Tonight is the opening of The Small Works Show at Cottonwood Center For The Arts, here in Colorado Springs. I'm so pleased that my painting of the sandhill cranes, Majestic Migration, has been juried into the event. The show hangs until mid-March. I hope those of you who live nearby can get a chance to attend. Thanks Cottonwood!
After painting from photos for the last few paintings, I decided to switch over to painting from life. I feel like I paint about equally between plein air, life and photos. Although I admit, in the Colorado winters I do less plein air painting than I do in the warm weather. It probably equals out over the year, as I paint less from photos in the nice weather. I don't think that it matters, as long as you paint! For the next few days I'll be posting the roses that I'm now painting.
I made the few changes that I talked about in the last post...darks here and there, adjusted some lights, painted the cupola. I'm happy with the way the painting turned out. One odd thing, the photo here on blogger came out a bit bluer than the photo in Iphoto. Not sure why. I've removed and reloaded this and for some reason, it's a bit too blue. I don't like having a photo here that's not accurate. Not sure why this is happening. Frustrating. Please imagine that the blues in the roof and the silo are a bit grayer, not quite so bright blue. Otherwise, I like this! Now, on to some painting from life.
At this point I'm nearing the end. With the sky painted in I can really look at the barn and all the color notes around the sky to see if they read correctly. I've worked a bit more on the shrubs in the front. The way the lightest, tallest shrub breaks up the long building helps the composition. The shadow side of the silo needs a bit of darkening. The grass in the shade needs a little more shade. The lightest spots on the lighter side of the barn are a bit too light. The cupola hasn't yet been painted. I'll work on all of those, then look at it all again for several days. Then fix what needs to be fixed, look at it some more and then I'll be done!
I've started laying in some of the darker colors in the trees. Even thought the trees are turning shades of light green and golds, darker colors and shades are in the back of the trees and create depth. I've got the bushes in the front of the barn in. I think they should be a bit darker because they're in the shadow. In the photo and in my original sketches there are some small shrubs headed into the piece on the lower left. They then curve down the slope. I've decided that those need to be changed and/or removed as they take your eye down away from the barn and off the painting. The focal point of the painting is the barn, and the curving shrubs not only draw the viewers eye away from that, but are somewhat distracting. With just a soft, grassy slope in front of the barn there is a calm feeling looking up the slope. I think it also makes a better composition with most of the main subject in the top of the piece.
Even though I planned and drew a value sketch to start out, there are constantly decisions that need to be thought about through out the painting of the piece. That's all part of the fun and challenge of a painting.
At this point I've started adding color to the barn. I painted the largest dark mass first, which is the shadow side of the barn. Then I painted the light side of the barn. This side has light as well as shadow from the silo. I'm not sure if the light side is light enough, even though it's pretty close to the value. Since a color mass is not accurate until seen in relationship to the color next to it, I'll have to wait until the sky and roof are in to know for sure if the light side is light enough.
When looking at the value study, I decided that even thought the trees and bushes on the right of the barn created one large shape, it wasn't working. So I removed those and added a shed, or barn continuation onto that side. (That was an easy remodel!) Now the building and composition work better due to the continuation off the page.
The steps in this weeks' barn painting are pretty similar to the steps in last weeks' farm painting. Yesterday I posted sketches and ideas for a close-up view of a barn. In Step 2 I drew in the painting with a brush, then roughed in the values in a thin coat of paint. Again, my palette for the values was a mixture of my previous gray pile. At the end of the day, if I have quite a big mixture of a color on my palette, which is glass, I'll scrape it into the corner. Sometimes it gets used, and sometimes after a few days it's dry and it gets scraped off. But, for this step it was great for my values. Some artists might paint the whole canvas with values, but I just put in what I needed for my future reference. The grass in the front isn't really quite as light a value as the roof top, but since I know that, it wasn't necessary for me to paint that in. I just noted where some darker grasses and were.
As I said last week, if the values in a painting are correct, it doesn't really matter what colors you use. At this point this could be a red barn, green barn, or old gray faded barn. Actually, it's none of those! If you paint the values fairly thin you often can just start painting right on top of them without the colors mixing too much.
I don't always do preliminary value sketches like these last two. Value is the relative degree of light and dark, or grayness from black to white. Sometimes that can be confusing because we don't see things in shades of gray, but in light and dark colors. So sometimes it's just as easy to block shapes in as colors. Both of these are great learning steps and something all artists do at different points.
