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I will be exhibiting paintings this weekend as part of the annual Danada Nature Art Show.
I am proud to add that some of my current students will be showing their fine work as well.
The exhibit will be held this coming Friday and Saturday, October 6th and 7th, from 1-4:00 p.m.,
and Sunday October 8th, from 11.00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., at the beautiful and historic Danada House.
The reception in honor of the artists will be held Friday evening, from 7-9 p.m.
Please join us!
3S501 Naperville Road
Wheaton, IL 60189
"Bond Falls #13"
"D and M Falls"
On the way to Starved Rock State park awhile back, we came up an abandoned farm house off of the main road. The light was warm, the shadows were long, and overall, the scene had great potential for a future painting.
After choosing one of the photographs taken that day, I made some needed changes. A photograph yields great information to use in a painting, but will most often need adjusting to create a stronger composition. Below is the original photo and the adjusted photo and the pattern of the adjusted photo.
Once satisfied with the composition, it was time to do the painting. In transparent watercolor, painting light to dark is most often the best approach. The process of the painting was done in three steps. I first painted the light, middle and dark values to establish the pattern. Next is creating the shape and form, and finally, adding the details within the pattern.
A chance encounter on a country drive offered an opportunity for another interesting painting!
I use photographic references for my paintings. While there are always interesting elements that draw me to the photos initially, the compositions are not always strong, and often need some adjustment.
One tool to help clarify the elements within a composition is the use of a Notan drawing. Notan is a Japanese word that means “light-dark balance.” A notan reduces a scene to the basic black and white shapes and patterns that serve as the foundation of a composition. Notan recognizes not only the balance of positive and negative space, but also the relationship of a specific shape to its background. It can also help eliminate extraneous elements in a photo, more easily simplifying a composition.
John Carlson refers to "decorative composition", meaning the arrangement of value-masses into a design, almost as a poster designer would proceed.
The notan below is of the original photograph. After adjusting the balance, unity, movement, proportion, and emphasis–"BUMPE"– I arrived at a much better composition, indicated by the notan in the middle. The finished painting is on the right.
The first thing that the viewer of your artwork sees is the pattern of light, middle and dark values. If you get that right, they will look more closely at the colors and the detail.
My third book, on the fundamentals of drawing and painting, is in the final editing phase and hopefully will be in print this summer. Chapters include drawing, composition, color, perspective, angle and planes, elements of landscape and procedures for painting.
If you are one of my students, or have read my first two books, or just follow my blog, you know that I refer to "Carlson's Guide to Landscape Painting" often. It is one of the books on the required reading list for all my students.
Spring is finally here in the midwest, the trees are budding, so, as a landscape artist, I thought it relevant to touch on one of the favorite elements of landscape paintings–trees. One of the chapters in Carlson's book is devoted to trees.
" Know your trees, their nature, their growth, their movement; understand that they are conscious, living things, with tribulations and desires not wholly disassociated from your own."
I've simplified the thought process by making it one of the 42 rules in the new book: Rule 32- "Tree branches are curved using straight line segments." What does that mean? In the northern climate, trees go dormant in the winter. In the spring they will start to grow at a slightly different angle from where they ended. This "starting and stopping" continues throughout the growing season, and over the years.
At first glance, branches all appear to curve. Looking closely at its branches, you will see that a tree grows each year in relatively straight segments that form a curved appearance.
If you attempt to paint the tree and its branches with curved lines, it will look "rubbery" and unnatural. Study even the tiniest twig and you will see the history of a tree's growth.
Observe also, that trees in nature seldom grow perfectly vertical. Carlson says: "A tree seldom or never encroaches upon the liberty of another tree, if it can be avoided."
Depending on weather, or terrain, you will see the interesting variations in the growth of trees.
It's important to understand that all objects will be influenced by your light source. You need to know the color, temperature, intensity and direction of your light source, which is not always evident when using a photographic reference.
The portion of the object that is not in light is in shadow. The value and color will be affected by reflected light on the shadow side of the object.
What is commonly called the cast shadow is actually the absence of light on another object.
Reflected light is light that bounces off other objects onto the shadow side of an object. The amount of reflected light is dependent on the intensity of the light source, the angle of reflection, and the surface quality of the reflecting object.
This old abandoned house is in shadow. The light is behind the house and just left of center. Looking at the roof, notice that one side is receiving light and the other side is in shadow. There is a slight cast shadow from the roof that is in shadow on the roof that is receiving light. Trace the line of that cast shadow backwards and it points to the light source.
The upper front of the building is receiving reflected light from the sky and is slightly bluer in color. The portion on that side under the porch roof is receiving reflected light from the ground which is grass and is lighter with the color of the grass.
The "cast shadow" on the grass is transparent. Cast shadows are never black as they appear in many photographs.
Remember, all objects will have a highlight, a light side, a shadow side, reflected light, and will also cast a shadow.
Back in February, 2014, I first discussed what I call, the "dreaded P word" –Perspective. I am not a perspective nerd, but because perspective is so important to understand, I wrote a book about it, hoping to simplify the process, and take away some of the confusion. Let's look at this important aspect of perspective.
