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.