Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Painting the Light

Sunny Little Corner of Sawyer Park, oil, 18x24

I was about to write up my next blog post on something else, but then had a request on Facebook to post my reference photos with my paintings. That gets to be a bit much to post many of them on Facebook, but my blog makes a good place to do that on occasion, and talk about the challenges of working from photos.

This was my reference photo for the above painting, “Sunny Little Corner of Sawyer Park” (oil, 18x24) and the studies below…

Not really a great photo. Pretty dull, actually. But it had enough of a light and shadow pattern for me to work with, and enough elements to create a composition with a good variety of large and small shapes.

I was recently teaching a workshop during which the students painted at this same location one morning. I didn’t paint there on that particular day, although I wish I did because as I was working with students, I noticed that the light was spectacular. I’ve painted there a couple of times previously over the past year and had several photos of the location. This photo was actually taken last year at about the same time of year, and when I looked back at it, I became aware that the camera missed capturing the amazing light that I knew would have been about the same on the day I took this photo as the recent workshop day.

I happened to use this photo to demonstrate a quick block in for a pastel painting (below) before we headed out to our first painting location. Since we would be painting there the following day, I thought it would make a good subject for a quick studio demo. Later in the workshop, after the students painted at this location, I quickly finished it up.

Sunny Little Corner of the Deschutes, pastel, 9x12

Soon after the workshop, remembering the light I saw that day, I noticed that I could push the warms of the sunlit area a bit more, and painted a small oil study while it was still fresh in my mind.

Sunny Little Corner of Sawyer Park (study), oil, 8x10

The photo reference I used was purely for the basic shapes of the rocks and foliage, textures, and an approximation of the light and shadow patterns. However, I wanted to paint the LIGHT, not merely the “things” in the reference photo. The rocks, trees, bushes, grass and water were simply the vehicles for showcasing this light. Color--and more specifically color temperature--couldn’t be referenced from the photo. It’s the temperature of the light and shadows that I did my best to pull from my memory of my time there at that location.

Upcoming Workshops:

Florham Park, NJ - 3-day PASTEL workshop (FULL with wait list)
July 22, 23 & 24, 2016
Debarry Studio Ten
Contact Christina at 973-525-2544 or Debarrystudio@gmail.com

Cape Cod, MA - 3-day PASTEL/OIL workshop
Aug. 9, 10 & 11, 2016
Falmouth Artists Guild
Falmouth, MA
$425/member; $475/non-member

Dahlonega, GA - 3-day PASTEL/OIL workshop
Sept., 22, 23 & 24, 2016 (Thurs/Fri/Sat)
The Art Loft
Dahlonega, GA

For full workshop schedule, visit www.barbarajaenicke.com.

Online Critiques
Would you like me to personally critique your oil or pastel painting? Visit www.ProArtCritique.com and click on my name for quick, affordable feedback on your work.

NEW! Critique Group in Bend, OR
In the Bend area? See the workshop page on my website for information on a new monthly critique group that I'll be leading!


  1. Thanks Barbara. This post was very helpful and a great reminder to stay away from coping a photo! One of these days I've got to pick up some oils and try them out!

    1. Thanks, Cindy! Glad this struck a chord with your. It is a fun diversion to try a new medium!

  2. I am totally fascinated with your paintings both pastel and oil. thank you for sharing!!

  3. A most helpful blog! Motivated me to revisit a plein air painting I recently did of a secluded pond in one of our hiking nature parks. Beautiful work Barbara!

    1. Thanks, Gayle! Keep it up with getting outdoors to paint!

  4. Very helpful. I have only begun painting the past couple of years, and your pointing out the significance of painting the light, and not just the form is something which I need to remember. I try, but sometimes we go back to old habits. I guess we are never too old to learn even at my present 69 years old.

    1. Thanks, John! Old habits tend to haunt even experienced painters from time to time. ;-)