Friday, December 07, 2007

Large Landscape Demo - PART III

Yesterday I finished with the middle and left hand side of the mountain, so first up today was to finish up the right hand side of the mountain (the rocky hillside coming down from the upper right). Aspen went down for her morning nap and I spent the next couple of hours struggling with this part of the painting. This particular part of the mountain is more like a big pile of rocks, and the light on it doesn't define much form, so I spent a lot of time going back and forth between the shadows and lights, trying to come up with something acceptable. I finally stopped here - the forms are a bit geometric, but the baby was awake and it was time to drive her over to my mom's house for the afternoon. Besides, it's always nice to take a break and get some fresh air when I'm struggling with something.

I returned from my mom's house and noticed that things were looking a bit dark, so I added a few light accents on the mountain. Once things are dry, I might go back and do a bit more of this, but I don't want to take it too far right now. Sometimes I think a certain part of a painting needs more contrast, but once I've finished all of the other parts, it looks fine. So I'll leave the mountains like this for now.

Next I start to fill in the shadows on the hillside below the mountains. The rocks in this area are small and scattered down the hillside, so I know it's going to be a challenge to simplify. For that reason, I start with a large brush and one value.

Once the shadows are in, it's time to block in the grass and rocks on the hillside. This takes me forever. I always struggle with the bright green color of summer grass above treeline - I get carried away with it and make it too bright. So while I'm painting this section, I probably repaint the grass five times. It's not perfect, but sometimes you gotta pick your battles, and I don't want to battle with it anymore. Besides, at this point I'm having trouble with the rocks!

So, this is the moment that Nate comes home from working in the mountains. He walks into my studio for the first time in days and says, "Cool painting. Have you done the rocks on the left hand side yet?"

Um. YES. But apparently I haven't done them well enough!


Of course, I get all sensitive and tell him to leave if he can't say anything nice about my painting.

Then I work on the rocks for another hour because he's right. Poor guy - must be a pain to be married to a painter.

Anyhow, so here's where I ended up for the day after all that. The photo here is making it painfully obvious that the hillside rocks still aren't quite right - the color temperature of the highlights is too warm, and the shoreline is too uniform now. Gotta fix that tomorrow.

Since the pictures I've posted so far aren't too fabulous, and it's tough to see the brushstrokes, here are a couple of closeups.

I try to make sure that the abstract shapes and colors work in each area. When I paint large, I step back a lot to make sure that everything reads well from a viewing distance of about 10 feet. But even when things read well from far away, they also need to be interesting up close.

Last, here's a picture of my setup (ignore the painting - I took this right after I had blocked in the darks on the hillside, and it looks bizarre). I always paint standing up. When I was pregnant, I had to sit to paint the last few months and it drove me nuts (I even think it made my paintings worse). So, the stool is just there to keep me from getting too close to the canvas. Prevents noodling and keeps things loose. Scott Christensen and a lot of artists with fancy studio furniture put their taboret directly in front of their easels, but I use a huge workbench so that's not possible. The stool works though!

Anyhow, I think I've only got a couple days work left on this one. Hopefully I can get some more work done on it this weekend (no rest for the self-employed!).


  1. i always imagined how much work these paintings take you - but seeing it lined out is crazy to me. it's SO analytical!! i could never, ever have the patience to do this. :)

  2. I must be pretty analytical about painting if someone with an engineering degree is telling me so!! Hehe... I'm not always this methodical when I paint - only with large pieces, but painting is ALWAYS hard work for me. It tires out my brain just as much as a long day at the office used to!

  3. That's so funny that Katie posted that, because I was totally thinking the same thing. It's so complicated, with thinking about how each of the brush strokes are going to affect the outcome and all the thought that goes into light and everything. I don't have the patience either. But I think this is the amount of work you have to do to have it come out right, and have it be fantastic. Otherwise, you're just another hack.