I’ve lived in my new neighborhood in my new town for almost a year and a half now. As I expected, it took me awhile to get acclimated to my new subject matter. I now live in a high desert region, so the vegetation is very different from where I lived for 23 years in Georgia and also before that in New Jersey. Settling into the new color palette has been one hurdle, but this new landscape also has me approaching composition a bit differently at times, since I have more distant views to work with now. Not that I always have to capture the whole vast view—sometimes I still like to zoom in to a more intimate view.
The paintings I’ve shown here in this post are all from the same general area across the street from my neighborhood. The first three are all within several yards of each other, along a canal (although the canal is only visible in one of them), at different times throughout the past year, with the top one being from just this past week.
|Distant Light, pastel, 8x10|
|Winter Color, pastel, 11x14|
|High Desert Afternoon, oil, 8x10|
I’ve completed many more paintings from this same general area, on location and from photos. Some worked. Many more didn’t. But it’s all part of the process of searching and understanding the landscape.
Last week after our first significant snowfall, I spent about an hour walking around this area, visually absorbing the light and color palette, and trying to visualize potential compositions for snow scenes. The photo below shows the typical busy view of snow covered vegetation all around this area. In this particular photo, there’s not a real strong composition to work with.
|The typical "snowy" landscape vegetation my area.|
As the artist, you have to search for the composition. If you’re working from reference photos, take LOTS of photos…from different angles and different directions. Look for a variety of shapes and possibly interesting diagonals rather than the first, more obvious, composition you see. Consider what’s special about this view of the landscape and how to best feature it in a composition.
|Wintry Climb, oil, 14x11|
Toward the end of my walk, I came upon this spot ("Wintry Climb" above). I was immediately attracted to the strong light on the snow-covered rocks. After playing a bit with the composition, I decided that an upward view and high placement of the horizon would add some drama and nicely showcase the light.
Some days I wander my neighborhood and can’t find a thing to paint. And then other times the painting potential seems endless. Of course the light direction and light quality on a particular day has a lot to do with it. But otherwise, I think it’s just how well our vision is tuned into the landscape and how thoroughly we search for paintings within a given landscape. As with any skill, it takes plenty of practice. And some days you have it; some days you don’t. I personally LIVE for those days when I find a hidden gem in the landscape.
Visit www.paintingthepoeticlandscape.com for my instructional video series. Available for pastel or oil, as a DVD or online, and comes with an instructional booklet that's also available either as a hard copy or digital download.
Bend, OR - 3-day PASTEL/OIL workshop
January 21, 22 &23, 2017 (Sat/Sun/Mon)
SageBrushers Art Society
117 SW Roosevelt Ave., Bend, OR 97702
Contact: Barbara Jaenicke, email@example.com
Redondo Beach, CA - 3-day PASTEL workshop
April 20, 21 & 22, 2017
Pastel Society of Southern California
Contact: Arturo Fribourg, Fribourgarch@aol.com
$350 (tentative price, may change slightly)
San Diego, CA - Plein Air Convention
April 24 - 28, 2017
Exact day/time of demo TDB. Must be registered for convention to attend.
Oregon City, OR - 3-day PASTEL/OIL workshop
May 19, 20 & 21, 2017 (Fri/Sat/Sun), with a "meet & greet" Thursday evening before the workshop
Carrie Moore Studios, Oregon City, OR
Contact: Carrie Moore, firstname.lastname@example.org, 503-866-5507
For full workshop schedule, go to www.barbarajaenicke.com.
Visit www.proartcritique.com where I and other painting instructors give quick, affordable online critiques of your work.