Thursday, April 26, 2012

Peaceful Drama, pastel, 11 x 14
Since I recently returned from the Plein Air Convention in Las Vegas, I thought it would be good timing to focus on how painting on location differs from interpreting information from a photograph. A plein air painter often remembers many subtle details about a location that a photo simply can't capture...the temperature, sounds, wind conditions, precipitation, etc. In the case of this location shown in the painting here, these details were weren't at all subtle!

The frigid temps, strong, gusty winds, pelting rain, snow in the distance, and gorgeous bursts of sunlight through the clouds are still pretty fresh and vivid in my memory when I painted a small oil study of this scene during the convention at Spring Mountain Ranch. But at the same time, it was the weather conditions that created the dramatic beauty and mystical qualities.

What I found that differed the most from all of my photos that I took of this scene were the values and details of the line of trees. When the sun would burst through the clouds on the distant mountains, the trees went into shadow. But when the cloud cover became thick and the lighting was overcast and diffused rather than direct, the trees became much lighter in value and you could see their golden ochre color much better. I also remembered how much color was in the mountains. Photos will usually dull colors in the distance.

Since I liked the colors in the trees, I worked it into the darker values that I knew I still needed since the sun was not directly on them in this scene. However, I was careful not to go nearly as dark in value on the trees as my photo would lead me to believe. I remembered what these trees looked like when I painted them on location, and knew they didn't appear that dark and flat.

I also remembered the more vivid colors in the mountains and made sure to bump up their vibrancy, only slightly, though, sine they're in the distance, but just enough to create some nice color contrast against the trees.

The clouds were a source of drama the whole day on location, so I of course wanted to convey that in this painting. I typically don't play up the clouds too much in my paintings, but this was one scene that begged for dramatic clouds, so I had fun with them!

I taught this topic in my Wed. and Thurs. classes this week. "Peaceful Drama" is my demo from my Thurs. class this morning.

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