Thursday, December 27, 2007

Point of Rocks, step 2

Developing the background and water

point of rocks
After checking the length of the tree reflections, I realized they were to short. So I moved the water line back to shorten the distance from the bank to the top of the trees, since I definitely wanted sky reflections at the bottom of my painting. After redrawing, I began with the sky and worked my way down through the trees, and then to the yellow tree. I want this to stand out, since it is my center of interest.

Once the background trees were fairly finalized, I painted the tree reflections adjusting them where necessary. The sky reflections, including the ripples in the water, I would deal with in the next step. On the far bank I added some rocks and debris, with their accompanying reflections in the water.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Point of Rocks, step 1

The Plein Air Painting/Sketch

point of rocks
the plein air painting

point of rocks reference
a reference photo

I had never investigated the Potomac River at Point of Rocks as a painting site before, and there was a lot to absorb. I parked close to the river and found myself looking almost directly into the sun. After checking out a number of possibilities, I settled on the vibrant "yellow" tree whose tips were illuminated by the slowly sinking sun behind the hills as my center of interest.

For nearly two hours I fought the bugs. Dummy me, forgot the bug spray! Several of the little critters ended their lives trapped in the wet paint on my canvas. They really like the yellow!

It was a neat place to paint (aside from the bugs) with a train going by at least every 20 minutes. Nice sound effects!

You can see I eliminated one of the "islands" and shortened the distance between the "yellow" tree and the island. Otherwise I was fairly faithful to the scene.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Shawnee Valley demonstration, 14th and last step

Tweaking the foreground and refining other areas

Some of the little things that I did in this final step you will find hard to see on the small blog image. I changed the shape of the left-hand farm on the back hill to make the negative space more interesting and added some color to relieve the green. I reworked the shadow area on the right so that the cows, which I refined, were totally in the shadow area. I finished up the foreground by adding highlights to the ground, rocks and leaves.

I darkened the water a bit next to the shore line: both were the same value. I added some cows on the grazing plain and signed my name on the shadow side of one of the rocks.

The clever name of this new painting is "Afternoon in the Valley." You may see a larger image in the landscapes section of my website.

Next week I will start a new demo, but a smaller one.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Shawnee Valley demonstration, Step 13

Tweaking the middle ground

I thought I was done with the background, but the more I looked at it, the more I realized I wasn't! I pushed the mountains back some more and refined the houses and barns. Then I reworked the large tree on the left, AGAIN!

After developing the middle ground trees some more by adding branches and leaves, I then moved to the flat grassy plain, added some texture and some cooler colors toward the back to make the grassy plain recede. I added some rocks around the shoreline, but I may move them or add some more. As I worked my way up the hill on the right I realized the cows needed to be a tad larger. I have roughed them in again, and will finish them along with the left foreground in the next (and hopefully last) painting session.

Perhaps I'll have a title for it then.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Shawnee Valley demonstration, Step 12

Tweaking the sky and background

In this final phase of painting, I have to decide which parts are OK and which parts need work. For right now, I think the sky is OK, but I have four clouds about the same size retreating into the distance, which I might change later. First to the more troubling spots.

The background mountains were bothering me...they didn't make good sense. Last month I returned to the site in Pennsylvania and took more photos to explain the ridges, the buildings and the trees. With clearer information, I redid a lot of the background. The houses are now the right size, and the transition from middle ground to background is more gradual. I lightened some shadows and cooled some lights.

Then I tackled the tree. I didn't like the foliage: it was harsh and ugly. I painted over it with thin sky color and reworked the foliage into the wet paint. It is now soft and airy, but I can't go any further on it since it is so wet. It needs sky holes and shadow accents under a few limbs.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Shawnee Valley demonstration, Step 11

Painting the foreground


First I redid the transition area in the lower right hand corner so that your eye would not go off the painting to the right. I added some more rocks in a variety of sizes plus two fence posts for scale.

Then I moved leftward and developed the shapes of the rocks and boulders in the shadow areas and then moved on up the hillside to the areas in light. I added some bushes and may even add more.

I am still drawing and auditioning shapes, as to where they look good and add to the overall picture. I will make sure that these bushes and rocks are all interesting, not funny looking. Rocks and clouds can take on shapes that can remind you of most anything. One of the rocks started to look like an old Chevy. Many times they'll look like dead animals or potatoes!

At this stage, I have covered the underpainting with a reasonable representation of what the finished painting will look like. From now on it is tweaking, refining, adding dark accents and highlights. There probably is no part of the painting that is entirely finished.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Shawnee Valley demonstration, Step 10

Painting the remainder of the middle ground


Still working back to front I finished the smaller trees on the right and the bushes along the edge of the stream. I added grassy areas where the cows will graze.

