Rolling with It - Perspectives No. 410
Rolling with It
Our painting and teaching practices have always been centered around working from life, as that is the best way, we believe, to learn how to see and describe the world. Photos are useful for details, of course, but the camera creates a mechanical wall between nature and live experience which distorts reality in specific and often artistically undesirable ways. The great advantage of photos is the ability to freeze a moment in time and use that luxury of time to learn about composition, drawing, color mixing and brushwork. Those fundamental tools often get trampled under the need to keep up with the swift changing of light in plein air or studio.
To help with the color mixing, we created a suggested color mixing chart, showing the parent colors or primaries which make up each secondary or tertiary mix, along with the colorful grays needed for the painting. These charts are sent in advance of the class to each student, along with the digital photo of our subject.
This picture was created using a “fat-over-lean” method, whereby the first layers of the block-in were transparent, or lean, washes of oil color. The first step is to tone down the bright white of the canvas by mixing the dominant color cast of the image, in this case, a golden yellow, and washing this lean color over the panel. This color wash then can become part of the overall tone of the painting and serves as a harmonizing factor for all the colors to follow. Ideally, some of this glowing transparent color will remain untouched in the final painting. This was followed by washing in the colors of the water and background trees. To help placement of correct values, the darker shoreline tones are put in early on.
In step two, the block-in is developed using thicker (fatter) paint as the size, shape and color relationships of the main color masses are established. Then attention was paid to blending the palette of colors present in the water surface.
Step three shows some of the refinements and brushwork used in the middle of the painting process. All background work had to be completed before the foreground trees could be painted over the top. It is helpful also, if these middle layers are relatively dry before the tree work goes on.
After carefully mixing a string of colorful grays from light to dark, warm to cool, the trees were painted in with sable rounds, and the blue heron added. Once the tree strokes start going on, the background magically recedes in space. Finally, I used a soft wide brush to blur some of the tree branches in the water, bringing our attention back up to the focal point—heron taking flight.
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Filled with inspirational examples by the masters of nightime painting, this little book is sure to fire up your creative energies. Never tried painting at night? We show you how it's done with a step-by-step-oil demo and a tale of night painting in the wilds of Rocky Mountain National Park. The Primer on Night Painting - Nocturnes is a 7 x 7" PDF download with 40 pages of text and images. It includes a gallery of paintings by masters of the nocturne, information to inspire and encourage you in your plein air nocturne painting, an illustrated step-by-step demo and tips for working in pastel and oil. Also available in a softcover edition. Check out the tools and other products that we use in our own art and travels in The Artist's Road Store. We only offer things for sale that we enthusiastically believe in.