Friday, April 25, 2014

Harmonizing Structures and the Landscape

Tucked Away, oil, 9x12

This month in my classes at my studio we once again studied structures within the landscape. Last month's subject matter had more similarities in the local color of the white buildings and the snow on the ground, so it was a little easier to develop a cohesive look between buildings and landscape. This time, the structures have less in common with the surrounding landscape, so it's the artist's job to create that harmony. We addressed lost and found edges a bit as we did last month, but most of the focus was on harmonizing the color palette.

In my oil demo, Tucked Away, the red and pink colors within the roof of the barn were pretty easy to incorporate into the trees and grass. The shadows on the barn used a cool blue color that was used less liberally in other areas, but it's repeated in the sky and then darker values of the same hue were used in the darker shadow of the open garage door and also in some of the shadow areas of the trees and bushes as well as the cast shadow on the roof. Although not immediately obvious, the colors of the sunlit areas of the barn are also repeated throughout the painting. In order for those sunlit areas to appear bright white, they have to have a very warm contrast to the strong cool shadow areas. (In my experience, highlight areas like this need to be warmer than you might think in order to appear "sun drenched.") So those whites are really very light values of the golds, reds and pinks you see elsewhere in the painting.

Around Back, pastel, 10x8
In my pastel demo, Around Back, the subtle value shifts of the weathered brown barn provided a vast range of warms and cools to also incorporate into the greenery. The blue/gray shiny roof also provided a nice hue to harmonize the sky, rocks and some of the lighter shadow areas on the ground. However, I had more struggles with this pastel piece than with the oil demo. I finally realized this subtle value range also gave me so many choices that it was tough to narrow in on distinct color palette, which is why I think the pastel  piece proved to be more challenging. The strong lighting on the white barn in the oil piece was more clear cut with the values of the warms and cools.

In my painting journey, as I continuously move back and forth between painting in oil and pastel, the pros and cons with each medium are always very evident to me. In this case, with oil, even though you have the challenging task of mixing paint colors, creating color harmony can be easier when you limit your tube colors and continuously pull from these same colors. With pastels, it's too tempting to keep grabbing yet another color that just might work better. This creates an overly busy and disjointed color palette, and also of course...muddy color.

In this pastel piece, rather than continue to try and layer on additional colors as I wrestled with a chosen color palette, I brushed off the pastel from the surface and rewet the surface with alcohol so I could restart with a non-dusty "clean slate." After my class, I did this many times until I settled into a color palette. (Normally I try to limit myself to only fine tuning my demos after students leave.)

Rather than posting the progression shots this time, I've shown the reference photos below...

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