Then I worked into the lower right-hand corner developing a higher vantage point on the right. I refined the rocks and boulders and then added the cows, using some reference photos. The important thing now is that they are the right size.

After stepping back from the painting, I realize that the lower right-hand corner bothers me with the funnel-shaped path splitting in opposite directions. I will revise this so that your eye stays in the painting and doesn't go out the right side, like it does now. I will blend those areas together so that there's a gentle slope down to where the front cow is grazing.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Shawnee Valley demonstration, Step 9

Painting the right-hand trees, mid-ground grasses, and water


The right-hand tree evolved into two trees, and designing them artistically was my major focus. While I was doing the trees, I also needed to do the background behind them as I use the light color of the grassy plain to help define the tree shapes. They still need more visible limbs and branches, which I will take care of the final steps.

I painted the sandy bank and water, with reflections of the sky, trees, bushes, and the sandy bank using vertical strokes to make them look watery. A few horizontal light strokes show slight ripples in the water. After painting the water, I added the middle-ground grasses, giving them depth and shape with shadows and highlights.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Shawnee Valley demonstration, Step 8

Painting the Middle Ground


Working from back to front, I started with the trees backing up to the mountains. I then painted the flat plane of the land, alternating grassy colors with pinkish-tan areas of dirt indicating paths and bare areas. Then I worked some of the middle ground trees attempting to make them individuals and not out of a tree cookie-cutter. I have indicated some grassy areas on the left, but may have to mass that more and save the texture for the foreground.

I will finish the middle ground in the next step, which will include the stream and the large tree on the right.

Having just returned from two painting trips: one to western Pennsylvania where this scene is and the other to Sky Meadows State Park in Virginia, I have been keenly aware of the variations in trees, and there are thousands. I wish I could have stopped along the road and painted each and every one to keep as reference material.

It is time to arrive at a new title for this painting, the original being "Shawnee Valley." I would appreciate any input you have for titling this new painting. I would prefer not to use the word "Shawnee," but it can be valley something, or something valley. I will consider all your suggestions. Please don't be shy.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Shawnee Valley demonstration, Step 7

Painting the Middle Mountains


These middle mountains need transition colors between the foreground and the background colors. Again, it is difficult to paint the warm color of the sunlight on September trees with the cool overtones representing the atmosphere. We landscape painters must paint the air as well as the light: the affect of the atmosphere and light on each and every surface. The more distant the surface, like the distant mountains, the more air there is to paint.

I lightened the darks on the right-hand mountain a bit and then warmed up the small area between the two middle mountains. You can see how these transition colors were necessary.

In the sunlit greens on the right-hand mountain, I have added tinges of pink to suggest autumnal colors. I painted the original plein air piece in September when the colors were just beginning to change. At that time, there were more gold-greens than oranges and rust colors.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Shawnee Valley demonstration, Step 6

Painting the Sky and Background


As I continue with this painting, I am still drawing and tweaking the shapes to make sure that they are not only correct but also pleasing. My paintings are NOT like paint-by-number paintings where the color is filled in on a finished drawing. My paintings are always a work in progress, developing the shapes, colors, and values as I go along. I use a mirror to check my work and I squint at it a lot.

After making some drawing changes, I painted the foliage on the tall left-hand tree since it overlaps the sky, having refined the shapes from the initial block-in. The top branch points into the painting, leading the viewer’s eye in that direction.

I refined the cloud shapes and eliminated the slightly gray cloud at the top of the painting. Since I want the two top corners of this painting different, I now have blue sky in the upper left corner a cloud in the upper right corner. The cloud serves as an exit path from the painting, an effective compositional device.

The mountains and hills in the distance are the hardest to paint, since the atmosphere affects the colors to such a large degree. To get just the right degree of warmth and coolness, I adjust and adjust and adjust some more until it looks right to me.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Shawnee Valley demonstration, Step 5

The Foreground Color Block-In


Now that this complete color block-in is finished, I have a better idea where I am going with this painting. In this stage, I am still arranging shapes and values to make sure this all works together before I finish any one particular area.

The rocks are a slightly cool color, made with a variety of grays. The ground is warm, made with lots of orange, yellow ochre and warm greens. I have suggested the cows, but will refine them later. That will be one of the last areas I finish. I may have to do additional photography in nearby cow pastures to get accurate source material.

