Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Spring Greens

Springtime Afternoon, pastel, 8x10

Although many artists love the idea of painting the fresh bursts of springtime color, I find spring to be the most difficult season to paint. I think the vibrant greens of spring are the most challenging shades of green to paint. Conveying the vibrancy without the resorting to the "fake, storybook" shade of green can be a tricky, fine line. And rendering the tiny buds on trees and bushes without painting too much detail presents yet another challenge.

As with any landscape, I find that balancing the warms and cools within the local color helps to convey colors to the viewer's eye that are truer to the colors that actually exist in nature, rather than simply using the local color that we're conditioned to believe should be there. How the light hits all of these colors will affect the warm and cool hues.

Summer greens tend to have deeper, richer greens, whereas spring greens often have a variety of colors as they're in transition from their winter state. The foliage on the trees also is generally lighter in value than summer trees, since the foliage is still somewhat sparse, allowing more sky to peek through.

Below are a few progression shots from my demonstration of "Springtime Afternoon."

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Mondays and Underpaintings

The Journey Onward, pastel, 10x8

I just began teaching a three-week series on underpainting techniques at Spruill Center for the Arts in Atlanta, GA on Monday mornings. This week I demonstrated the method I normally use, which uses an alcohol wash brushed over a thin layer of pastel.

Sometimes I use a more monochromatic approach, but for this demonstration of "The Journey Onward" I used several vibrant, warm colors in the underpainting, which I thought would appeal to this particular group of students. This class is titled "Pastels for the Paintbrush Painter" and is geared toward artists experienced in a medium such as oil, acrylic or watercolor, which uses a paintbrush. The class is meant to make use of their current skills "paintbrush" painting skills in our underpainting stage, and then introduce the application of pastel to that initial foundation painting.

Below are some progression shots of how this one came together. Something I pointed out often during the class was how soft and vague I keep all edges in my underpainting, which I've found to be crucial to avoid an overly stiff look to the landscape. My apologies for forgetting to snap a shot of the very first stage before I wet it down.

Next week we'll address a watercolor underpainting, and an oil stain underpainting the following week.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Going with the Flow, Part 2

From the Top, pastel, 10x8
For the second part of our series on "moving water" in my pastel classes, we studied a tall waterfall that travels down a much farther distance than the subject we painted last week. Some of the same basic observations from last week still applied (i.e., the center most, or more concentrated, area of the waterfall is lighter in value and warmer in temperature than the edges), but from a composition standpoint, we found that the placement of the water in this particular scene was important.

Since the waterfall here is more of a rapid trickle, rather than a "Niagara Falls" type, the angles and "thicks" and "thins" of the water movement are important in order to depict that the water is falling from one ledge of rocks to another.

The treatment of the edges are also key. The further the water free falls without obstruction, the softer the edges become.

The bright splash of blue in the sky was a fun element to add. Under normal conditions, the sky is a lighter, less intense color where it meets the land at the horizon. However, since this scene has the viewer looking upward a great distance, a deeper, more vivid blue sky is seen there. For color harmony, I made sure to work some of that vibrant blue into the rocks, which worked nicely to perk up the otherwise neutral colors.

"From the Top" was my demo from this morning's class. Below are some progression shots of the demo, which began with an alcohol wash over about six Rembrandt pastels.

Friday, April 5, 2013

From Pastel to Oil

Afternoon Refuge, oil, 14x18
Juried into the 2013 OPA National Exhibition

This week is Spring Break in our area. And with my son home from school and many of my students out of town, I had the week off from teaching pastel classes.

So for this week's blog post, I thought I'd mention a bit about my work in oil. For the past couple of years I've been working about equal time in pastel and oil. Although with teaching pastel, it probably ends up with a little more time spent with pastel. I worked in oil many years ago, but for about 12 years, I worked almost exclusively in pastel, and so it become like my "first language" in art. When I tried to go back to oil after those dedicated pastel years, it was like learning a new language. I knew what I wanted to say with the painting, but it was a different thought process to figure out how to say it.

Well, I'm happy to say that I finally feel like I'm gaining ground with my oil work. I was thrilled as can be to learn that I had a painting accepted into the Oil Painters of America (OPA) 2013 National Juried Exhibition, which will be held this year in Fredericksburg, TX in May.

If you'd like to see the entire OPA exhibit, it's posted online here:

I plan to continue working in both pastel and oil, and hope to at some point be equally skilled in both. I've received many requests to teach oil. However, I feel like I still have much to learn in this medium, and still work out many of my paintings through trial and error, and experiment with various approaches to a painting. But teaching classes in oil is certainly a goal that's on my radar screen. Right now I do have a couple of workshops scheduled in July and September which focus on composition and are not medium-specific, so they're open to other media besides pastel. So if you're a pastel artist wanting to take a short-term "Composition Bootcamp" workshop with a paintbrush-toting friend...check out these workshops!