Pinhole research – December chill

I’ve recently started up again with some explorations in digital pinhole photography.  How this works is: you take a digital SLR, take off the lens and replace it with a modified body cap that serves as the ‘pinhole.’  (I don’t recall where I purchased the pinhole cap, but if you Google ‘digital pinhole – Nikon‘ you’ll probably find it quickly).  Your camera needs to be sophisticated enough to have all manual settings — and most importantly, the ability to manually hold the shutter open — it’s called ‘bulb’ on my Nikon.

My old Nikon D-60 equipped with a pinhole body cap I found somewhere on the Internet. The cap is just an ordinary body cap with a hole drilled in it, covered with some film with a tiny transparent spot in the middle.

Shooting pinhole is a very different experience, and I imagine it is closer to what the earliest photographers experienced.  It requires patience and a great deal of practice.

One difficulty is that I can’t really get a good view through the viewfinder of what the shot is going to be.  It takes some practice to aim the camera body in the right direction.  Since the shutter needs to be open for a good 5, 10, 15, 20 seconds or more, one needs to be really immobile (a tripod or monopod helps).

Digital pinhole also suffers from the problem of dust on the sensor: something that wouldn’t normally happen with film pinhole technology, since each frame of film is virgin.  The digital ‘film’, i.e., the sensor, is hardly a virgin, as it gets used over and over again, and my Nikon is pretty filthy at this point.  Photoshop is a huge help at this juncture!

Prospect Park, December 2016. Digital pinhole photograph, liberally cleaned up and tweaked in Photoshop and Lightroom. A fun, ‘painterly’ process, but entirely digital.

Shooting this way is a [potentially] meditative experience.  In a recent outing, I came up with a number of really interesting shots that I can then liberally work with in Lightroom and Photoshop — it really brings photography closer to painting — and for me, provides fascinating subject matter for oil paintings I want to realize. (See Lifeworld series).  So this pinhole outing is a form of visual research.

Below are a series of abstract detail shots that were all created from the full image shown above.

Pinhole zoom-crop experiment number 1.
Pinhole zoom-crop experiment #2
Pinhole zoom-crop experiment #3
Pinhole zoom-crop experiment #4.

Which of these should I use for a painting?

A new year well underway, Lifeworlds continues

Hello everyone from frigid New York City on this Valentine’s Day 2016!

I’ve been retooling my studio set-up and finally (last weekend) completed the firstsecond oil painting of 2016 (and the next in the Lifeworld series).  So here we have it:

Lifeworld 36, oil/mixed media on canvas, 20x20" (51x51cm), 2016
Lifeworld 36, oil/mixed media on canvas, 20×20″ (51x51cm), 2016
A detail shot of Lifeworld 36
A detail shot of Lifeworld 36

Lifeworld 36 continues the adventure. I’ve also been exploring the ever important topic of studio safety and reducing toxicity in oil painting.  I’ll write up more of my findings on that topic soon.  In the meantime, enjoy the paintings and stay warm!

The new painting on the easel chez moi
The new painting on the easel chez moi

*actually, the first oil painting of 2016 is this little sketch (below) – a trial balloon for a suite of paintings I’m planning that are inspired by the Fontanelle cemetery in Napoli, Italy.

A quick sketch to check out the new painting setup, January 2016
A quick sketch to check out the new painting setup, January 2016

Studio Notes – paysage planétaire completed

This is the final installment of my series of posts following the progression of a painting I started at the beginning of January – a “paysage planétaire” inspired in part by the work of Ferdinand Hodler and other painters from that era.  So, in my last post, described the overpainting.  Earlier this week, I put the final touches on this and completed the piece.  It was a little touch and go there for a while, but I think it’s come out pretty well:

Paysage detail
Paysage detail
Paysage detail - beefed up the clouds a little bit.
Paysage detail – beefed up the clouds a little bit.
Just about done at this point.
Just about done at this point.
Paysage detail.
Paysage detail.
One of the final pieces is the signature.
One of the final touches is the signature.

So here it is, complete.  Took about a month.  Part of the time was waiting for the layers to dry.  Lately I’ve been experimenting with a more traditional medium (stand oil and oil of Spike Lavender) which works great but dries slowly.  These were the only additives (besides mineral spirits and a little linseed oil) used in this painting.

Paysage planétaire (Avalanche Pass), oil on canvas, 24x24", 2015
Paysage planétaire (Avalanche Pass), oil on canvas, 24×24″, 2015

Studio notes – paysage planétaire, continued

I’m getting a bit behind in my blogging. The month is fast rolling to its completion, I’ve got what feels like a hundred pots in the fire.

