Saturday, August 13, 2011

Anatomy of a painting

I had the pleasure of painting at the local Salvation Army Camp, Paradise Valley, this morning. This was my first trip to the camp for a few decades. What a wonderful place! I really appreciate the staff letting me paint today. Of course they have no campers at the moment, or I wouldn't have been allowed to visit.

Here are a few shots of the painting in progress, with the final painting at the end.

Willows by the Lake
18" x 24", oil, plein air

The picture above shows my setup on a small peninsula at Paradise Valley. This small piece of land has just been uncovered as the level of Dale Hollow Lake has dropped recently. Most of the ground was very soft, so I located myself on a spot that had pretty firm ground so that I could walk away from the easel 10 to 15 feet to my rear. I usually wear a little path out in the grass from the easel to about 15 feet back.

Above, you can see my 18" x 24" oil primed linen panel (Centurion Deluxe Oil Primed Linen Panel) sitting on my Take It Easel. I tone the canvas a medium value with a mixture of Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Sienna. I thin it hard with odorless mineral spirits. It dries extremely fast, especially in the heat of summer.

This next step, above, shows my initial block in. At this point I'm just trying to place the subjects on the canvas. I hardly ever put down on canvas what I see in real life. You have to design your painting. Move things around, add things, leave things out, to make a better composition.

Here you see I've started to add some color, mainly to the far reaches of the painting. This is just a step to covering the canvas with paint.

Above, you can see I've progressed with adding color. Trying to push the cooler colors back and bring the closer one forward in the painting. With so much green, it's sometimes tricky to do.

This next picture, above, shows my point about the difficulty of greens and pushing color to create depth. It's been quite hot here (and everywhere else) for a couple of months now, and being August, some trees and foliage are starting to change color. In this particular scene, some trees farther from me have a much warmer tone than the willows closer to me. In this case I use value to do a lot of my dirty work.

You'll also notice that I have done something at this point that I normally won't do. I've left color from the bottom of the painting. Normally, I'd have at least a light wash of the local color, or the color I'm planning on using for the ground, which most of the time are not the same. Again, that's where design comes into play. My reason for leaving the color out at this point was simply that I wasn't sure whether I was going to paint grasses into the scene or just water.

You can see the grass I stomped down during the painting process in the photograph above, along with the finished painting on the easel.

And here is the finished painting. You can see the color changes I made to the willows. I had to kill some of the greens or they would have killed the painting. The painting is still green, but I think it's acceptable now. I had included some bright yellow flowers in the grass at the bottom of the painting. They were there in real life, but after I put them in, I toned them down, as I thought there was too much color contrast between the foreground and mid-ground.

Thanks for looking, reading and commenting. I always enjoy showing my process. And it is just my process, it doesn't work for everyone, sometimes it doesn't work for me. And is forever evolving.


Ann's Art said...

Love the way you show the painting build up....inspiring.

Nartizt said...

Bill, love to see process shots and this is one of your best paintings! This is really nice - good work!

Anonymous said...

We're glad you came out! We look forward to seeing more paintings of our surroundings. It was nice to meet you!
Victor & Stephanie
Camp Caretakers

Nick G. Swift said...

those early stages toning the canvas are my favorite, getting to watch you carve the scene out. I think I'm drawn to the second and third photo the most. the arched tree is a classical feature, but you've managed to execute it in a new way! Glad I found this blog and I'll try to keep up on your work as I'm painting at home.

Squeaky Swan said...

Beautiful paintings! I'm a beginning plein air painter. Your photos help show your process clearly and sure to be of help to me as I attempt to create beautiful paintings as well! Thanks!

Finchley land girl said...

Wonderful painting and really enjoyed seeing the process. How do you cope with the light changes through the day? I always find this the most difficult thing to cope with and shy away from painting outdoors.

Bill Guffey said...

Thanks for all the comments everyone! I appreciate it.

Thanks Victor & Stephanie. What a great camp!

Bill Guffey said...

Finchley... This painting only took 3 hours at most. The light did change some during that time, but finding the light that works for you and sticking with it is the key. Even if the light hasn't actually happened yet, though you anticipate where it will be as you get into your painting.

Nick G. Swift said...

Bill, I really enjoy these works-in-progress and thoughts others would too so I went ahead and stumbled your post. I hope you enjoy some extra traffic. Nick

Art by Dani said...

This is a wonderful look at how you created this landscape. Thank you for sharing. Dani

38113 said...

found you in Wetcanvas and hit the 'blog" button and am happ I did so. I do watercolors and had a bit of oil painting years back, but would like to dabble again and your procedure sure was helpful. Thanks so much for taking the time to take the pics and such and just love the way you approach it and what results.