I gave in to the sketchbook idea after realizing that our old truck’s gas mileage book kept traveling to my studio to have some notations converted into a painting. Plus the book was crammed with little lines and shadings, the heavy-set man at the gas pump or the palm trees in the night lighting of the station, so the gas amounts and mileages were fighting for their survival. Now I use a sketchbook in which I jot everything from color roughs of landscapes to simple line drawings of our cats, and this travels on my lap when we drive, especially on longer trips. I’m accustomed now to sketching on the fly, sometimes putting a few color notes, some perfectly non-technical ones like noting that the shadows have the hue of spilled ink on a wood table, or that an old leaf matches my cat Porthos’ eyes.
I prefer to paint alla prima, which maximizes the clear brilliance of my paint, which lies on an untinted ground with the light penetrating through the skin of paint and bouncing off the white gesso beneath. A colored ground would solve all color problems, because it would alter every hue laid over it, but colored grounds also can show through in time since even oils become more translucent with the passing years. So I try to solve all color issues on the run, on the fly, and I paint as though I will never return to change a thing. But in all of this, I have been experimenting with a wet-in-wet technique that lets me rough in the dark shapes I want and then paint into them. This makes me commit to a bold execution and also lets the light and dark work into each other fresh on the surface.
I wanted to study and paint the rich power of a field of grass, so here are my first five minutes on the board.
I hate anything tentative or uncommitted. Five minutes later–
And then give me a couple of hours…