05 January 2016

Analyzing a Plein Air Sketch

In 2016 I will be doing more landscape painting and drawing.  I still love portraits and figures and there are more to come, but landscapes will take up more of my blog this year.

I tried some landscape master copies and plein air sketches to start learning the genre, but after doing a few (here, here, and here) I think I can make better progress with some instruction.  I've been wanting to try an online course anyway, so I enrolled in one taught by the Texas landscape artist, Deborah Paris.  The 4-week session focuses on values in the landscape.  A good starting subject for me.  I'll post on how it goes.

Today I am posting a plein air sketch I did a few weeks ago.  Since this was a learning exercise, I brought the sketch back from the field and worked on it in the studio. I'm including a photo from the site too, so you can see how I simplified the scene.

Santa Ysabel Oak, 6x8", oil on linen
Photo of the site for "Santa Ysabel Oak"

I also did some graphite studies to ponder the composition. I was trying to find the essential visual elements in a fairly complex scene.  These exercises all come from Mitchell Albabla's book Landscape Painting.

The 4-value study below was useful for designing the large value planes in the composition: sky, ground, uprights and slanted planes (Carlson's Theory of Angles).  Keeping the values of those planes separated strengthens how the image reads.

The 2-value drawing limits the value structure even further, forcing all the shapes into the light or the dark.  A good way to assess the big visual impact and adjust shapes for better design.  From this study, I decided to push the foreground a little lighter and the background a little darker. 

The final exercise was a line drawing indicating the shapes and internal contours of the major masses.  It helped with modeling the rather complicated forms.  All 3 exercises helped simplify the scene down to the essentials.  I learned a lot.  I'm glad I did them.

While out in the field painting the sketch, I saw ground movement out of the corner of my eye.  It was a bronze tarantula passing by.  I think it was a male looking for a date.

15 December 2015

More Landscape Master Copies

More master copies of works by California painters, Brian Blood and Ray Roberts, and North Carolina artist, Richard Oversmith.  Hope they don't mind.  Such a great way to learn.   Pick an artist you admire, decide on the focus of the lesson, start copying.  I'm not aiming for an exact copy...just trying to get a sense of the artist's problem-solving strategies.

I picked the Blood and Roberts paintings to study how they create visual depth. Lack of aerial perspective ruins many a landscape/seascape painting.  Just google "plein air painting" images and you'll see what I mean.  (Here's what my friend Stan Prokopenko says about the subject.)  I also like how both these artists use simple graphic shapes.

A vineyard scene after Brian Blood, 8x10, oil on linen
Seascape after Ray Roberts, 8x10, oil on linen

Lily pond after Richard Oversmith, 8x8", oil on linen
For the painting after Richard Oversmith, I focused on brushwork.  His strokes are confident. Nice color work, too.  And I discovered I like nylon brushes.  I normally use bristle and mongoose.  I tried some nylon brushes in this copy and I like the way they held the paint. More knowledge gained...cha-ching.

18 November 2015

Landscape Master Copies

I've been starting to paint landscapes the last few months, a diversion from painting people.  I have very little experience with the landscape so I'm taking a 4-pronged approach to learning.  I'm going out and painting en plein air weekly, I'm doing lots of reading (mostly Carlson, Albala, MacPherson and Handell), I'm planning to take some workshops in 2016, and I'm doing master copies of sketches I like.

Master copying is a great learning tool if you're paying attention.  I have used this tool often in the past.  I've copied Sargent, Schmid, Rembrandt and Zorn for painting and Bouguereau, Repin and various inking masters for drawing.  Whoa, didn't realize I'd done so many.  Time well spent.

Today I'm posting master copies of some plein air sketches by contemporary painters.  Of course, the artists have done all the work here, interpreting nature with their own unique visions. Copying allowed me to better understand their approaches.  It's like taking a quick class from each artist.

All copies are 6x6" or 6x8", painted on Claussens #16 linen taped to foam core.  Each took about 2-3 hours to complete.  I wasn't going for an exact copy.  I was trying to reproduce the effects of light and depth that each painting achieved.  I learned a huge amount.

After Brian Blood

After Barbara Jaenicke, original in pastel.

After Ray Roberts

After Richard Oversmith

After Brian Belfield