Under-Layer Painting

The concept of layers is something that I often think about. For example, people have many layers.  We are complicated. It is what makes us unique and interesting. Layers give each person their own individuality. I also like to think about the layers in my paintings which gives them more depth. I paint landscapes and when I think about them, I focus on the layers such as the earth, hills, rocks, trees and sky. It’s all these layers that give a landscape character and a story.

Under-Layer Painting

It always takes time to build layers regardless of where they originate. In painting, I like to begin with a particular color all over my white canvas. That layer will influence an added layer either directly or indirectly. I frequently can let the under-layer influence the color on top of it or I can let it actually come through the paint.

If I use a blue green tint for the sky, I may use that color other places in the painting, frequently covering most of it with more color. My paintings proceed in this manner.

I take time with my paintings, building up the layers allowing the colors to interact with each other. It gives the work depth and makes it unique. The underlying layers have a chance to come through and influence the scene.

By using the back-end of my brush, I can scratch out one layer to reveal another. These are like the scars in the painting which also tell a story. Or I can incorporate charcoal into an area and then use paint to set it, adding interesting darks to the composition.

Ann Hart Marquis-Vie Une Reve-under-layer painting

Vie-un Rêve (Life-a Dream), acrylic on canvas, 14 x 14 x 1.5, 2012. ©Ann Hart Marquis

My painting,  Vie-un Rêve, is an example of using many layers. It would be very difficult for me to recreate this painting because the individual layers make the painting and help to tell a story.

Value in Painting

In art, value is the lightness or darkness that can be distinguished in a painting. It is thought that value is more important than color to the design and success of a painting or drawing. As a matter of fact, value has nothing to do with color. It has only to do with how light or dark the color is.

Without value variations we could not even see the subject. In the dark or intense light or even grey fog, for example, nothing can be discerned.

Additionally, it is though that if we get the value right, the color can be off and the painting will still work. This may not always be the case, but most frequently it is.

Characteristics of Value

Value in painting is important because it describes the scene in ways that colors cannot. In a representational painting, value plays the role of describing three important characteristics of the subject:

  1. Whether the subject has dimensions or is flat.
  2. What kind of smoothness or roughness the surface of the subject has.
  3. Where the light source is coming from and how bright it is.

Paintings do not need color to play these different roles.

Ann Hart Marquis-Through the Window-value in painting

Through the Window, acrylic on canvas, 20 x 16 x 1.5, 2010. ©Ann Hart Marquis

Now look at the same painting, without the color:

Ann Hart Marquis-Through the Window-value in painting

Through the Window-black and white

Notice that without the color we still read the shape and form of the interior of the room and the tree. We still understand the texture of the drapes, flowers and leaves. We know that the sun is located high in the sky and off to the left.

Value, then, makes it possible for us to know what we’re looking at. Without clear values in a painting, objects will appear flat, lifeless, and uninteresting.

Horizontal Composition

When I start a painting I spend a little time thinking about the layout and composition that I want to create. I don’t get too left brain about what I am doing. Often my imagination takes over. However, composition is one of those important painting ideas that I like to investigate.

For, example when I do a landscape of hills, open space or vistas, I frequently use a horizontal composition. The horizontal direction is associated with serenity and peacefulness in nature. I like the idea of creating or capturing peacefulness.

Ann Hart Marquis-Grassland-horizontal composition

Grassland, acrylic on canvas, 14 x 14 x 1.5 inches, 2015. ©Ann Hart Marquis

Occasionally I like to read about different definitions and examples of making art. Jean Vincent has a very interesting blog in which she defines many artistic concepts. Here is some of what she suggests about a horizontal composition.

“In nature most if not all things will eventually become horizontal in one way or another or a combination of ways. They may, for example, fall over or be knocked down, or blown apart, or squashed by something heavy from above, or attacked and eaten away chemically and/or washed away by water, and eventually become horizontal or disappear altogether. The damage done to formerly vertical things does not in itself make them become horizontal. It’s gravity that does that, pulling down the parts that become loosened.”

Not all of my landscapes are horizontal in orientation, but I do like the feeling of painting shapes across the canvas rather than always coming from a vertical perspective. Here is one that is primarily vertical.

Ann Hart Marquis-Coming from the Deep II-vertical compositon

Coming from the Deep II, acrylic on canvas, 16 x 20 x 1.5 inches, 2012. ©Ann Hart Marquis

Do you have a preference?

Gallery Wrapped Canvas

With the exception of my works on paper, I prefer to paint on canvas that is gallery wrapped. A gallery wrapped canvas is simply a canvas that doesn’t have any visible staples or nails holding the canvas to the bars on the sides. Quite often with a gallery-wrap canvas, the edges are painted and the painting hung unframed.

