There’s something about winter that’s quiet and comforting. Several feet of snow deaden any sound and there’s a pristine, untouched look to the landscape when you live in the country.
That’s why I’m enjoying painting winter landscapes – both the process and the effect are calming.
My studio has a north-facing window. I set up my easel facing west and I see the image above.
I turn my easel to the east and I find the source material for “White Pine”, below.
Then I move the easel a little to the right and I can paint “Backyard Winter”, below.
I like to call these plein air paintings, but I’m looking through the window, I’m not actually outside. But hey, it’s minus 35 out there…and I’m no fool!!
Next on my list of projects is a version of the image below. And I can take my time. It looks like the snow won’t be going anywhere soon.
Look quickly. This video will take you through a painting from start to finish in three minutes. I only wish I could paint that fast! I wanted to show you how I paint several of my images using a palette knife and shop towel, and I wanted to show that process from start to finish.
I painted the background an all over red-orange to begin, thinking the color would glow through in the final product. It doesn’t, but I learned long ago not to fall in love with any particular color or shape in the painting process. It’s all subject to change.
The video shows how I work back and forth between foreground and background and how I soften some of the sharp edges using a shop towel (with a little water if I’ve left the paint too long and it starts to set up before I can manipulate the color).
I mostly work from light values to dark values. I mix the color value with the knife then just kiss the surface of the painting with the knife to apply the paint. I work wet in wet when I want the colors to blend on the surface but I’ll let the colors dry when I want crisp, clear color changes.
Process, process, process…if you don't like your painting process then there's no point in painting.
Sometimes the process can be quick; other times it's slow. At times, the process can fail you completely. But the minute by minute, day by day approach from a blank canvas to a completed painting should be, simply stated, a creative nirvana.
Here's American artist Mel McCuddin demonstrating his process…from a random application of paint on canvas to finding and refining images in that random surface.Share this post:
Bits and pieces of quick photo grabs were combined to make this composition.
My wife and I share driving along Hwy 401 into Toronto. When I'm the passenger, I have my smart phone or ipad at the ready to capture any drive-by scenes that might have possibilities. Sometimes the photos are blurry; sometimes I question why I even took the photo, but other times I'm delighted with an image or piece of an image that I can use in a painting.
This painting, called "Out From the Dark", 18" x 24" and painted in oils, has several sections from several photographs. I cropped elements from various photos, added them to a page in Photoshop and manipulated until I found something I liked. My Photoshop cropping is pretty rough so once I'm happy with a composition I do a small sketch either in a paper sketchbook or a digital sketchbook. And that becomes my composition.
Next step was to decide on concept and color. The foreground of a couple of the original images I used as resource was filled with construction equipment. I wanted something a little more pastoral and I discovered a photo I took of a large shadow on grass – just a shadow; just some grass. Weird, but the pic was in my files. Turns out that shadow became the reason for the painting.Share this post:
Here's a little exercise I did using one limited color palette, the same design and a complementary color scheme to create two different looks.
I used an acrylic palette of Hansa Yellow Medium, Napthol Red Medium and Phthalo Blue (green shade) along with Mars Black and Titanium White to create these two paintings.
The top painting is a red/green color scheme, the bottom painting is red-orange/blue-green and I created both using various mixes of the yellow, red and blue palette mentioned above. This is a great exercise in value control. Since the palette is limited, the focus needs to be on creating a range of values and a range of color temperatures that will adequately create the illusion of space and tell the story. Values that are close tend to flatten the area (see the sky and lower foreground in the top painting) and values that offer greater contrast separate the shapes and make some of them stand out (see the tree line in the above painting).
While I used white to create lighter values, I only used a little of the black to create darker values. Black tends to deaden the color Instead of always using black, I prefer to mix the two complementary colors to create some darker neutrals that are much richer than they would be if I used black.
And finally – well, this actually should be an early decision in the process – I decided on overall color temperature of the painting. Should the painting be cool or warm? The top painting has a dominant red appearance making it a warm painting; the bottom painting is obviously much cooler with only a little of the red-orange used in the mid-ground.Share this post:
"At Dusk", acrylic and image transfer on a 12" x 6" cradle board.
Somewhere beneath the layers of paint is a photograph of my backyard.
And what started as an image transfer became something else.
I wanted to create a soft spring look so I covered the surface with pale greens and yellows. But the image I transferred to the top third of the surface was a copy of a winter shot of my backyard; no snow but lots of bare trees and darkness. So I changed direction, changed color palette and moved the feel of the painting from spring to autumn using lots of Sap Green and Transparent Red Oxide.
The image transfer contained evergreens with a centre focus of birch trees. It was the birch trees that attracted me to the scene and it was the birch trees I wanted to save. But I felt the rest of the image could disappear. I kept some of the birch trees from the image but decided to expand upon what attracted me in the first place. So I covered most of the transferred image with painted texture using a painting knife and I built the birch trees out from the image and into the painting making them the subject.
Only a small part of the original image shows at the top of the painting, buried under paint and texture inspired by the image.
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If you’re in the area and are interested in taking one of my acrylic painting classes, here’s the list:
- Sept. 13, Building a Landscape”
- Sept. 15, Exploring Complementary Colors
- Sept. 23, 30, Oct. 7 and 14, Basic Acrylics with an emphasis on mixed media
- Oct. 11, Monoprinting using the Gelli Plate.
For still more information, contact me.Share this post: