On a short holiday break I learned about Otto Pankok ((1893-1966), a German “charcoal painter”, and his daughter Eva. In the hotel we stayed I enjoyed a permanent exhibit of large plein air oil paintings done by Eva Pankok between 1972 and 2009 in Provence (slide show).
Unfortunately there are not many good images of these works on the net to see (yet). Eva Pankok born 1925 took responsibility for the large archive of works of her father (Otto Pankok Gesellschaft with ca. 10000 drawings, monotypes, etchings, woodcuts and sculptures). Even though depending partly on a wheel chair now she still takes trips to Provence and paints. Whereas her father was a man of serene black and white work the daughter celebrates colors and the bright light of Provence.
On our visit at the Museum Haus Esselt we could see a number of the 60 large format charcoal drawings a series dedicated to the life and death of Jesus (Passion), but also landscapes and portraits of Sinti and some wonderful monotype prints.
Pankok a strong, independent character, who had turned his back to art academy after one year already, soon came under pressure by the Nazi-Regime. As a survivor of WWI he was aware at a very early stage which turn the German nation would take under Hitler. His answer was Christ and Christian religion. While living at Düsseldorf in the early 1930′s he developed friendship with the Sinti minority;he did uncounted portrait drawings. His work are witness of the oppression and deportations. During the Nazi-Regime Pankok was forced to move many times, he changed his place of living and working as soon as he felt that the local Nazis would start to hunt him. It seems a miracle how he managed to create such a large body of work under these adverse conditions.
Pankok admired van Gogh which is visible in his expressive charcoal paintings that show his life long passion for humanity and creation. Pankok specialized in charcoal drawing. His charcoal paintings are not only impressive in size but also by their original and versatile use of the medium. It is hard to describe the effect of seeing these works, which seem still untimely and uncomfortable today as they were then. Pankok never was afraid to take sides with the weak and the prosecuted, l’art pour l’art never was his thing. We left the quiet place on that rainy Sunday morning deeply impressed and touched.
After long last I framed my favorite found objects : Contemporary automobiles, rotten playing cards from the 1960′s, found in the woods. These playing cards were stacked and hidden in and under the litter of autumn leaves until end of 2010. I selected four of them, a Mercedes-Benz quartet including the famous 200D,W110 “Fintail” model with 55 HP, which our family owned. It had a vertical speedometer and could go as fast as 130 km/h downhill and only 90 km/h uphill on the Autobahn. I wonder how and when those cards were lost in the middle of the woods. The chance that somebody would find those must have have been close to zero.
Finally , after long last, spring seems to become real, the sun is shining and temperatures climb to an acceptable level. Even small spots of blue sky can be seen and if the weather forecast is true this time it will last until the weekend. The grass is growing and turned green. Some cherry trees are already blooming, but the main outburst of white and pink in the fruit tree meadows is yet to come during this week. Also the woods start to get greener slowly.
I painted with my usual set of oil pastels on a sheet of paper primed with a mixture of green oil colors.
On the weekend I continued with the oil pastel landscape painting in A4 size. The weather was very similar to last week, which was helpful for the as I had to do some changes on the sky. There is still a lot of grey in these very early spring colors and the green are pale and still look bleached out. But that will change soon thank God. The birds are coming back and begin with their mating and breeding activities. The chaffinch are here again since last week. However in the vine yards there are mostly common starlings around at this time of year apart from some woodpeckers. On my way back home I could see the first lizard bathing in the sun.
Here are some more pages from my oil pastel sketchbook that gets slowly filled. The first and the last are not completely finished yet.
On the long Easter weekend I started a another small oil pastel painting in our local vineyards.This time I tested the time lapse function of my Gopro Hero Camera. I found that the time lapse mode does not help with battery capacity. I get the impression that the battery is used up at the same speed no matter what the camera settings are. Latter I had some difficulties to process the many high resolution images (3350 in 4 folders, 1 MB each image) into a film. Apparently my computer with 4GB Ram is not able to handle those big files. I could convert the images in the folders to mp4 films with the free Gopro software Cineform studio. Then I tried to join these films with Windows movie maker, which did not work. Only when I reduced the resolution Movie maker could put the film together.
