Friday, July 25, 2014

Tinkering - Building a Still Life Box

If you've been to this blog before, you know I love to tinker, especially with foam core board. Recently, I was working on a couple still life paintings for an upcoming exhibit. I've always had a rough time getting the lighting the way I'd like for painting still life from life. I did a Google search and found Mark Carder's webpage and videos and thought his idea for building a shadow box was great! Just what I was looking for, although his is pretty large and heavy. If you are a painter, it is well worth your time to check him out. I have learned a lot from him, and still haven't seen all his videos. To understand what I was building, please watch his video about the shadow box, but come back here and see what I came up with!

I have a small bedroom setup for a studio and his shadow box wouldn't work for me, so I have used some of his ideas to create something smaller. I tried a couple setups, but don't have photos available of those but have pics of my final design below. First, I used an upside down parsons table for the framework so I didn't have to build it from lumber. That was still too big to move around easily in the studio, so I then took a small plastic shelving unit apart and used some of those pieces to create some upward "legs" to hold the top. For both designs to make a top, I used a large frame mounted with a piece of black cardboard, with a slot in the middle for the light to shine through. Still, I wasn't satisfied. On to the foam core board.

I built a box out of black foam core and glued it with an Elmer's Board Mate glue pen - I found this at Michael's Crafts near the foam core board, and it works great!

I liked the idea of having the three sides solid to be able to control the light better. I added two cross bars across the top edges to stabilize it. They are glued, but used black masking tape to hold it while it was drying.
 I left a slot near the back bar, so that I could easily add a backdrop of fabric. You could add fabric to the side walls and floor also.

Now to show you the top and the lighting 'slot' - this is the same piece of black cardboard I had used in the frame for the earlier versions. To lighten the weight, I removed it from the frame. It is stiff enough to hold my lightweight lighting setup. Because I wanted the 'slot' to be narrower, I added another piece of cardboard to narrow it. The black side now gets flipped over. The black is best inside to be able to control the light within the box.

 Look at the crazy thing I decided to use as a 'light director" - I found this plastic cone at the thrift shop. It is a gag gift - an 'ear megaphone' for a 'hearing aid'!! It was perfect for threading the wire of my lighting set through, and light weight. I put a small 14 watt mini bulb inside.
 You will notice I have moved it from one side of the slot to the other (or anywhere in between). This is to place the light direction in a pleasing spot on your subject. You can also move the whole board so the slot is closer to the back or front of the box, depending on where you want your light to hit.
 Here you can see, I have added some small pieces of black foam core to block out the unused parts of the slot.
 Here is an overall view of the rig, placed on a rolling cart - easy to move around to get it in the correct viewing spot to paint!
Here are some other shots showing you how the light changes as you move the light fixture.

And finally, if you don't want the light coming from the top, you can easier turn the box on the side and direct your light at a lower level:

Now I feel it will be super easy to get some dramatic lighting on my still life setups! You'll probably see many more still life paintings showing up here. After we plein air painters wrestle with the greens of summer, I can come back to my studio and design my own views!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Saturday Plein Air - Westerville Alum Creek City Park

On the way to painting today, I got to see the wild turkeys I had been seeing each morning on the way to work. Today was special though! I saw the mom and a bunch of babies (poults)!! I really am happy when I see wild turkeys - they've made quite a rebound in Ohio. I see them quite often these days.

But, it was a rough day painting today. I did not mind the drizzle, but had difficulty mixing the right colors. Not sure if it was the pigments I selected, the subject matter, or the dark skies. I attempted two paintings, but both needed wiped out and repainted once I was home. That still did not help much but here is the only half-way decent piece - the other I wiped out again and gave up.
 Such a difficult color to mix in oils! Below is the way it looked on site.
 Here it is at home after I wiped it out. Should have left it like this -
 And here is how it turned out. I just couldn't get the brightness I wanted to make the flowers pop.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Saturday Plein Air - Emily Traphagen Preserve

Another lovely Saturday! We painted at Emily Traphagen Preserve today. Last year when we painted there, there was an incident with a rabid coyote that the rangers had to take care of before we could enter the park. Today, no incidents!

I remembered a neat old tree from last year that I wanted to try to paint. I didn't find the exact tree, but one very similar. It was covered in poison ivy, but I left most of it off. I also wanted to make the focal point the interesting top area so painted that more like a drawing and left the bottom area very loose and abstract.

There is several hollow areas in this tree, and I enjoyed watching the red headed woodpeckers going in and out.

When I first setup, the sky was overcast, so I didn't bother to get the painting umbrella out of the car. Once I got started painting the sun came out bright and I had to work quickly and finished this one in about an hour. I was medium rare and had to get into the shade. I did some minor adjustments after I got home.

I had a specific frame to use for this painting, so I thought a thin tall shape would be a good way to capture this interesting tree.
I did a second quick painting while I was at the park which was on some used paper. Once I worked on the sky area, the underpainting was pretty interesting so didn't do much else. It is shown in the top of the photo below.