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Indirect Painting Technique

Here are four paintings recently completed using an indirect approach.  Starting with a monochromatic under painting gives me a visual of the final picture before  I  start adding color.  The first opaque passage is followed by several rounds of thin glazes, scumbles, and velaturas.  After adjusting  the values,  colors temperature and chroma, I adjust edges and add the final details to bring the picture to completion.  It’s a slow process of working for a short period on one piece before setting it aside to work on another.   I like how the painting develops slowly, over time;  it is similar to how a memory is recalled in your mind-  you see it and feel it emerge from the inside out.

fir trees, distant mountains, yellow clouds, early evening sunset

Rattlesnake Ridge, 9 x 9

 

winter field, gray sky, creek, distant fir trees, purple mountains

Patterson Creek, 8 x 12

 

Dawn, fir trees with dead snag, orange sunrise sky, dark foreground grasses

Morning Majesty, 9 x 12

 

Evening at the Slough, 8 x 10

Evening at the Slough, 8 x 10

 

From thumbnail to color study

I recently did some sketching of the water reflections on the Snoqualmie River and I decided to turn one of my ideas into a painting.  Well, I’m about half way there.  Let me show you the process from thumbnail to color study.

First of all, it was freezing outside, so I sat in my car and pulled out the thumbnail sketchbook.  A thumbnail drawing is about half the size of a post-it, or 1.5″x2″.  All I’m trying to do is see if my design idea works as a small black and white image.  I drew this one quickly with 6B pencil and added white chalk for the light areas.  As soon as I had something down I had to decide if I liked the flat, graphic image.  Was it an interesting design?  Was it simple enough or too complicated?  Were the darks clumped together or spread all apart.  The simpler the design the stronger it is.  It’s really hard to uncomplicate the landscape because there’s so much to look at!  I decided I liked the design.

Here is the thumbnail drawing

Later on I decided to make a larger, more complete value study, this time about 4″x6″.  Because I was in my studio I had to imagine the tree because I wasn’t working from a photo, just memory and the thumbnail to look at.

Here is the 4×6 value study

I liked it but something bothered me and I wasn’t sure what it was.  I showed it to my landscape teacher, Deborah Paris, and she said it’s not a good idea to put the trunk of the tree right next to the edge, as it pulls the eye right out of the picture.  I agreed and I also remembered that Edgar Payne mentioned the same thing in his book, Composition of Outdoor Painting.  So I decided to do another value study and move the tree trunk in.

This time I made the drawing an 8×10 because that’s the same size I wanted for the color study.

Here is the 8×10 value study (graphite and white chalk on gray toned paper):

As you can see the drawing is more developed and I have moved the tree in from the edge.  I think it looks better.  What do you think?  The tree is pretty dark because it’s close up and it’s a gray day in the Pacific Northwest which makes all the values pretty close together.

Now it was time to do the color study.  Working from memory of the day I did the thumbnail I painted this 8×10 study.  As I worked I looked at the 8×10 value study as a reference.  It was really interesting how I remembered the colors from that day just looking at the black and white drawing.  I think it’s fascinating how much we record in our minds without knowing!

Here is the color study.

I’m pretty happy with the colors, but I think some of my values are off and I made it into a sunny morning type feel rather than a gray day.  What do you think?  I plan to do another study to attempt to match the value study above.  If I can do that then I’ll go for a larger studio painting.

 

Mt. Rainier – Plein air sketch

Mt. Rainier  14″x11″ Oil on panel  plein air
Luckily I caught the weather to make this sketch over a two day period.  We’ve had our stretch of no-rain, but the fires all over Washington State have caused a huge atmospheric haze, blurring any views.  This painting will be used as a reference for a larger, self-portrait painting in which I am looking out a window at this view.  I am very excited to have Mt. Rainier at my eye level!
Below is a picture of me painting this picture.  While I was working, a professional photographer named, Virginia Jamieson, stopped by to check things out.  She took this picture of me as I was beginning the painting.  Virginia has a facebook page under Nature’s Soul Photography.  Her website is www.naturessoulphotography.