I tried to get around that problem by re-naming the images,but the re-named images were not accepted by cineform the same way as the original images from the camera. Later I learned about free movie joiners, which I will use on the next part of the recording.
In Part one of the video the basic elements of the painting, sky, huts and hill are defined. I start with marking the horizontal line that separates the sky from the ground with a small piece of black oil pastel. I tried to catch the look of the changing, cloudy sky first because I knew I would need at least a second sitting.
On the last weekend I could do a first demo video about sketching and drawing with oil pastels in nature. I bought a flexible camera tripod that I can attach with a big clamp on my drawing board. Before mounting the Gopro camera I start the camera and enable the WIFI control. Then I mount the camera after I have made the WIFI connect with my Iphone. I can see a preview on the Iphone and thus I can adjust the camera for the best view. Unfortunately I recorded a film instead of using the time-lapse function of the camera. So that is reserved for next time. I turned the view upside down in the camera settings, that way I could record the film already in correct upright position. The camera recorded about 1 hour. The camera stores the video in ca. 2 GB packages largest size. At home I processed the data with the Windows movie maker, mainly reducing the duration with the time-lapse function (8X).
I commend to watch the video in full screen mode because the study is really small. You can see the cardboard box with my “active” pieces of oil pastel on the left. I began with the outlines of the tree trunks as grid that establishes the simple composition. The grass looks miserable at this time of year, not green, not brown just worn out. The grey of the tree trunks and the blue of the sky compensate for that. At the end I clean the picture and add texture with a plastic palette knife.
Most of the drawings exhibited at Karlsruhe were on sheets of 76X56 cm. I have never seen something similar before. The forms slightly remind of the organic,crystalline look of plant pollen viewed under a strong microscope. Blurred zones seem to be in constant slow movement or pulsation, expanding and unfolding on the sheet. Each drawing consists of uncounted ink dots that are set and kept in geometric symmetry on the moist sheet with incredible level of concentration. These fascinating drawings emerge from a meditative, ritualistic process.
I roamed the woods again on the weekend. I saw some old tree stumps polished by wild boar, woodpeckers,tits and nuthatches busy and the leaves of wild Arum showed here and there already. I finally settled down in front of a pine tree stump. The sketch is about 26X23 cm in size. I used in total 14 different oil pastel colors, a minimal extended 48 color set Caran d’Ache oil pastels. In addition to the standard 48 color set I used only one extra color from the 96 color set.
The colors used are, marked with black numbers:
1 Black, 2 Light Grey, 3 olive yellow, 4 Moss Green, 5 Beige (96 color set), 6 Grey,7 Dark Grey, 8 Lime Green, 9 Russet, 10 Raw Umber, 11 Brown, 12 Ochre, 13 Light Orange, 14 Pale Yellow
There several hues of beige in the 96 color set that are great for natural warm greys or really muddy earth colors.
I find tree stumps are great subjects for natural color studies. I have circled 4 areas in the sketch. Behind the numbers of those areas you find the colors that have been used.
The color mix changes of course when you change the layer sequence. For example a grey on top of russet will look different from russet on top of grey. I found the color of the pine bark
the most difficult to decide in this study. In the end there were 2-3 layers of grey and russet in varying thickness and different sequence. When you experiment with layer sequence you can get closer and closer to the desired color mix. Once you have learned the sequences and stored in them in your memory you will be able to reproduce many colors with ease.
I always start with and try as long as possible to work with a light touch putting down layer after layer.
Before using a color I break up the stick in smaller pieces of 1-2 cm length for better handling. I keep a small carton box that has all the small pieces of colors that I have in use. The original set box has the remaining half or quarter sticks as reserve.
After long weeks with gray skies, snow and rain finally the sun came out on this weekend. Time for a walk into the vine yards for a small oil pastel sketch. I got a 48 color,a 12 color plus some grays from the 96 color set with me. I took a fancy in the shabby chic color on the walls of one of those little huts that are scattered all over the hill. My oil pastel sketchbook fits exactly into my bag. I separate pages with oil pastel studies with a sheet of thin transparent wrapping paper.
The evening before I started a double page study of a landscape in counter light. According to the weather forecast I can go out next week and continue at same time in sun light. In the first session I defined the borders between sky, background forest and the field in the foreground and put in the hunters perch.