Objective Figure – Portrait painting in flats


Lyle. 32 x 38 inches, oil on board. ©2008 Deidre Adams.

After abstraction, we returned to representation — specifically, portraiture. We had a random drawing of names in which we each chose a fellow classmate for our portrait subjects. We were to take several photographs of our victim, using lighting that emphasized a contrast of light and dark shading to create visual interest. Again, sketches were required to refine plans for composition and tonal values before starting on the final painting.

We were limited to a palette of mostly earth colors plus ultramarine blue and cadmium red or orange, plus white, of course. The color was to be fairly close to nature, but pushed a bit. The twist for this painting was that the entire thing had to be done with large flat brushes, no rounds. There was another requirement: We had to premix all colors and shades to be used on the palette — little or no blending was to be done on the canvas. I found this to be extremely difficult and tedious, as I much prefer mushing stuff around on the painting itself. However, although it was frustrating to work this way, I have to admit it resulted in a much more interesting and dynamic mix of color. I really love the effect of the rough transitions of color and value.

I think I learned more from this painting than from any other assignment that semester. (Especially since I know I’m bad at doing people and try to avoid it whenever possible.) The finished painting doesn’t look very much like Lyle, both due to my painting skills and also since he’s usually smiling and rarely this serious, but you wouldn’t know that if you didn’t have this photo for comparison.


2017-10-15T16:16:52+00:00 January 24th, 2009|Painting, School|4 Comments

Abstraction assignment


Channeling. 48 x 48 inches, acrylic on canvas. ©2008 Deidre Adams.

The second assignment was called “Abstracted Landscape.” The instructor also referred to this as a “subjective” landscape. We were to abstract a particular landscape of our choice, but also to explore a concept as it relates to abstractions of landscape. However, the water was muddied by this direction:

Look into schools of scientific thought such as geology, geography, physics or mathematics (geometry). For example, scientists have proven that nature grows in patterns (the Fibonacci Sequence, DNA). Create the patterns in nature as exhibited in trees, water, rocks, plants, etc. Or, you may wish to explore artistic/philosophical movements such as Transcendentalism or Shintoism.

I never quite got to the point of being able to reconcile this concept with the idea of landscape, so in the interest of getting something done in a timely fashion, I just went for abstraction. This came shortly after my trip to Traverse City in September, and I had some great photos from that trip, specifically from a visit to the derelict Traverse City State Hospital. I still need to do an entire post about that place, but one of its many offerings of fantastic weathered surfaces was a brick wall with some exceptional cracking paint patterns.


©2008 Deidre Adams.

But, while I was very interested in doing something related to cracking patterns, I had no idea how to go about finding areas of scientific research related to them. So I started looking into nature-related topics, and because I was already thinking about these shapes, I realized that vein patterns in some leaves make enclosed shapes that are very similar to the shapes formed by patterns of cracks in weathered paint.


©2008 Deidre Adams.


I wondered if there is some kind of scientific reason for this, but it’s kind of hard to research something if you have no idea what that something might be called. So I found a lot of very technical information about leaves and venation patterns, but nothing that answered my question.

Then, to make the assignment even more specific, we had to collect examples of abstract painting and choose a particular painting to take the colors from (not necessarily in the same proportions as the original). My color chart:


We had to do preliminary painting “sketches” for every assignment. I found these rather difficult, as I took way too much time in doing them, far too painstakingly. I think the idea was just to go for placement, value, and color, but I never could get the habit of just scratching them out fast. Especially in acrylic, which takes a lot of mixing to get a specific color. For later assignments, I started doing the sketches in watercolor; that helped me to loosen up considerably. Also, when I work abstractly, my process is not to try to recreate something specifically, but rather to put some things on, study them for a while, then cover up parts, add parts, etc., in an intuitive manner. Even when I do start with a sketch, the finished product is always quite different. Anyway, these are the sketches I made for this painting: Somewhat overworked, too literal, and not terribly interesting.


In working on the final painting, I did revert back to my old ways of working as described. So even through the sketches weren’t really useful to this painting in a direct way, they do force me to get some extra painting practice in. I’m not sure if I will continue to do this as a habit or not. My way — and I’m definitely not saying this is a virtue — is to just get in there and put the paint on, and not agonize too much on meeting a predetermined objective.

As I worked on the painting, I was concentrating on creating the shapes that are formed by spaces within the veins/cracks rather than painting the lines that form their boundaries. I also wanted a layering effect and not something with a direct reference to the source. But it was lacking something, and so I put in the white lines. This made it more lively, but the end product reads more like tree roots than leaf veins, which was not my intention. This happened as I started putting in shading to make different areas stand out and it became dimensional.

As far as the final painting, I think I’m not really satisfied with the colors. They seem too vivid for my taste. If I get inspired, I might go back and muddy things up a little.

2017-10-15T16:16:53+00:00 January 17th, 2009|Painting, School|3 Comments

Objective landscape painting


xxxxx, 48 x 48 inches, acrylic on canvas. ©2008 Deidre Adams.

Over the last several months, I had been busy making some new paintings at school, in my Painting III class. The first two were on display in the school library for a couple of months, so I didn’t have anything to post about. I got everything home at the end of the semester and have now finally gotten around to photographing the work. I’ll put them all up in the next couple of posts.

The is the first one. The assignment was to do an “objective landscape,” which means paint more or less what you see, with limited artistic license. We were supposed to go around and photograph an urban scene rather than some pastoral meadow or the like. “Yes indeed,” said I. “Right up my alley!” Although I did go out and take a lot of new photos, I settled on this one that I had taken on an earlier road trip. This is a grain elevator in Sterling, Colorado. For the moment, I am stymied on what to call it, hence the “xxxx.” I welcome suggestions, as I’m not feeling particularly creative in the titling department at the moment.

Here’s the source photo I was working from:

Sterling, Colorado. ©2007 Deidre Adams

I was drawn by the warm late-afternoon light on the left sides of the buildings contrasting with the coolness of the facing sides. As you can see, I did take some liberties with it. My initial inclination was to leave out the power lines to make it cleaner, but my painting instructor convinced me to keep them in, which was great advice. It would have been super dull without them. I discovered a way of working with the paint in a sort of scumbling method that gave me a layering of color that I really like. I can envision doing a whole series of these from different photos.

2017-10-15T16:16:53+00:00 January 8th, 2009|Painting, School|7 Comments