Thursday, October 11, 2012


Hill Gate    12x16    oil on canvas

Here’s a brief step-by-step of the painting I did today.  It’s another run through of the approach I posted a little while back. If this is helpful, please let me know.  Sometimes I feel like I’m wasting your time.

 This was done from a rough pencil sketch for design and value pattern, and a photo I shot while exploring a wonderful ranch in Kerrville, last weekend.  This is just one way to make a painting, and not the only way that I use.  The benefit of this approach is that it helps you stay focused on a strong and simple design structure.

In the first stage, you can see that I’ve painted a warm, transparent undertone to represent the mid-value range of the painting, and on top of this I’ve scrubbed in the notan pattern I designed.  I’ll talk more about “notan” in another post.  For now I’ll just say that it’s a two value design in light and dark meant to represent a balanced and evocative arrangement of the major forms in a design.  It’s a good idea to make either the light or the dark shape dominant (occupying 60% or more of the overall design).

In the second stage, I’ve dropped in the light value group, and placed the brightest color note near the focus.  In this particular approach, I like to begin with a balanced design, grouping the dark, light and mid-values so as to avoid the spottiness of values that can occur if you don’t make a conscious decision about how they will be grouped.  If you’ll keep the three values in simple related groups, and emphasize the focal area (in this case the gate), you’ll have a pretty good chance of making a strong painting.

In stage three, I pre-mix the colors I want in the shadows, making sure they all fall within the shadow value range.  In this case, I mix nothing lighter than a fifty percent value.  I like to lay in colorful grays.  Just a personal preference for what turns me on.  If you try this, try to keep the intensity, or chroma of the various colors fairly subdued, or they will have a conflicting relationship to the colors you choose to appear in the light.

In stage four, I finish laying in the canvas by placing a couple of light, mid-value colors over the mid-value shapes.

All of this kept pretty loose and flat without much effort to control the edges of the various shapes.  I leave that until the next stage, finishing.

In stage five, I go back into all the shapes giving attention to edges.  Edges need to be soft, hard, interrupted, broken or lost.  You really only need a couple of hard edges, usually somewhere around your focal area.  They will draw the eye right to themselves.  Too many will kill the focus and give the painting a brittle feeling.  I also adjust the accuracy of the various shapes, the temperature relationships in the three value groups, and enhance the contrasts around the focal area.  Once all this is done, I add a bit of calligraphy to tie things together and give some indication of scale, and I’m done.  


  1. Nice work and interesting post! Thanks for sharing your process.

  2. Thanks, Johnnie. I appreciate your visit, and comment.

  3. Your not wasting your time. This is my favorite blog, luv luv luv it.

    1. Thanks, so much, Karen. That's very encouraging.