Monday, October 27, 2014

Getting mileage out of my reference photos.

December Day's Last Light, oil, 14x11

I just returned from teaching an oil painting workshop for a fun, hard working group of artists in Charlotte, NC. Many of the artists in the group also attended a pastel workshop I taught there last year. I could certainly relate to those artists who struggled with the same challenges as I did after working in pastel for many years and then learning a new process to paint in oil.

While color mixing can be a difficult challenge for a pastel artist learning to work in oil, I think it can also give you a better understanding of color, and ultimately help you to make better choices in your pastel work. If you've taken my classes or workshops, you've probably heard me state over and over..."lighter/darker"..."warmer/cooler" a way to think through a painting in any medium. And learning how to control the medium in which you work in order to accommodate that thought process is key.

Summer's End, oil, 11x14

The two paintings above were my demos from this workshop in Charlotte.

My family and I have been considering a move to a colder (and hopefully SNOWIER!) climate, but until then, I've needed to reuse many of my snow scene reference photos for my workshop demos. I try not to paint the exact same paintings in multiple classes and workshops. But since I try to include a snow scene demo in just about all of my workshops throughout the year and in many of my local classes, and visit a snowy part of the country normally only once per year, logic has it that I'm going to run out of photos! My solution has been to crop into my existing photos in ways that I hadn't thought of before. Consequently, I've needed to be much more resourceful with my compositions!

The snow scene painted last week in Charlotte was of a particular spot across the street from where I visit each year in Minnesota, and have painted it many times both on location and from my photos. So when preparing for this snow scene demo, I thought I'd find a tighter view of just a portion of the scene that I normally paint, which resulted in "December Day's Last Light," shown at the top of this post. I had to really hunt around through my photos and search for a good composition lurking within a larger view that I've painted before, but I think this recent painting might be my favorite of this location. And I bet if I looked some more through these same photos, I may find even more hidden compositions!

Below are paintings of the same location as in "December Day's Last Light" that I've completed over the past few years in both pastel and oil...

My Composition Boot Camp workshops focus on finding good compositions that are probably lurking somewhere within even your most average photos. For those of you in Georgia, I'm teaching my next one next week in Dahlonega at The Art Loft on Nov. 6 & 7. Visit for details.

Just for fun...I got a kick out of this sketch of me that one of the ladies in my Charlotte workshop did during one of my demonstrations...Thanks, Verna!

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