Part of the problem in dealing with perspective often comes from the photographic references artists use for their paintings. Below is an image that I took using a simple point and shoot camera. As you can see, the camera distorts the image. By working directly from the reference, you are simply copying the distorted image.
The problem is the same when drawing from life. The concept of perspective depends on the viewer standing still and looking straight ahead–not up or down, or right to left. Drawing something large, as a city scene requires us to look up at tall buildings, therefore distorting the image.
Understanding the basic rule of perspective will solve most of the problem. "All parallel lines will recede to a vanishing point."
All of these lines that are horizontal will converge to a point on the horizon line. The last example shows a plane, the roof of a house that is inclined, not horizontal. It will converge to a point, in this case above the horizon line.
There is an exception to this basic rule. That is when the parallel lines are parallel or perpendicular to the viewer as seen in the painting below.
Hungry for more fun with perspective? My book, "Put Your Paintings in Perspective"is available here on my website.
Each week in both my watercolor classes at the Palette and Chisel Academy in Chicago, and in Kaneville, I do a step-by-step demonstration of a landscape. After selecting a photograph of a subject, I make adjustments and corrections using photo editing software. The painting is explained to the students step by step.
Each subject is a lesson in either composition, color, perspective, techniques or materials.
The ability to teach, answer questions, and paint at the same time presents unique challenges, but the reward is that I get to paint in every class. Reflecting back on the past year, I realize I did over 100 demonstraton paintings -some turned out well -and some not so good. Hopefully though, each one imparted something helpful to the students -a better undersanding of how to begin a painting, through to a more confident, satisfying completion of a painting.
I am posting a few here that may help you as you go forward in this new year. In the following four examples, you can see the fundamental steps: the original photograph, the adustments to the photograph, the pattern of the composition and step 1, 2 and the final. In some cases, a few additional steps are added as finishing touches.
Happy painting in 2017!
From Carlson's Guide to Landscape Painting:.
"In many foregrounds in nature there is little to get hold of for the purposes of perspective construction, but there are always some things, such as groups of grasses, flowers, stones, depressions, cloud shadows, tree shadows, paths, roads, etc. If any of these 'materials' exist, use them to your purpose-but sparingly. Remember that the less material you use to carry conviction in a picture the better the picture will be."
Often the challenge is in exactly what to leave in, and what is extraneous.
The photograph on the left was taken just a few miles west of our home. Portions of the barn had collapsed at the time this was taken. Sadly the whole thing finally fell, and now a new "modern" barn has replaced it. Eliminating the non-essential telephone pole and street sign was an easy decision. The tree helps create depth, but in this case, I felt it was not necessary, so it too was eliminated. Left with a lot of flat negative space in the sky and ground, I added some interesting clouds from another photograph. The foreground was painted implementing some salt to create texture which, by adding interest in the foreground, gives the painting the depth needed.
Dealing with the foreground is always tricky. The tree in the foreground will immediately create a sense of depth, but it's right in the middle of the composition. I could have moved it to the left or right, but decided to eliminate it, and the remains of an old windmill. And I just use the grasses to achieve the depth.
The original photograph of this forest scene has a few elements in the foreground, such as grasses and rocks that I chose to include. Accentuating the frozen water also helps to give it depth.
Always remember that it is often more important to leave elements out of a painting to make your statement, than to try to include too much, which can often weaken a painting.
From Carlsons Guide to landscape painting:
"I strongly urge that the beginner work in oil for a year, or until he has mastered the rudimentary difficulties of landscape painting. Once these principles of landscape are mastered, through much experimenting ( in the more malleable medium of oil ) , the several other mediums of expression, such as water color, pastel or tempera will be found easier to handle."
After my first year of required classes, Fundamentals and figure drawing, I decided to study watercolor painting under the direction of Mr. Irving Shapiro. The forest scene is one of his paintings. For the next 20 years I painted primarily in watercolor. Several years ago I decided to try painting in oils. Even though it required me to think "backwords" i.e. dark to light, as opposed to light to dark in watercolor, I found that the procedures that were required in watercolor helped me to paint successfully in oils.
Studying watercolor before oils teaches you very quickly, that if you don't plan very thorougly in advance, your painting will fail. It is very difficult to make corrections. For example, in general, you can go darker, but can't go lighter in an area. If you gray a color too much at the beginning of a painting, it is difficult to make it more intense. In oil painting, while you can make corrections fairly easily, painting directly (putting down the correct colors, right values, right form, etc. from the start) will result in a fresher painting. All of the scraping and correcting tends to weaken and "muddy" up the painting. So the disciplines learned in watercolor are valuable assets when painting in oils.
While it is the common thought that you should learn oil painting first, you tend to fall back on the notion that you can always make changes or correct mistakes later, which can result in a painting that is overworked. The critical skills in planning that you learn very quickly in watercolor painting result in learning other medium, such as tempera and gouache with more assurance.
One of my recent oil paintings
"West of Kaneville"
"The Wales Tree"
Mixed medium-watercolor and gouache