on to instruct the incoming rookie pilots how to do combat with the enemy. These pilots eventually gained great fame and earned the accolades from their country.
Five years ago,I was gifted a large quantity of canvas. My artist friend Dominique Raboule assisted me in stretching it out on to stretcher bars. I had the intention to explore the idea of painting the effect of lightning within clouds. I held this idea for at least four to six months until one day when I was at a black and White Photo Lab in Santa Barbara called, "Specialty Photo". It was there I saw the image on a calender taken by a well known Photographer, John Sexton...
Flying Tiger, 1942