Below is the process of the my latest studio piece. The inspiration for this piece came from the Bottom Lands of the Minnesota River Valley. We had access to some of the most beautiful land I have ever seen in my life last fall when working on some other pieces of the area. When I saw this specific place, I immediately saw the painting I was going to paint. The feeling of the evening was of warmth and of peace. The place told a story and the light created the mood. I had and still have a clear vision of that moment and place and wanted to paint in honor of it.
I know I've talked a lot about trees before, and how can one possibly be a landscape painter in Minnesota without having some kind of a love a respect for them but I love the unique character and story each tree has and tells. When I paint a tree, I'm never just 'painting A tree', I care so much about painting THAT tree! As I see it, they are like people. Each has their own unique qualities and it would be quite unfair to not honor those qualities. No two are the same!
When painting on a large scale piece like this, I usually put down some kind of basic grid lines so that I can see where major spaces of division are. It's difficult to see where simple mid lines are when you are up close to your piece. It helps me to stay on track a bit and to avoid major tangents or center lines etc.
I started with a large brush (#10 flat bristle) and washed in my big shapes and composition using transparent oxide red (Rembrandt) and turps.
Once I got the strength or armature in the shapes that I was after, I started massing in the darks, leaving the lit areas open to help create the light effect I remembered that evening.
The dark silhouette in front was primarily Transparent Oxide Red, Viridian and Alizeran Crimson (and probably some Ultra Marine Blue). I kept it somewhat transparent so that later when I build in the next layers, I could have some of the warmth coming through in the shadow. I remember that band of dark almost radiating warmth, however it is a dark in shadow so COOL has to DOMINATE to read as that. That does not mean you have to ignore what you felt (warmth). As the layers move away from you, they get lighter and bluer. (cooler)
The next layer of darks I massed in more opaque color, using UMB, Alizeran and some yellow of some kind. (of coarse white)
The back layer of trees are the coolest and primarily used UMB, Aliz. and yellow but keeping it COOLER.
At this stage I am feeling pretty good. I'm getting my masses covered and feeling I am starting to see where the painting may be going. I like this stage because I now have a strong foundation for what's ahead and I'm never quite sure of 'what's ahead'. Kind of like a mystery you work through till the end.
I like the light effect and the light effect is the mood I wanted for honoring this place. In the foreground I started massing in a magenta like temperature. I remember the night and that the bean fields were an incredible magenta in the shadow areas. At this point I'm going with a 'feeling'. I'll figure out logic later!