"Quiet Day" - Oil - 18" x 24" - NFS (yet)
"I found this streamside setting
peaceful with the quiet gurgling of the
water, twittering birds, and warm sun.
The goal of the painting was to allow
the viewer to experience this, too." ---
ALL SALES BENEFIT NEW ORLEANS HABITAT
Work in progress --- Your questions and comments are welcome.
This is my photo-sketch upon which I
based the upcoming painting. I like its
color and interest, but want to use a
horizontal format instead of vertical.
That will take some recomposing so I’ll
have to be on my toes, especially during
the drawing stage.
placed the foreground trees, paying
attention to variety, shapes, and
spacing. I make sure neither grouping
lands in the middle of the canvas by
creating a 1/3 to 2/3 division of space,
basically using the principle of the
golden mean or divine proportion. I
don’t want to make this too obvious,
(Unfortunately, I didn't take another
photo at the end of the drawing phase,
but if you study the next shot, you'll
find what I've referred to.)
Next, I place the point at which the
water flows into distance and nestles
under the darkest area of the background
forest. Again, I’ve placed it 2/3 of the
way from the bottom of the canvas. This
creates what will be a square within a
rectangle, an interesting compositional
You’ll notice there are a lot of
rub-outs and changes during the drawing
stage. I was constructing the painting,
considering not only the placement and
direction of the lines, but shapes like
the overall shape of the water. I opted
to open the space between the trees by
leaving out the dark boulder so the
viewer’s eye can enter at the bottom and
be led back up to the more interesting
parts of the subject, not trapped in the
right corner. Rather than extending the
middle-ground bank all the way to the
left-hand edge of the canvas like the
photo, I chose to bring it back toward
the middle of the painting. It will draw
the eye back in to discover another
element or two. I added a shape, which
is going to be brush to the left of the
left-hand tree, which is more
interesting than a line that takes you
out of the picture so quickly. (Did I
just say “picture”?)
compositional problems at this stage, I
can concentrate on color, shape, and
edges for the rest of the process.
I begin to add more darks. That darkest
dark is in the background and I have to
be careful that it is not so dark and
heavy that it becomes an advancing dark
instead of a receding dark. Also, I’ve
laid in the darks of the water. The
water as a whole will be darker than the
sunlit foliage and foreground. I will be
using the shadows of the trees in the
foreground to set a line of movement,
dividing the foreground and keeping it
Notice that I am painting beyond the
edges into the adjacent color areas, so
that they will overlap and lie together.
With each meeting, I evaluate the edges,
softening or reinforcing them. I don’t
want obvious gaps of unpainted canvas,
though I often leave exposed small
red-toned areas to become unifying
accents. (Sometime I’ll tell you the
story of why I do that.)
The water in this scene in interesting
because part of it is in shadow, part of
it reflects the sky, and in other parts
you can see the colors beneath the
surface. In addition to that, it
reflects the bright foliage in the
middle ground. That will be a challenge.
I’ve put in the darks of the trees, as
well as the cast shadows of the ground
and you can see how that serves as a
lead-in from the bottom to the water.
Things are going pretty well here. I have my big
basic shapes in, my values in, and have recorded the comparison of
greens. And so from now on, I will be dealing mostly with fine-tuning
the colors, perhaps using less green and more orange or pink, and
getting more color variation going in each area.
After the previous photo, I scraped my palette.
Since I will be revising colors, I want to be required to remix them.
I’m more likely to make the jump to a little different color, rather
than just painting over an area in the same color. By this means,
desirable color vibrations are created, but I must hold the values
together while I’m at it.
The shot of the palette are to show how many greens
I used. Most are mixed using blues, yellows, magentas, cadmium red,
yellow ochre, and so on. None are straight from the tube. I find those
Here are further color corrections in the
background trees. You'll notice that I’ve changed the shape of the two
trees on the left, especially the right-hand one. I will add more to
this blog entry when I return to work on the painting.
Second Painting Session:
When I return to a painting after a break or even
several days, it takes a while to retune your palette to the colors in a
painting, so I’ll go a bit slowly and conscientiously for a bit. You can
really wreck things fast if you do not pay a lot of attention to the color
palette you used originally.
Here, I’ve added a lot of purple and red to the trunks of
the trees. It adds a lot of color vibrancy because there’s so much green in the
painting. If I see a change like that, I’ll run with it for a while and see
whether it works. If not, I can always change it back. I pull some branches of
the trees down over the water so the elements in the painting won’t be so
Pay attention to the rhythm of your painting. By that I
mean the way color moves through the painting, the patterns, the direction of
the brush strokes, and so on. These let you paint more efficiently, more
confidently. An example is the way the oranges are spotted around at this stage.
You’ll see more examples later.
I’m finding that the sharp contrasts of the leaves, the
addition of bright yellows to the background and the foreground leaves, are
contributing a lot of life to the painting, so I’m going to leave them and work
with that. The painting may go off in a more lively different direction, but I
like it and I’m going for it. Again, I’m responding to what I see is working,
rather than trying to be in total control. Doing so may be a factor of
personality or a reaction to the weather that day or whatever, but it is a
wonderful way of expressing mood in a work.
As always, I keep the edges of the lights near the sides of
the painting softer than those close to the focal point. By simplifying the form
and color of the near brush, the color of the sandy flat foreground changes and
is working better. Again, it’s another illustration of changing something by
changing what’s next to it.
Rather than adding small brush strokes to the middle
ground, I decided to use the dark leaves of the trees on the left to balance the
accents on the right. I can do that because I painted the middle ground very
simply to begin with.
You’ll see I’m using calligraphy-like strokes. These are
some great accents and should be artfully done. I’ve drawn them best in the
lower right. Sergei Bongart was a master at this and often his whole painting
was a series of strokes that held the shapes and went throughout the painting
and gave it so much energy and design.
Sometimes you hear a little voice in your head that says,
“Stop,” and it’s very good to listen to it because it is usually right.
As I looked at the painting later, I realized that I had
used not just values to create the distance in the painting, but unconsciously used temperature. I put warms in the front and cooled them slightly as I went back
two or three layers. The lighted foliage in the middle ground is much cooler
than anything in the foreground. Doing that also helped move the eye through the