Saturday, December 3, 2011

Gum Trees at Meditation Mount

Oil on Canvas

This painting incorporates so much that I have learned. Here are the sources and what I learned:

Norman Rockwell used photos a lot. I used my photo for this painting.

I bought an art book, and it talked about photoshopping the reference photo before painting it. Specifically, he mentioned the “shadow / highlight” feature to reveal the details in the shadows. That tip alone was worth the price of the book. In my reference photo, I lightened the shadows, then I lightened the whole photo and increased the saturation. I wanted it to be as bright, cheery and colorful as I remembered it that day.

Susan Sarback says that colors are most saturated straight out of the tube, so if you want to keep a painting “bright”, use colors pure and unmixed. (I know that many artists like to add a little mud to every color to knock back the saturation, but for me, I liked the brightness of the pure color.) I used a lot of "pure" color on this to keep it vibrant.

A friend from Wet Canvas had a painting with trees that stood out on the sky, unlike mine which were always making a muddy mess. I asked how he did it. He said, “Oils were designed to be used in layers, and I let the sky dry before I put the trees on”. I did that here too.

Ron Guthrie is always showing close-ups of his edges. He contrasts the hard, detailed edges of the nearer things with the soft edges of the distance to create depth. Ron also explained to me that eucalyptus trees have the leaves grow in clumps, like cotton balls, so you need to define the roundness of the clumps.

Rich Gallegos was my teacher at a plein air workshop. He told me to exaggerate the aerial perspective to increase the depth. I did that to the hills on the left.

A book I have called “The Simple Secret to Better Painting”, pounds into your brain, “Never make any two things the same”. The trees in my photos were very similar, so I tried to vary the intervals and the branches to give them interest. I also tried to make the trunks different colors from each other. Also, the sky was flat in my photo, so I made it darker and cooler at the top, and warmer and lighter at the bottom.

Larry Seilor says frequently that as long as you get your values correct, it doesn’t matter what colors you use. I tried very hard to get the values right: light in the distance and dark up front. Since many beginner paintings tend to all be mostly middle values, I tried to make very light places and very dark places.

I liked impressionism, so I emulated Monet’s soft broken color of the sky and his bolder broken strokes for the trees. I used Monet’s technique of blue for the leaves in shadows.

One time I posted a painting on Wet Canvas, and a someone said that I needed more detail in the foreground. I made sure to do that here.

When I took the photo, the shrubbery had a lot more color than the photo captures, so I exaggerated the color to match my recollection of the site.

When it was all done, there was still something missing. I remembered looking at a lot of Thomas Kincade’s work, and I noticed that he usually had a path or a clearing that lead into the background and disappeared into a light mist. That trick really pulled your eye into the painting. When this painting was dry, I scumbled a faint veil into the distant view (and you can see it is also on the shrubbery right under the view). This helps to help draw the eye back into the painting.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Wild Azaleas

Oil on Canvas

This is from a photo from the Wet Canvas Image Reference Library. I originally tried to do it in a “loose” style like Bongart (like I am always trying to do), but it just looked sloppy and unfinished. I decided to finish it the best I could and not worry about technique, and it came out very nice. I think I am just going to have to give up my dreams of painting like Bongart, and just paint the way I naturally paint.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Japanese Bridge

Oil on Stretched Canvas

Again, I was trying yet another new technique. I am smitten with Sergei Bongart, and I wanted to paint like him. So I got a big canvas (big for me) and some big brushes and went at it. But I don't have the soul of a fiery Russian Impressionist, so I just cannot do it.

This was from a photo I took at the Huntington Library in San Marino. It is so beautiful there, so I always bring my camera. I liked how the shadow under the bridge echoed the shape of the bridge.

I blew up a photo of the bridge and traced it on to the canvas because when it comes to architectural elements, I can't afford to get it wrong. Then I blocked the whole thing in loosely, like Bongart would. Alan told me that the bridge really does need to be correct, so I spent a lot of time on that. Alan said there was no blue on the bridge, but I saw it in the reflected light, so I put it on there. I redid the juniper in the upper left-hand corner three times. Another problem was the pond looked like a grassy field, so I needed to put in the very subtle reflections. All of these things took many layers with lots of drying time in between.

When I finally put on the lily pads, I was so happy, so I ran outside to take a photo of it in the sun. Usually my paintings are small enough that I can lay them on the ground and stand over them, but I could not with this one. So I leaned it up against a wall in the sunshine, and when I stood back to snap the picture, it flopped face down onto the asphalt and got sand in all the wet paint. I had to take it in and pick out every grain with my beading tweezers. Then I had to smooth the paint over, let it dry again, and repaint the final touches.

Then next time I took the photo, I waited until someone was walking by. We live in a mobile home park near a local grocery store, so people walk by all day. Someone came along and I asked them to hold it just so, in the sun, and I got my good photo without any sand.

Backlit Trees

Oil on stretched canvas

This is from a photo I snapped a few years back when I was first learning to paint. I was at a plein air workshop in someone's gorgeous backyard. The light was so pretty, and I said, "Someday, when I am better, I am going to paint this".

I was trying a new technique (as usual) where I was trying to do with the brush what I do with the knife. It was not working. With the knife, I can layer the colors on top of each other while they are still wet, but with the brush, they just get goopy. I had to let it dry between layers.

I painted the underpainting in various blues, and then I worked the yellows and greens on top of that. Susan Sarback says to under paint everything in light in warm colors, and everything in shadow in cool colors. I did not do that, and it just caused me a lot of extra work. Oils are translucent, so if I really want the light areas to glow, I really need to paint over a warm underpainting.

Also, when I did the backlit leaves, I tried to paint the light leaves on top of the dark leaves, because the rule of thumb for oils is "light over dark". Well, that just looked unnatural. So I had to go back and repaint all the leaves in the ligth green colors, and then put the leaves in shadow on top of that. It looked much more realistic.

Anyway, this painting was a big headache and I almost gave up, but I figure if I DO give up, I will not learn the lessons. I am very glad that I finished it. I know the colors are very saturated and bright, but I like that.