I recently mentioned Kevin MacPherson's Fill Your Oil Paintings With Light & Color. It is filled with so much great information and exercises. He talks about doing many, many color studies. I highly recommend it.
I loved the Vermont Farm that I recently painted. I felt that the composition and colors all worked. Sometimes that happens and it's a great feeling. So, I wanted to paint another Vermont farm or barn from our fall trip. I looked back at the composition and value sketches that I'd done for that piece, (click here for that blog post) and the other three didn't jump out at me. I went back to my photos and started looking at the close-ups that I'd taken of barns. I wrote down the numbers of the ones that seemed like they could be good paintings. Then went back through this list again, looking at and cropping and editing until I came up with four that I really liked. That took way over an hour. Those four became these sketches. Sketching took over an hour. Because drawing the angles, etc of the architecture matters, I used a grid for the sketches. Now, I'll look at these for awhile and soon begin the painting.
I admit, I am not a farmer. I grew up in a town, in a neighborhood. My experience on farms is pretty limited. Maybe that's part of the enchantment of all the farms I photoed in Vermont. They are different than Colorado ranches. Several afternoons we just drove around taking pictures of farms, barns, fields, crops, and farmers. I knew I'd want these as reference for future paintings. The future is here! Now I'm painting them.
I also admit that I didn't really know exactly what this farmer was doing. He wasn't plowing, or cutting. My husband said that he was raking. So, as I often do I went to the internet for help. I Googled "cutting hay", and "cutting and raking hay" and spent several minutes watching John Deere videos on YouTube! So, now I know for sure that this farmer is raking hay!
The farm painting is finished and I'm really happy with the end result. I like the looseness of the crops, the light and shadows on the buildings, and the values in the trees. After looking at the piece for a few days I did end up slightly darkening the shadow side of the silo (although I don't think it really shows in the photo), finishing up the buildings on the far right, and doing small touch ups here and there that probably only I would notice.
I want to thank everyone for all of the comments, likes, etc. throughout the process. It was fun as well as helpful for me to share my step by step thoughts....Now, onto a new piece!
At this point I've blocked in the rest of the barns and the trees. As I said, I needed to see the color masses next to each other to know if they work. I like the strong contrast between the light and dark of the barn, but still think the silo shadow side needs to be a bit darker. I didn't get to the two small houses at the far end, or the top of the far silo, they are still the original value tone. The trees need another pass with the lights. I think the light green in the back of the field could use a bit more light. I'll work on all of that today, then let the piece sit for several days while I look at it and make small changes before I say that it's all done.
Yesterday I talked about the front of the corn field, whether or not to continue the corn, or have it be a fallow field of something else. After thinking about this for awhile I kept it all corn. The focal point of the painting is the farm and I felt that something different in the front would draw the viewers eye to the bottom of the painting away from the buildings. With just freshly cut cornstalks in the entire front, the rows are similar which is a calmer feeling. (Freshly cut corn stalks are a challenge to paint! These look like they could be freshly cut anything, but that works as they are not the main subject matter.) I feel that I now have a better composition. The rows take your eye from the bottom of the painting up to the corner of the subject mass and then across the buildings, up the left side of the silo, round the top, down the right side and back into the buildings.
I've started putting the colors into the buildings. I painted the biggest darkest mass first, (sometimes I paint the lightest mass first) the shadow side of the big barn, then the silo next to that. I previously talked about the relationship of the color masses next to each other..even though I got the silo values pretty accurately, it now looks to me that the shadow side of the silo may not be dark enough and the light side is almost the same value as the sky. A color isn't accurate until seen in relationship to the color mass next to it! So, now I'm going to have to spend awhile looking at and thinking about those two areas. But, until I get the rest of the barn painted I won't know if the shadow side is right!
After blocking in the values of the farm: the barns, houses and trees, I next put in the colors surrounding that mass. While I tried to portray the values of the farm accurately, no color is true until seen next to the color beside it. So, had I painted the farm first, I would have probably had to make color changes. I still might have to. But, by putting the colors in all around the farm it will help me when putting down the color notes.
I've left the front empty for the moment. In the photo there's a road in the front. In my preliminary sketch I drew the lines for corn stalks as if to continue the field. But when I got the darker under green down, I wondered how it would look if I painted that as a fallow field. So, I'll think about that for a bit and then decide.
