Saturday, December 3, 2011

Gum Trees at Meditation Mount

Oil on Canvas
11x14

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.