There is no rule when it comes to dealing with the edges of a canvas. It’s a matter of personal preference. I like to continue the painting onto the sides, frequently in as much detail as on the front of the canvas.

Ann Hart Marquis-gallery wrapped canvas

Gallery wrapped canvas, Ann Hart Marquis

Some artists think it’s enough to just paint the edges a single color, or perhaps two. I think that leaving the edges white makes them stand out too much, as does painting them black, unless the painting is dominated by very dark colors.

I like the look of an extended painting. When the sides are part of the painting it adds dimension so that the viewer is seeing part of the painting before facing it.

When I’m painting I try to remember to do the edges at the same time as the initial blocking-in of shapes. The sides then become an important part of the painting. Also, that way I don’t have to be careful when I do it, trying to match paint colors and texture. It’s also a way to use up excess paint on my brush when I’m about to use another color. Then when I’ve finished the painting, I touch up the edges if needed.

Ann Hart Marquis-Endeavor-gallery wrapped canvas

Endeavor, acrylic on canvas, 20 x 24 x 1.5 inches, 2010. ©Ann Hart Marquis-

All of my paintings on canvas are gallery wrapped. Are you partial to gallery wrapped canvas or do you prefer a frame?

Acrylic Painting Fix

Sometimes when I have finished a painting there is a little annoying doubt that says “are you sure this is finished? Are you sure it needs no revision?” I recently had such an experience with a painting that I completed in the spring of last year. In the process of organizing my studio I came across this painting. I really knew it had problems when I hung it on the wall. I just didn’t want to admit it.

It is called “Patches of Paradise,” and in reviewing the piece I decided that was an appropriate title because it seemed very patchy to me.  Also, the bottom half did not seem to be as integrated as the top half of the painting. And what were those trees doing in the foreground? It needed an entire acrylic painting fix.

Before applying paint to this canvas I had applied light molding paste which gives the surface a very textured terrain. My problem was that I let the terrain dictate the composition on the lower half of the painting. Not a good idea. I had also used colors that were too intense for almost all of the painting.

Original Patches of Paradise

Original Patches of Paradise, 2014

This week I decided to tackle the painting and see if I could remedy the problem. I covered the unattractive terrain with thick paint then applied a more toned down palette to the necessary areas. I also made subtle changes to some of the upper half of the painting. I removed the trees.

Ann Hart Marquis-Patches of Paradise-acrylic painting fix

Patches of Paradise, acrylic on canvas, 24 x 30 x 1.5 inches, 2014/2015. ©Ann Hart Marquis

I would like feedback on my changes or any comment about the painting itself. Am I finished this time? Does it now need a name change?

My New Painter’s Studio

This weekend I moved all my paintings and painting equipment back into my newly remodeled painter’s studio. What a pleasure. It is all new and bright and ready to help inspire my creativity.

Completed studio exterior

Completed studio exterior

It has been quite a journey from moving everything out and now moving back in, arranging my paintings, canvases, brushes and gadgets in as simple a manner as possible.

Ann Hart Marquis-painter's stidio

Original Studio

Original studio interior

Original studio interior

The design was a joint effort between my insightful partner Tim Anderson, my very creative and efficient builder David Medina and me. Luckily, David is a building artist. Tim documented it all.

Ann Hart Marquis-Studio interior in process

Studio interior in process

My studio is now bigger, better insulated and brighter. I am delighted with the finished product. I have more room for storage and hanging space for my art. I can see myself having many creative and productive years in my new space.

Completed studio interior

Completed studio interior

Working With a Horizon Line

Winter is almost over and here in New Mexico, trees and plants are starting to pop with color. Instead of browns and greys in the landscape I am starting to see a few patches of green, orange and even yellow all over the scenery.

Here is another painting that I just completed using a rather limited palette of raw sienna, cobalt blue and red oxide. This combination allowed me to mix interesting pinks, greens and oranges. Once again I have painted a high horizon line. I am still somewhat preoccupied with the horizon line.

Ann Hart Marquis-New Mexico Winter #5-horizon line

New Mexico Winter #5, acrylic on paper,10 x 3 inches. Ann Hart Marquis

Horizon Line

The horizon line is thought to be one of the foremost visual components or clues of perspective in a landscape. It’s the thing we immediately use to interpret the perspective in a painting we are viewing. We do it almost instinctively.

So if the horizon line is too high or low in a painting we lose the brain’s ability to interpret and perceive perspective. Instead, the viewer has to first struggle to deal with where the horizon line is, to see it for what it is and put it in relation with everything else in the composition.