Among those, the “paysage planétaire” I started several weeks ago continues to evolve. Last week, the underpainting was complete and I worked on the blue areas – sky and water.  This evening I worked on everything else.

Paysage planétaire in progress, oil on canvas, 24x24"
Paysage planétaire in progress, oil on canvas, 24×24″

 

The painting is fast approaching completion.

Paysage planétaire in progress.
Paysage planétaire in progress.
Paysage detail
Paysage detail

As I said before, every painting is an experiment, an exploration.  I cannot yet say if this one is a happy experiment.  I also cannot say whether it is finished. It could be.  Any thoughts on this?

Paysage planétaire in progress, oil on canvas, 24x24"
Paysage planétaire in progress, oil on canvas, 24×24″

Studio Notes – the paysage in progress, continued

As noted last week, I’m blogging the progress on a new landscape (a “paysage planétaire” in the spirit of Ferdinand Hodler).  On Sunday, I completed the underpainting:

Underpainting completed, Paysage planétaire, oil on canvas, 24x24", in progress
Underpainting completed, Paysage planétaire, oil on canvas, 24×24″, in progress

Tonight, I had very little time to get into it, so I just worked on the sky and water – the blue areas, mainly.

Paysage planétaire in progress, detail
Paysage planétaire in progress, detail
Paysage planétaire as it stands tonight, 1/13/2015
Paysage planétaire as it stands tonight, 1/13/2015

So far, so good! It starts to look more like a painting — i.e., something unique and distinct.  To be continued.

Studio Notes – the landscape evolves

As a sort of journalistic experiment, I’m going to follow the development of my recently started Paysage planétaire painting through several blog posts.  This should be interesting, and maybe disastrous, since I don’t know how the painting is going to turn out. For me, creating is perhaps like giving birth to something — that something has a unique and independent existence.  (Or, to put a humorous spin on it, sometimes I feel like Gene Wilder in Young Frankenstein — “It’s alive!”) Yes, I have a lot do with how it turns out, but ultimately the work takes on a life of its own.  If things go well, it’s almost as if the painting paints itself. So far, I think it’s going well.

So recall where I left it the other day:

"Paysage planétaire" in progress, oil on canvas, 24x24"
Paysage planétaire in progress, oil on canvas, 24×24″

Essentially this what is classically referred to as the “cartoon” – just the outline.  I also added a little texture and shading in blacks, whites and grays.  Today I started filling in the underpainting:

Paysage in progress, shot #1
Paysage in progress, shot #1

First blue sky. Then I started adding some greens:

Paysage progress shot #2
Paysage progress shot #2
Paysage progress shot #3
Paysage progress shot #3

Essentially I’m taking a layered approach, or a semi-layered approach.  I could have done it all alla prima, wet-on-wet, in one big session.  My plan is to finish the underpainting in this fashion, and then do a big alla prima overpainting to finish it off.  That will either complete the piece — or ruin it.

Here’s where I’ve left it tonight:

Paysage planétaire in progress (as of 1/6/2015), oil on canvas, 24x24".
Paysage planétaire in progress (as of 1/6/2015), oil on canvas, 24×24″.

The underpainting is not quite done. I’ll finish that up soon. And I’m going to find the reference to “paysage planétaire” and report back here.

Oh, in case you’re wondering the reference for this piece is a photograph I took in the Adirondacks (upstate New York) a few summers ago.  I’m not going to show that photo here since it is only a point of reference, an inspiration for the work, and not the work itself.  I don’t want to invite comparisons between this inspiration and the painting, which is definitely it’s own thing.  I’m not a fan of the concept of “representation” in art (at least as I currently understand it). But I’ll save that topic for another day.

Studio Notes – New landscape started

I spent some time in the studio this afternoon, stretching canvas and beginning a new painting in my “paysages planétaires” series.  A big inspiration for this series is the work of Swiss symbolist and proto-expressionist (my designation) Ferdinand Hodler.  (Occasionally I reblog Hodler images on my tumblr.) I believe I came across the term “paysage planétaire” in some essays about his work.  Alas, I can’t find the reference now.

Maybe it came to me in a dream.

In any case, this one is started.  Each painting is an experiment. Who knows how it will turn out!

"Paysage planétaire" in progress, oil on canvas, 24x24"
“Paysage planétaire” in progress, oil on canvas, 24×24″