Friday, March 27, 2015

The Setting Sun

Midwestern Sunset, pastel, 8x10

I don't paint many sunsets. Where I live here in Georgia, we're surrounded by lots of trees. Not necessarily a bad thing. But for that reason, it's not easy to find a nice wide open view of the sky (unless you're in a large parking lot, which doesn't stir up a heck of a lot of inspiration for me).

It's also difficult to capture a good reference photo of a sunset. Colors are off. Values are wrong. It never really captures the true drama of a beautiful sunset.

But with that said, I still wanted to tackle the subject matter with my classes at my studio this month. Sunsets make a great study of color temperature in the sky...intense, dramatic warms playing up against vibrant cools.

Above is my pastel demo from my March 11th class, and below is my oil demo from my March 12th class.

A Quiet Ending, oil, 8x10

I also taught one more oil class today, and shown below is my unfinished demo from that class. The unfinished piece is probably a little more than half way done. I focus more on getting values and color temperatures, and just basic shapes, in place before I start fine tuning the accuracy of the subject matter.

Unfinished demo.

Since I wanted each of these paintings to be more about the sky than what's going on below the sky, my goal was to simply block in the shapes on the ground as large connected masses early on, and wait until the final stages to add only a small amount of necessary detail. Even on the unfinished demo, in which I cropped in closer than with the others, and included some foreground snow (I wanted to include that just for another example of a color temperature shift), I still wanted the emphasis to be in the sky. If I were to finish this demo, I would fine tune the color temperature in the sky (I think the warms need to be a little more saturated), and include just a bit of minor detail in the structures. I would also look at areas of students know I call them "eye catchers"...just a few places where I would purposefully place a light against a dark, or one contrasting color against another, or a sharp edge in front of a simplified mass, etc. Too much is overkill; just here and there will move your eye around the painting.

This last demo will remain unfinished. (My apologies to my Friday students who attended today.) My family and I are in the throngs of getting our house ready to sell and prepare for our big move out west to Oregon. Lots of meetings with realtors this week! And so my painting schedule will be getting interrupted occasionally over the next few months, and I'll just need to be selective with what gets done and what doesn't.

One of my future goals as a plein air painter is to paint more sunsets (or at least landscapes with the sun setting) on location. It's an exhilarating feeling to stand outside in the landscape and paint a quickly setting I'd like to experience more often. I'm hopeful that my upcoming move to Bend, Oregon will provide some good opportunity for that!

Some recent workshop demos.

I've enjoyed working with some incredible groups of artists over the past few months in various places. Below are some of my demos from these workshops:

From Chesapeake Fine Art Studio in Stevensville, MD in February:

"Hillside Haven" pastel, 11x14

"Sunlight Among the Clouds" pastel, 11x14

From Art Center Bonita Springs in Bonita Springs, FL in February:

"Dune Shadows" pastel, 11x14

"View From Black Butte Ranch" pastel, 11x14

From the Art Loft in Dahlonega, GA earlier this month: 

"Black Butte Shadows" oil, 11x14

"Dancing in Sunlight" oil, 14x11

Upcoming Workshops:

My workshops for the rest of 2015 are full except for the following one in San Antonio, TX in October, and one in the Hartford, CT area that has just been added to my schedule...

San Antonio, TX - 3-day PASTEL workshop
Oct. 17, 18 & 19, 2015 (Sat/Sun/Mon)
The Coppini Academy of Fine Arts
115 Melrose Place
San Antonio, TX 78212
$400/member; $450/nonmember

Wethersfield, CT (Hartford area) - 3-day PASTEL/OIL workshop
Nov. 12, 13 & 14, 2015 (Thurs/Fri/Sat)
Wethersfield Academy for the Arts
431 Hartford Avenue
Wethersfield, CT 06109
(fee TBD)