Between the completion of this step and the final painting, I will make even more changes in shapes, design, values, and color.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Shawnee Valley demonstration, Step 4

The Middle Ground Color Block-In


Beginning with the large middle mountain, I put in the shadows with a purple green-gray. I added yellow ochre and white for the lighter areas, being very careful not to get this area too warm. White is a cool color, and I premix a puddle of white tinged with yellow for just this kind of use. Since there is so much blue-gray in the atmosphere, all colors are affected by it.

As I came toward the foreground, I added more yellow ochre and yellow, and reduced the amounts of gray. The warm reddish field on the left-hand hill is cadmium red light with thalo blue and white. The very light grassless areas in the middle ground are orange and white, grayed with a bit of ultramarine blue. At the edge of the river, I changed the water edge to a small bank made with cadmium red light, thalo blue and white. The darks in the grass, the cast shadows, and the shady sides of the trees are various shades of green darkened with blue-violet.

The trunk of the tall left-hand skinnty tree needs more variety. The top is interesting, but the rest of it is too straight.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Shawnee Valley demonstration, Step 3

The Background Color Block-In

Shawnee Valley

Starting with the sky, I gradually worked my way down to the distant mountains. For the blues in the sky, I used ultramarine at the top, then cobalt, and some thalo green at the horizon. For the clouds I used white, yellow and a pink, made from white, quinacridone red and cadmium red.

For the mountains I used a gray made from quinacridone red, thalo green, and white, deepening the value by adding more and more as I came closer. For the closest mountain, I added a tad of yellow. The distant fields are pale yellowish gray.

At this point, I am only roughing in some color as a basis for the final coats of paint. I am trying for an approximation of color and value which will be refined in the next layer at a later point.

For a medium, I am using 1 part Liquin to 1 part odorless mineral spirits (OMS).

Monday, September 17, 2007

Shawnee Valley demonstration, Step 2

The Block-In

Shawnee Valley

The next step is to arrive at a loose value study that will be the basis for the color. I went over the lines with burnt sienna thinned with odorless mineral spirits. With a rag I wiped out the charcoal as I went along and carefully followed the lines with the diluted paint. I started at the top and worked my way down to the foreground. I shaded the larger areas with a variety of values of thinned burnt sienna. As I got closer to the foreground, I added some burnt umber to the burnt sienna for a greater value contrast.

I have made the trees and the mountains more artistic and interesting than they were in the original Shawnee Valley. I’m surprised that the painting takes on a whole new look with the addition of the foreground overlook and the pond turned into a stream.

This stage of the painting is still rough. I do not make a precise drawing where I fill in between the lines. These lines and shapes are a guide for the development of the painting. I will let it talk to me and tell me what needs to be done. The painting will develop as I work on it.

Because I will be in Annapolis for the "Paint Annapolis" event Wednesday through Sunday, the next step on Shawnee Valley will not be next Monday...maybe next Tuesday, maybe even Wednesday or as soon as I can get to it.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Shawnee Valley demonstration, Step 1

The Charcoal Drawing

Shawnee Valley

I felt that a basic problem with Shawnee Valley, besides the fact that I thought it was too small to do the scene justice, was the lack of a foreground. After searching in my file of magazine clippings of old master paintings, I came across a few that inspired me.

Essentially I added an overlook on the lower left with a tree and rocks. The tree will break into the sky, making that side of the painting more inviting. The line of the cliff gives a strong diagonal to the painting and introduces an area for interesting detail. Compositionally, this will make the painting much more dynamic.

Because of the shape of the overlook, I changed the large pond into a stream that winds gracefully through the painting and behind the overlook. This also helps move the viewer’s eye from the lower left to the right where the medium size tree serves as a stop. The viewer’s eye will then travel back into the painting on the diagonal of the hillside and back into the varied textures of the distant landscape.

Since enlarging the 14 x 20 to a 30 x 40 is approximately twice-up, I measured with a ruler a number of different dimensions on Shawnee Valley and doubled them. I added in the revisions for the foreground and developed this rough charcoal drawing on the large canvas.

Monday, September 3, 2007

First thoughts on "Shawnee Valley"

Several years ago I completed the oil painting below, called "Shawnee Valley." I began it on site in western Pennsylvania as a plein air painting and finished it in the studio using reference photos that I had taken on location. After looking at this painting these past years, I decided that I needed to make it larger and with some changes. The size didn't do the vista justice.

I am going to take you step by step through the process of revising "Shawnee Valley," which is now a 14 x 20. The new and improved Shawnee Valley will be 30 x 40.

Shawnee Valley

I plan to complete a new step every week.