A Struggle With Blue and Orange on Day Seventeen

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It may be a created memory, but years ago I read somewhere that John Singer Sargent said all painting is based on blue and orange.

Reflections Rocks and Water by John Singer Sargent. Man, that guy could paint

I’ve looked it up on the internet, but can’t find the quote. Still, I’m a huge fan of blue and orange.

Fortunately Dan (my husband) owns a pair of blue suspenders and an orange chamois shirt (from L.L. Bean, of course). When he puts it on to go hiking I make sure my cell phone is charged. I will take lots of pictures and maybe I’ll get a painting out of it.

I took a bunch of photos on our recent excursion to the Schoodic Peninsula. Sitting in the DIAA gallery with Oscar, I decided to paint Dan against the dark brush – white hair (paper), orange (cadmium red, cadmium orange, alizarin crimson and maybe some quinacridone magenta) shirt, blue (cobalt) suspenders and white (paper)-with-shadow (cobalt and raw umber) pants.

The first painting looks weak and watery. And I’m trying to paint looser, but it isn’t working.

The second version is better, though I’m not thrilled with the figure.

Schoodic Stroll

And I didn’t get orange — red-orange, really — quite the way I want it. Red is hard to paint. You can’t just add water or white to lighten it and get gradations the way you can with blue. You have to combine different reds. In water color, for example, you might combine cadmium red, which is opaque, and quinacridone magenta, which is transparent.

I had an art teacher who once made her students study the Vermeer painting, “Girl With the Red Hat” so we understood how to paint red. We had to count how many different reds were in the hat. I don’t remember how many, except that it was a lot.

Johannes Vermeer (Dutch, 1632 – 1675 ), Girl with the Red Hat, c. 1665/1666, oil on panel, Andrew W. Mellon Collection

There’s a lot to say about red. Playwright John Logan did in his play about Mark Rothko called Red by John Logan. I saw a terrific performance of it at The Winnipesaukee Playhouse with my mother-in-law two summers ago. But I digress.

I decide to paint Schoodic Stroll once more in 30 minutes. Just as an exercise to loosen up. Here’s what happened:

Maybe I’ll take another crack at it some other time.

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