Monday, June 29, 2009

Blue and Green

" Evening Blue and Green"
9" x 12" Oil on canvas covered panel
Another good color combination I like is a Cerulean Blue sky with dark greens in the foreground. Throw in a little slightly pinkish clouds and it's hard to goof that up. Not that this is a perfect painting...there is always room to improve and I've already decided what I would have done differently on this one for the paintings down the road.

Depth in a Painting

One of the things early painters seem to struggle with is adding depth into their paintings. Depth adds to the atmosphere while also adding a wonderful sense of space into one's painting. You are working with Aerial, or, Atmospheric perspective here. You can look these terms up and read volumes about this type of perspective as well as other types. I don't want to write a book here so I'll put it in a nutshell for you.
To add depth you need to work on your atmospheric perspective. This means the farther back your distance is colors will be less brite, less intense, will start to move into the blue/grey range. You will have less detail, less sharp edges, less focus. The eye is a magnificent machine but even it has it's limitations. Heat, moisture, airborne particles and distance will cause the eye to see less of anything the further it recedes. All you have to do now is to remember these things and practice pushing your distance in your paintings.
This painting I've done was just painted from a basic pencil thumbnail sketch I did on a scrap piece of paper with a drafting pencil. There are no color notes or actual picture to work from because I know what it will look like before I start the painting. It's a good thing to get into the habit of seeing your painting, visualising it, before you actually paint it. Then you just paint what you see in your head. The better you visualise it the better you will paint it.
Here is my pencil sketch.....

It's very simple and of no particular place. I can see my sky and tree colors as well as the foreground so this sketch is more a map of where to put my lines on my canvas. I'll add my sky working my way down to the trees. At the trees I will add some very light yellow ochre suggesting the haze you would see closer to the land.

At this point I want to add my distant mountains which will be blue. I will then add some of my "grey" mud to some white paint and then paint that into the base of the mountains to add more "atmospheric haze" to them. This gives the effect of distant mountains by the blueing of their color and hazy filtered light/color at their base....all of this adds to the illusion of distance.

Here you see the blue of the mountains blocked in. Before I leave this step I will also take a clean brush and drag just a bit of sky color along the top line of the mountains...this softens that edge...remember? Less sharp edges as they recede. My mud mix kept in a jar for later uses....What is it??? After you clean your brushes in a jar long enough you end up with a thick mud of paint at the bottom of your jar. I periodically scrape it into this jar for adding grey to my paint mixes...when I paint plein air I will use a tube of Paynes Grey but in the studio I use this leftover paint.

Here is the painting with my mountains done, my distant and foreground trees added....this is basically the blocked in stage and I will start tweaking these parts once they are all in place.

Now the rest of the painting is blocked in. After this I took a brush rinsed in turpentine and wiped out the paint for my trail. I then painted in a mix of white/yellow ochre and ultramarine blue for the trail.

Trail "wiped in" Once the trail was painted in I darkened my foreground grasses on either side and began to work my grasses and edges of the trail. In the end this is what the painting looked like.

It's all in stages. Very light or faint background work...nice mid value colors for the midground and strong darks in the foreground...much sharper detail and edges closer up and soft brushwork in the distance. Paint what your eyes can see...the exaggrate that and psuh it as far as you want to go with it. The early tendancy I think is to not push it as much so keep working at it and push a little harder each time...go lighter where you need it and darker where you need it...softer brushwork and stronger brushwork. Don't sweat it if you don't get the results you want...just start another painting and keep your mind and eye in control of that brush and paint.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Oaks on the Chamberlain Ranch

"Oaks on the Chamberlain Ranch"
22" X 28" Oil on canvas
In this painting I wanted to try capturing the evening light against the hillsides. The warm tones of last light against a hillside is always a favorite sight to me so why not paint it. Our grassy hills are all now brown with the summer here. This always leads to wonderful earthtones to mix and try getting right.
I'm always amazed at how great some paintings can look from across a room while others look better the closer you get. This one is stunning as you get back and the eye can mix the colors without being bothered by the detail...much like seeing it in real life. Each time I walk into the studio this painting catches my eye even if my overhead painting lamp isn't on....when it's left on the painting looks even better.

I had a painting in a 22" x 28" frame but it was painted a while back and I thought another attempt at that size was in the cards. They had a recent canvas sale so I picked one up at that size and painted this one up to replace the older painting....a good thing too because I'm much happier with this image.

Thursday, June 18, 2009


On one of my trips down to Santa Barbara I decided to take the beach route instead of climbing over the mountains. This was last winter and we had a storm blowing out and these huge clouds were what was left over. Nothing like winter to bring in these great cloud formations we get here. The Pacific ocean would be just to the left of this scene but it gets painted enough and I wanted the clouds over the mountains anyway.

"Goleta Skies"
9" X 12" Oil on canvas covered panel
a detail of the painting....

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Desert Sunset

" A Desert Sunset"
8" x 10"
The reference photo for this painting was taken at sunset in the small town of Los Olivos just north of here last week. When I started painting in the foreground I began to see more of a desert sunset appearing so I just went ahead and finished it off that way....low desert scrub plants and grasses. Works for me...this one really reminds me of the Mojave desert at sunset.
I was recently watching the mini series Lonesome Dove and just floored (floored again since I saw Lonesome Dove when it was first broadcast in 1989) by the photography/cinematography....Lonesome Dove was filmed in both Texas and New Mexico but how they filmed it is was what made the difference. It is truly a masterpiece caught on film and everyone associated with that film was right on the mark. I suppose seeing the awesome evening scenes in the early part of it was what made me want to paint a sunset scene.
A detail of the painting....

Carrizo Wash

I used this particular color scheme on one of my earlier paintings and liked it. Something about the white sandy wash against the olive greens of the desert plants that I like. I decided to do another painting but on a smaller 8" x 10" format. I had a couple of masonite panels laying around in that size so off I went. I'm not sure if I'll stop on this one yet or not...I like it as it is but might opt to add more flowers, maybe. We had 2 daughters both graduating this last week so I didn't get any painting done and this was my painting to get back into the swing of things. Took a little longer than normal, 2 days of on and off painting. I don't like to skip painting for any length of time because it takes me a while to get back into the groove.

"Carrizo Wash"

8" x 10" Oil on panel

Friday, June 05, 2009

Moon Over The Chamberlain Ranch

" Moon Over The Chamberlain Ranch"
12" X 16" Oil on panel
There is a spot along Foxen Canyon that is up on a way looks towards the canyon andthe other has a great view of the rolling foothills of the Figueroa mountains. I never realised it but all of that property belongs to the Chamberlain ranch. These hills are used for cattle grazing and many times it is just the cattle and me up there. I did this painting at late evening showing the full moon rising up over the Figueroas.
A detail of the painting....
I was trying to keep these distant oaks soft looking and with various shapes. I also used them a bit to show the curve of the land out there.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Carrizo Spring

"Carrizo Spring"
12" X 16" Oil on panel

Getting good reference photos of the Carrizo Plain in bloom has really inspired me to paint yet another scene from that area. I like painting scenes of the Mojave desert but have yet to really get out there when things are really blooming. The atmosphere of the Mojave has been what I've painted there so far. The Carrizo Plain seems to me to be about color and sky....beautiful skies out there and a lot like skies here...almost too blue to paint them. They come off looking contrived so I keep away from super blue skies. You have to look for the glitches in nature at times to form a believeable painting, hahaha.
This dirt road ran right through an area of the plain that was carpeted in beautiful gold and yellow flowers....very small flowers but formed what looked like a rolling landscape of color.

A Detail of the painting....