Monday, February 22, 2010


"Aaron" - Oil - 11" x 14"

"Both intriguing and forceful, this model was fascinating to paint." --- SFG


I haven't put up a portrait in a while. This piece is several years old and is different in style from some of my current work. However, it serves as a lesson for me. Losing the edges of the hair and face gave more dimension to the head and in doing so, the background works itself out.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

"Our Trees, Autumn"

"Our Trees, Autumn" -- 20" x 16" -- Oil

"Color, composition, and lush paint were my focus as I painted." --- SFG


I based the painting on this photo taken in New Hampshire several years ago and Sergei Bongart's painting titled "Fall in Idaho, Kievtshina". Those of you who have his book may recognize it.

As I drew on the canvas with thinned paint, I was careful with the placement of the large tree since it dominates the painting. It would have been easy, but a big mistake, to place it in the middle. I needed something to come forward so I used the fence shadows, the curve of the driveway, and the mass at the lower right.

I shaped the dark masses, joining those I could and varying the greens from near-blues to reddish. I usually try to keep the color on the warm side in foliage since light filtering through a forest has many warm tones.

Here, I've added the hill in the background. Notice how important the abstract shapes are. They balance the painting and move the viewer's eye around. I did this very assertively. PAINT FEARLESSLY!

Always go for the big shapes. That large tree is not just a bunch of leaves that add up to a tree.

Now the canvas is covered with big shapes and clear value changes. From here to completion, I won't be painting a place. I'll be making a painting.

My palette at this point shows how I compare my colors as I mix them, keeping the lights together and the darks together, the warms together and the cools together. I didn't even think about it as I was mixing. It has become habit after all these years.

As I start to add details and accents, I decided that the repetitious fence shadows trapped the eye too much.

That's better in the foreground. I also decided to break the roofline of the shed by placing a tree in front of it. In the final version, shown at the top of this post, you'll see a few changes I made after I had signed it. I reshaped the top of the largest tree and broke the small but strong horizontal of the weeds in front of the shed. It attracted too much attention.

Friday, February 05, 2010

"Cold Day on the Deschutes"

"Cold Day on the Deschutes" - Oil - 12" x 16"

"Last New Year's weekend, we were invited to Sun River,
Oregon. Though it was cold and overcast, the previous week's
snow was beautiful and the winter colors of the brush and
willows along the Deschutes river was lively. Have you ever
noticed how colors of flowers and foliage are frequently more
intense when the sky is overcast? Sometimes sunshine washes
color out. Just another reason to value each day!" --- SFG

The finished painting can be viewed at Art and Soul Gallery,
247 East Main Street, Ashland, Oregon, through May 3, 2010.


I forgot to take a picture after the drawing
stage of this demonstration, but I think you can see here
that I've laid in large shapes. I started with the dark trees
making sure that each tree was shaped differently from the
others. Thinking of gesture (what the tree is "doing") rather
than specific branches helps identifiy the species. I also sought variations of color, ranging from dark blue-green to dark
reddish-green to deep yellow-green. The foreground water is
indicated by the large dark and two lighter areas that are
reflections. I was careful to draw the top of the hillside as an
interesting line that intersected the tallest trees at different
points. Notice, too, how those are spaced differently, as well.
Composition at this stage is a primary concern.

Again, I was so deeply involved in the painting that I failed
to take photos of intermediate stages. So sorry. If you look
carefully, I've continued to design each shrub so that it
differs from any similar ones. For example, the red-orange
shrubs are masses that follow the rule of "dominant,
sub-dominant, and subordinate" or three different sizes. I used
the nearly horizontal bank of the river to counter so many
verticals in trees and the fallen log keeps that line from
carrying the viewer's eye out of the picture. Reflections add
some verticals to the water. I deliberately kept the value of
the sky dark enough that the snow would be the lightest area, as
it was in reality. The faint verticals of the dead or leafless
trees keep the eye moving through the work and their irregular
spacing adds rhythm.