Living in the St Croix Valley of Minnesota, I spend a lot of time hiking our State Parks. Although, I certainly do lug my gear to these same places, it's often times I see something I need to paint when my paints are not at hand. So, I take a quick photograph and make some mental notes of the color harmony and the emotion I get while looking at the scene. This is an interesting way to start a painting. For me, it makes the painting process more conceptual than just reacting and attempting to capture the scene at hand when painting en plein air. The series of studies below, is my way of working out my 'problems' on canvas before actually hitting the larger canvas.
The idea or inspiration was first introduced to me when coming in from a hike at dusk in William O'brien State Park in the fall. I only had my iPhone along, so quick took a shot with my phone and stood making mental notes to myself of the impression at hand. What struck me most was the strong abstract shape of the water jetting through the land and how the land seemed to dissolve away. These memories are important to retain in order to hopefully translate this vision with paint in the studio.
I thought I'd share how I bring my ideas or 'concepts' to canvas. As much as I'd love to just start painting this concept out on my larger piece, I find it seriously helpful to work out my ideas and problems in small studies first. This is not reinventing the wheel here, but to some this is might be a new way of working out their painting problems. I first learned a similar method or approach years back from Marc Hanson. It was really helpful and still is! Now this is the format in which I teach my plein air to landscape classes.
1. The first study in value, is for me to work out my larger simple more abstract shapes.
2. Next, I take the value study and work up the painting with 1/2 tones, playing with variety in texture and edges.
3. The third study is when I start working out my values as color. I'm very deliberate to only paint in the average colors of each shape. No place to hide this way!
4. And lastly, I put all the pieces together practicing 'working out my problems'. It's freeing because these are just 'studies'. No stress, no fears, just painting out my ideas.
At this point in the process, I'm feeling pretty confident in moving ahead to my larger painting. The physical act of painting is easy, it's the BRAIN work that's hard! :)
studies painted on a 16x20 board
14x18 oil on canvas panel
© Kami Mendlik 2015