Thursday, February 16, 2012

"High In The Valley"

 "High In The Valley"
18x24 oil on linen panel

"High In The Valley" is my latest piece from the studio.  Since the start of this was a demo for my Thursday advanced painting class, I thought I'd do a post and share some of the process here on my blog.  The initial idea came from being out painting last fall along a pumpkin patch just north of where I live.  When I set up to paint this mid morning, the sky was pretty flat and there was really not any clouds, by the time I was finished with my morning piece, I turned to the left and this is what I saw, stunning lit clouds and landscape with a vista view.  I didn't have time to paint it so I photographed this scene thinking I'd eventually need to paint this, it was truly stunning light!

My goal in this painting was to keep the intensity of the light I remembered by keep rich, clean paint in the clouds and keep my lights and darks very clarified throughout the painting. 

-6x8 color study-
But first I need to start by getting my color scheme and abstract composition developed through a small color study.  This is a simple piece of linen taped up on a board.  I find myself almost always doing a small study before hitting a large canvas, it helps me to work out the shapes and colors so I have a good solid plan.  You may notice the notes of color on the side of the painting.  Once I am happy with my overall color scheme, I scrape up the 4 major colors and lay down the notes on the side of my panting to possibly help me on my large painting.  

Getting started on my large piece. 
 First I start out with a light wash of Transparent Oxide Red to get the drawing laid in, then I wipe it out to tone the canvas.  I then go back in wish a more solid drawing, using my brush. This isn't too difficult since I did most of my 'thinking' on my small study.
Right away, I begin mixing large piles of paint in the large 'averages' that I need in my painting.  Typically I start with my darks to develop some structure.  Then comes the major 'averages' of the sky.  I used all palette knife in my sky in attempt to use enough paint to work with later.  I've now got a solid foundation and this is the point in the demo where I told my class I was finished and would complete the painting on my own.  

Beginning to work the edges, temperature and depth in the sky.
I had a lot of paint in my sky and it's important to work the sky while it's still wet in order to achieve the edges I was after.  I use all palette knife in the clouds to work in warmer and cooler temperatures and soften and roll the edges.  This took hours of painting. . . honestly I don't even know how long. . . I really had fun working with all this paint!
Note: as the shadows of your clouds move away from you typically they will get lighter and cooler.

Developing form in the trees:
Since I like the edges of the sky and tree line to somewhat meld together the trees seemed like the next logical thing to work on.  By this time my first lay in of my tree line was dry so I repainted it so I could have good paint quality and work wet into wet.  This is not a difficult thing to do if you have a solid foundation, just match the lights and darks.  Then I find a good mid tone color to lay between my lights and darks in order to roll the form.  
Note:  to develop recession, the tree line gets lighter and cooler as it moves away from you. 

The final Painting, finished!
There is a time in my painting where I completely zone out and go so deep into the painting that I don't know how I got from the last stage to here.  It's a lot of making notes and stepping away from the easel to get a fresh look and hopefully not over work any area.  This is the point where I do more thinking again than painting in order to do only what helps the painting.  I also do quite a bit of scraping areas out if they don't 'help' the painting.  It's important not to be afraid to do this, remember its all about harmony in your work.  I try to remember to never fall so in love with one little area that it disrupts the harmony and unity.  
It's easy to over work a painting once you get to a certain stage in the piece.  I find slowing down and taking a lot of breaks a good way to not completely destroy what you've started a good idea. 
 Like I tell my students, painting is more brain work than a physical act, but good art comes from the soul of the artist.  
So, here you have my finished piece, of in my mind, some of the most beautiful land in the Mid West! 
to see the painting in detail double click on the image and it will enlarge