Yesterday I posted my preliminary sketches for this Vermont farm scene. This is step 2 where I painted in the buildings and values. The palette I chose for the values was the leftover gray pile from a previous painting. Almost any palette will work for the values. Some people have strict value palettes that they always use. Many people use a warmish value palette. I just grabbed what was there. I like toning my canvas with warm colors. Other artists use a neutral gray as a tone, but I love bits of warmth peeking through.
If the values in a painting are correct, it doesn't really matter what colors you use. At this point this could be a farm with red barns, green barns, old gray faded barns. If you paint the values fairly thin you often can just start painting right on top of them without the colors mixing too much.
As I said yesterday about not always doing a preliminary sketch, I don't always do a preliminary value study. Value is the relative degree of light and dark, or grayness from black to white. Sometimes that can be confusing because we don't see things in shades of gray, but in light and dark colors. So sometimes it's just as easy to block shapes in as colors. Both of these are great learning steps and something all artists do at different points.
Another book that I love is Kevin MacPherson's Fill Your Oil Paintings With Light & Color. It is much easier to read and understand than the two I mentioned yesterday. And is filled with so much great information and exercises. I highly recommend it.
As I stated when I started the 30 in 30 Challenge, although I paint a lot, I don't paint every single day, and I don't paint that many small paintings. But, I like a challenge and I like to make things work. So, this week I'm working on a 20 x 20 of a farm from our visit in September to Vermont. Everyday I'll post about 1 to 2 hours worth of work until I'm done.
One of the fundamentals of drawing and painting that can be challenging is composition. We know that a painting needs a good composition to work. But, what makes a good composition? When you look at the work of a master in a museum, why does it stand out? What piece in a gallery really draws you? Sometimes it's the strong light, sometimes it's the bold or subtle value and color, sometimes it's the great composition. There's a lot more to a painting than just painting.
Very basically composition is the placement of the dominant mass(es) and line(s). I like the movement in the upper right sketch because the lines of the cornfield move up to the mass of the shape of the farm.
As many of us do, I have a lot of art books. Two of my favorites are Composition of Outdoor Painting by Edgar Payne and Carlson's Guide to Landscape Painting by John F. Carlson. I was much newer to painting when I first got these and found them hard to get through. I've read and reread them (sometimes only a chapter or two at a time) over the years and appreciate all that they teach. I love Paynes' drawings for his suggestions for design. They are so helpful when landscape painting. Carlson also has diagrams showing dominant mass and line schemes.
I don't do sketches like this with every painting, although I probably should do more. I knew that I wanted to paint some of the barns and farms in Vermont. I took so many photos that had good starts for a painting but needed work. So I spent quite awhile just editing photos, before I even got to sketching. After I picked four that I liked and thought would work I tried to get the composition working on the photo, then adjusted it as I sketched. I don't always grid my sketches, but find that that is helpful with architecture. By the time I got to the end of these 4 sketches I'd probably been working for about 2 hours. I'm not used to photoing white, so the values don't show up very well.
I loved all of the buoys I saw hanging on walls, resting in piles on the ground and loaded onto trucks readying for "Trap Day" on our fall trip to Monhegan Island, Maine. I also loved the reflections of the buoys in the water. I was told by someone who goes out to Monhegan Island every year to help on Trap Day that you can tell who owns the buoys by their colors. That was something new to me, but which made such sense once I'd heard it. So, I wondered about the exact color of this buoy. It's old and needs to be repainted. I'm sure it's seen many seasons in the water. But, I guess that the lobstermen know exactly which ones are theirs and thus the title..."That's My Buoy"!
Our summer garden has different kinds of tall sunflowers. I'm sure they each have names which I don't know. This one, which we have more of, reminds me of large daisies. Whereas the one I posted yesterday seems more like the typical sunflower. Because this one has smaller seeds it attracts more of the smaller birds.
I love this quote: "The good life is lived best by those with gardens." I guess I have a good life! This quote came from one of the books our son gave me for Christmas: An Absorbing Errand, How Artistsand Craftsmen Make Their Way To Mastery by Janna Malamud Smith. One of the chapters talks about the similarity of gardening and art. She talks about how life is better when you have a continuous practice that "holds your desire, demands your attention and requires effort" like gardening. What a great chapter. I grew up in a family of gardeners. Long before I painted I planted and nurtured gardens. It was something that was so easy to do while our kids played in the yard. No one plays in our yard now, the garden gets less nurturing, most of my attention and effort goes toward my painting. But my life is still good because as she says "The good life is lived by those with gardens!"
