Thursday, May 31, 2012


The Pumphouse     11x14     oil on linen
This painting is a good example of varying the greens.  It's a rather common thing for painters who are unfamiliar with painting landscapes to come back with an overwhelming amount of green in their painting.  If you look at your own snapshots, you'll get an idea of what the landscape painter is up against.  GREEN!  It's everywhere!  It wants to take over (at least until about mid June around here).  Even then, the inexperienced painter will be mislead to produce "green monsters".

The first step in avoiding the green monster is to become more sensitive to the various incidents that influence the variety of greens out there.  If we observe carefully, we find there are orangey-greens, yellow-greens, blue-greens, deep greens, bright and muted greens of all sorts.  Most of which rarely ever fall into the color range usually selected by the novice painter: "radiant emerald".  Nature's greens are far more muted and varied than we imagine.  To show their variety, and harmonies, requires careful observation and color mixing.

The same green of a plant seen in sunlight will appear very different when viewed in shade, and the contrast makes for much of the beauty in landscape paintings.  The sunlight may add a warm yellow-orange cast to all the varieties of greens in the scene, while the shade moves the same basic green to a softer, cooler hue, and even may suggest a purplish-violet cast at times.  The outdoor painter, interested in improvising with these gorgeous effects must orchestrate the results to show the characteristic differences in foliage color, while also capturing their appearance when seen close up, or in the distance.  Add this color awareness to good drawing, accurate value relationships, and interesting design, and you're well on your way to solving the problem of "green monsters".  

Saturday, May 19, 2012


Pond and Pasture     8x10     oil
This one was done very quickly, and was mainly a study in how I could create three, connected spatial planes that lead the eye through the painting and give an illusion of depth.  Foreground -  pond and tree skeleton, mid-ground -  tree, fence and pasture, distance - tree, fence, woods and sky.  I intentionally exaggerated the atmospheric effect by reducing the strength of colors, cooling and lightening them as they go back. I also used less value contrast and detail in the distance. The overlapping of shapes helps the illusion and ties the different parts of the design together.

Friday, May 18, 2012


Middle Of May     oil     8x10
I'm always surprised how little it takes to develop a pleasing painting when it has  a clear design and color idea.  I'm learning to keep my mind open when I'm looking for a worthwhile painting subject.  Too often I overlook, or reject, a possible motif because I'm subconsciously looking for a "whopper".  (As in, "wow, that's a really impressive subject, with dramatic elements portrayed on a grand scale.)  Whoppers are out there to be found, but if you go out with the mindset that you must find one or you're not going to bother painting, you're not going to do much painting.

This humble setting turned out to have everything I needed to work out a design idea that I could invest myself in as a ready vehicle to express my love for the Texas Hill Country, where I live, and do most of my painting.  I'm learning to set my vision for seeing the small things better, when I'm out to paint.  Then, when I run across a "whopper" I'll know better how to take advantage of it.  I think that in painting, what makes for beauty isn't so much the thing we find, but how we see it, and what we inject into it.  

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


Cypress Family     16x12     oil on canvas panel
This is a studio painting I did from a field sketch and photo.  I took a few shots of how I developed the painting, to show one of the ways I approach my studio work.  It varies based on what I'm trying to do, what I want to experiment with, or just how I happen to feel like going about it on a given day.  Trying different approaches is a good way to focus on specific elements and principles.

One of the main things I wanted to play with in this one was the color scheme.  When I'm painting outside things are moving and changing all the time, so you have to get with it with whatever you have to bring to the game.  You can't afford to lay back and give a lot of careful consideration to all the decisions and options.

I was struck by the subtle colors in the trunks of these cypress trees, ranging from cool to warm in close values.  To emphasize this and play it up, I decided on keying this painting to the yellow green of the cypress foliage.  Directly across the color wheel from yellow green is violet, so for variety I mixed the violet and its neighbors, blue violet and red violet.  Having this predetermined color harmony mixed and ready, I jumped in.

I painted a transparent imprimatura of Ultramarine blue and placed the basic pattern of darks with a fat brush and a mixture of Alizarin Crimson and Ultramarine with a bit of Burnt Sienna to keep on the warm side.  Next, I began mixing colors and blocking them in to get the value and color relationships down, covering the canvas as quickly as possible.  I don't fuss with this stage when I'm doing this approach.  I just want some color down that I can begin to work with.  With that done, I use my palette knife and scrape the whole thing down.  Now, I have a general underpainting to build on.  From here on out, I work to adjust the shape accuracy, value and color relationships, emphasize the focal area, and finish up with some accents, highlights, a little calligraphy and broken color, and I'm done.

Saturday, May 5, 2012


Summer Hay     8x10     oil on canvas panel
After a week of being under the weather with a cold, I wanted to get back to painting.  I wasn't ready to go back out, and it was cloudy, so I went through my photo files of things I shoot when I'm out.  I've had the photo for this for over a year, always thinking I'd like to try to make something of it.

The photo had all the basics I needed for a composition. I adjusted the color of the original photo in Photoshop to play up the warm foreground and get away from that 'all green' look that sneaks in when you just take dictation from what you see.  I also moved the hay bales around a bit to play up the focus and eyepath.

Here's the photo I took on a road near my studio, and then, how I manipulated the color.
I also blurred the second image to do away with a lot of the detail.  Once I had my basic photo reference, I made a few thumbnail sketches exploring the composition, just as I do when I'm painting outside. The only changes I thought necessary were to bring in an indication of the tree trunks on the right, and the silhouettes of the hay bales sitting under its shade.  I added a little roll to the ground plane, and a cast shadow over the left foreground to help bring you into the picture.Next, I set my timer to an hour and a half, and went at it just as I would if I were standing in front of the subject outside.  I do this to avoid getting side-tracked by unnecessary detail.  All in all, I think I ended up with a study that I may want to take to a larger version.