Thursday, September 11, 2014

Development of a Painting

As I've noted here before, I've been trying to develop some skills in landscape painting.  It's a subject that I have never done very well.  But it seems to be coming together now.  I've been fairly happy with what's popped off my easel lately.  What's more interesting is that it's a very different way of working than what I normally do.  It forces me to think more about composition, color, finding the focal point, and subordinating some things so that the important thing(s) catch your eye.  I usually think of the things in the painting as objects rather than as arrangements of paint, and the message in the artwork depends on the objects I paint rather than the way they're put together on the canvas.  So this has been a very eye-opening experience.

I thought I'd share the development of a recent landscape painting.  By the Cornfield is a small 16x12 oil on panel.  The setting is here in Madison County, NC, maybe a mile as the crow flies from my home.  Of course, this being Madison County, you have to drive maybe five miles to get there.


Here's the initial block-in.  It's in ultramarine blue mixed with burnt sienna.  I was attracted to both the tree and the road, and wanted to see how much depth I could get in the final painting.


Here's the first round of color.  I wanted to get paint over the whole panel so I could start adjusting it.  This first round of color, as it turned out, was too strong: all the greens really jumped, even in places where I didn't want them to.


At this point, I had learned that, for whatever reason, it was the road that interested me most, and I'd spent a lot of time on it.  I put some shadows on the road under the tree and in the foreground.  The ridge beyond the tree had been developed a bit, but I decided at this point that it was too dark and too green.  To push it back, away from the tree, I needed to lighten it and make it cooler (bluer) for atmospheric perspective.  The tree was pretty flat with little variation in lights and darks, so it needed to have some lighter lights and darker darks.  And the foliage in the foreground needed a wider range of greens as they were all pretty much the same.


Here's the final painting.  Making the ridge bluer and lighter really helped separate it from the tree.  I scumbled in a warm haze above the horizon line (yellow ochre and white).  The tree has a wider range of lights and darks, making it feel more three-dimensional.  I simplified the foliage to the left - originally there was a bush, but I couldn't get it to feel like a bush without taking over as the primary point of interest, so I simplified it.  I worked some warm "dirt" colors (yellow ochre, terra rosa, and white) into the ground on either side of the road and in the cornfield.  


And here for comparison purposes, is the original scene.  You can see the liberties that I took with it.  The tree, for example, blends right in with the ridge as there isn't a lot of distance between them, and it's confusing: what's the tree and what's the ridge?  The greens everywhere are really strong, too.  Maybe I could have kept the foreground greens strong, but I toned them down to focus on the road.  Here, though, you can see that it's the contrast between the green foliage that red/tan dirt road that makes it stand out.  

But there it is - the development of one of my new landscapes.  Your thoughts?

1 comment:

SillyLittleLady said...

I *love* seeing this kind of explanation and the pictures of various stages of the process, the whys and hows. Painting to me is magic - I don't really get how its done but I love watching it happen!