With so much of the country having cold weather ....18 degrees and 4 inches of snow here in Colorado Springs...I thought that I'd post some paintings from our garden this past summer. We always grow a huge patch of sunflowers in the middle of the yard. Actually, we don't plant the sunflowers anymore, they reseed themselves every year. They grow to over 10 feet and sit in a raised garden. This is so great! While sitting on our deck we can look right at them and enjoy their color as well as all of the birds that they attract.
While we were in Maine this past fall, we spent several nights in the Rockland/Rockport area. Two mornings I got up early to head out for sunrise photos. This man was in the Rockport Harbor. Early mornings in the harbor are quiet, but yet there's so much going on. There were other people taking photos, lobstermen heading out, fisherman on the docks, trucks pulling up. And with the light changing by the minute there were never endless photo opportunities.
I'm not sure if this title refers to this guy, or to me. I guess it's for both of us!
These buoys were hanging in Port Clyde, Maine where we got the ferry to Monhegan Island. In the summer ferries run from three ports. In the fall Port Clyde is the only ferry port. We got to Port Clyde a bit early which allowed us to walk around town. That didn't take too long as there are only about 4 streets. These buoys were on a "back" street...ok on "the" back street on the side of a an old weathered house with just a bit of sun shining on them. I knew that I was going to paint buoys and took lots of pictures of them. I took lots of pictures of everything New England-y!
This title is dedicated to Deniece Williams. "Let's Hear It For The Boy" was the 2nd number 1 song for her and appeared on the soundtrack to the 1984 movie Footloose. It climbed to #1 on the US Billboard Hot 100 as well as being nominated for an Academy Award for Best Song.
Buoys Will Be Buoys
Oil 14" x 11"
$295.00 + $10. s/h
2 of 30 in the 30 in 30 January painting challenge.
This is another piece from our fall trip to Maine. I found this group of buoys on Monhegan Island. I was walking around looking for a house to paint when these "guys" just jumped right out at me. They were bold, bright, right in the sun.
Speaking of a great way to start the year....last winter I had knee replacement. Unfortunately, I was in the 1% that doesn't have an easy recovery. I had scar tissue issues, swelling, frozen muscles. By the spring I had a second procedure. And again had issues. I spent the summer going through 3-5 hours of physical therapy each day. This included going to pt, going to warm water aerobics, going to the gym, doing pt at home, and sitting in leg braces 2 hours each day. To say the least, it was not fun. By Labor Day I'd about had it and went to the Victor Celebrates The Arts event. At that point I was better, but not yet there. In late September/October we went to New England for 3 weeks. Once again I walked/hobbled around, took one of my braces with me, and tried to live my life. I loved every minute that I was able to paint on those 2 trips. Upon returning another surgery was scheduled, which I just had in December. And, happily it went well. In one day I was already better than I was after 7 months! And now, I'm so ready for the New Year!
Just went and picked up paintings from the holiday show at G44 Gallery 1785 S. 8th Street Colorado Springs, Colorado 80905. This one was purchased as a gift for a man who loves fishing here in Colorado! Love it when I know where a painting goes! Thanks G44!
As I did last January I'm hoping to participate in Leslie Saeta's 30 in 30 paintings. I don't paint every single day, and I don't paint that many small pieces in a month. But, once again, I think that I can post the daily steps in my larger paintings. It's a great way to start the year, and I'm one to adjust things a bit to work for me. Look for this in January!
I am an oil painter from Colorado Springs, Colorado. I retired in May 2008 after 28 years of teaching art and now have more time to pursue my passions of painting and traveling. My life has revolved around my love of art, starting with afternoon art classes while in kindergarten, a degree in art education, sharing my passion with hundreds of students yearly, and painting as often as I can. This journal is a combination of my daily paintings, my studio and plein-air work, my classes and workshops, and pieces from my travels past and present.
Most of my paintings are for sale either by using a PayPal button or through the Daily PaintWorks Auction. If you are interested in a piece from my early days of blogging, before I used PayPal, please email me and I'll add a button just for you!
My husband and I love to travel. If you do not hear back from me pretty quickly after a purchase, we are on a trip to a location where we don't have immediate access to the internet. It is advised to not always announce on social media that you'll be away from your home for a long period of time, so often I talk about my trips and travels after the fact. Don't fret, I'll get back to you as soon as I can about the purchased painting.
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