22 July 2016

Landscape Painting with a Strong Start

I just finished an online course with Deborah Paris called The Strong Start.  The course was an introduction to landscape painting from life and from memory.  No photography allowed, which encouraged deeper observation, and more reliance on memory, which I like.

I came away with a clear step-by-step process for creating landscape paintings  Before this class, I would go into the field, set up my easel, and hope for the best. Using this procedure, I have a better chance of actually producing something decent.  And I generated alot of sketchbook ideas for later use, too.

The process starts with finding ideas in the field.  No photos or drawing at this point, just spending time looking around and connecting. Next, some of the stronger ideas are converted into plein air graphite thumbnails.  This is the stage where objects and values are invented or moved around to support the composition.  Next, with the thumbnail for guidance, the scene is painted en plein air.  This oil sketch and memory are used to create the final studio piece.

Below are a few plein air sketches from the class, along with the original thumbnails.  Not masterworks, but better than my earlier attempt (here).
Ramona Grasslands II, 9x12", oil on linen

I was skipping the thumbnail step before this class.  Big mistake.  It's so much easier to work through the value structure and colors separately, so the graphite thumb step makes sense for me.  I did about 6 thumbnails before settling on one to take to the next level.  The more thumbs generated, the better. The first few ideas are ususally obvious and less interesting.

Ramona Grasslands thumbnail, 2.5x3.5", graphite

Here's one more effort.  First, the oil sketch...

Ramona Grasslands III, 9x12", oil on linen

And the original thumbnail...

With this procedure in place, I'm more optimistic when I go out in the field.  And I expect the process will enhance my portrait work, too.  All good.

09 May 2016

More Landscape Drawings

Today I'm posting a few drawings I did in the online course I just finished...Drawing the Landscape. I took the class to learn how to draw in the field, as a first step to landscape painting.  If you cannot draw it, you probably cannot paint it.  The field drawings are a great tool for composing and learning to see.  

So here they are, drawings I did in the field to understand some aspect of tree structure and to get a level of comfort going out there and just sitting and observing.  It's a different way of doing things if you're used to sitting in your studio looking at an image on a computer screen.  But I like it.  It feels authentic and connected to be out there.  I think photos have a role to play, too, but I'm still working out what that is.  

Okay, that is all.

Cuyamaca Pines, 10x14", charcoal on sketch paper

Burnt Sugar Bush, Anza Borrego, 8x9", graphite on paper

Greenbelt Pine, 8x10", graphite on bristol board

08 April 2016

Studying Art Online: Drawing the Landscape

I'm taking another online course. This one is focused on drawing the landscape, taught by Deborah Paris.  I know how to draw faces and figures, but I have no experience drawing landscapes, so I thought this would be worth taking, which it was. 

The purpose of the course was to learn to draw and sketch in the field, the idea being that if you can't draw the landscape, you will probably have a difficult time painting it, too. 

Deborah advocates studio painting from field sketches and memory, no photographs, which intrigues me.  I don't want to paint landscapes by copying photos in a studio.  That seems ironic and mechanical to me.  I know plenty of artists prefer that approach, and some do it well.  But when I paint from photos, I get too literal and it kills the energy and expression in the painting.  It's not for me.

In this course, we started with master copies, graphite on Bristol board, after JD Harding, from his book "On Drawing Trees and Nature".  The book is ancient, but if you can get past the vernacular it is a treasury of advice on drawing from nature.  It's all there.  

Here are a couple of my master copies.  Next post I'll put up some original work from the class.

Scotch Fir after JD Harding, 8x10", graphite on Bristol board

Rocks and boulders after JD Harding, 4.5x10", graphite on Bristol board