Too high a horizon line, with only a tiny sliver above it and the brain won’t instantly register that area as sky. If it is too low, the sliver below the horizon risks not being perceived as land.

In most cases, a low horizon line works for emphasis on the sky. A high horizon line emphasizes the landscape.

In any case, I hope to be able to abstract the horizon line more in the future.

Limited Palette With Red, Blue and Yellow

Sometimes when we first learn to paint, it is suggested that we use a limited palette of three primary colors—red, yellow and blue. Some teachers think that limiting oneself to just a few colors teaches us how to mix colors correctly, see value and temperature, and encourages thought and planning in our color choices.

Besides making it easier to learn about color temperatures, using a limited color palette offers more color harmony, the ability to make grays without the muddiness and less confusion because of fewer color choices. I have painted with a limited palette before and I have always liked the feeling of just using a few colors.

Colors in a limited palette can still be warmer or cooler in relation to other colors. Since the eye adjusts to what it looks at, it doesn’t feel as though any colors are missing. There are cool and warm reds, cool and warm yellows and so on. Here is the first on that I created:

Ann Hart Marquis-limited palette

Red, Blue, Yellow, Acrylic on canvas, 9 x 12 inches, Ann Hart Marquis

Last week during an artist retreat, we experimented using only red, yellow and blue and white and black. The object was to create different tints, tones and shades of the 3 colors. It was interesting and fun for me to play and to see if I could easily come up with complementary color combinations or triad color combinations.

Ann Hart Marquis-limited palette

Red, Blue, Yellow #2, ,Acrylic on canvas, 9 x 12 inches, Ann Hart Marquis

Ann Hart Marquis-Red, limited palette

Red, Blue, Yellow #3, ,Acrylic on canvas, 9 x 12 inches, Ann Hart Marquis

Artist Retreat

This past week I spent 4 days in Phoenix playing with paint and experimenting with new surfaces. The occasion was an artist retreat with fellow artists that I painted with at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago during the summer of 2011.

The first day we experimented with a technique that called for a first layer of acrylic paint on any gessoed surface, then an isolation layer followed a top layer of paint. Each layer needed to dry before adding the next layer. We only used red, yellow and blue paint.  I enjoyed the process. Here are 2 examples:

Ann Hart Marquis-artist retreat

Acrylic on canvas, 9 x 12 inches, Ann Hart Marquis

Acrylic on paper, Lorna Filipinni-Mulliken

Acrylic on paper, Lorna Filipinni-Mulliken

On the second day we experimented with Yupo paper and light molding paste. Yupo paper is the 100% recyclable, waterproof, tree-free synthetic paper.  It is super-smooth, bright white and durable. Here are some of our Yupo pieces:

Acrylic on Yupo paper, 13 x 20 inches, Diane Huff

Acrylic on Yupo paper, 13 x 20 inches, Diane Huff

Acrylic on Yupo paper, 13 x 20 inches, Ann Hart Marquis-yupo

Acrylic on Yupo paper, 13 x 20 inches, Ann Hart Marquis

Acrylic on Yupo paper, 13 x 20 inches, Gail Suttelle

Acrylic on Yupo paper, 13 x 20 inches, Gail Suttelle

Acrylic on Yupo paper, 13 x 20 inches, Connie Hoogerland

Acrylic on Yupo paper, 13 x 20 inches, Connie Hoogerland

Light molding paste dries to an opaque, matte finish. It is designed to hold stiff peaks for highly textured surfaces and it blends easily with colors. Molding paste can also be used to create foundations for painting either to create texture over a smoother surface, or to smooth out a textured surface.

The last day we reconvened and made more interesting creations, each of us choosing what interested us. It was a wonderful get-away and we plan to do it again, perhaps in Chicago.


Abstract Landscapes with Paint

I have a simple program on my computer called Microsoft Paint. I started looking at it recently as an alternative way to crop images that I have photographed. This weak I opened it one evening and spontaneously decided to click on a brush and found that I could easy draw with it so off I went until I discovered colors and different tools.

Many of you may already create with apps and/or art programs, but I had not until now. After being totally drawn to my process, I found that I could easily and quickly create forms and abstract landscapes similar to what I have painted. I created both images below in about an hour. I found this program to be another way of playing and being non-judgmental about my art.

Ann Hart Marquis-Paint #1-Microsoft Windows Paint

Paint #1

I also found that I used the same method of thinking about value, intensity and color that I use with my paintings. As I played with lines and form, I discovered that I could easily tone down intense colors by layering colors or overlapping them.

Ann Hart Marquis-Paint #2-Microsoft Windows Paint

Paint #2

This program is not one that I will now incorporate into my art practice, but I think it will be fun to use from time to time to just play.

Are any of you using an app or program to play with art?