Sunday, December 14, 2008

Demo - Fall Aspens Part I

Anyone who has been following my blog for awhile or looked over any of my previous painting demos might know that I used to have a pretty analytical studio painting approach that involved painting over a complete and dry oil or acrylic underpainting. Over the past few months, I've done so much plein air painting that I've gotten used to a more direct method of painting, and completely changed my studio technique as a result. I figured I might as well take some progress shots and post a new demo of a current painting.

I was working on a batch of underpaintings one day when it occured to me that I HATED the process of underpainting. So, I stopped doing it. Now I do my studio paintings wet-on-wet, with the exception of minor corrections at the end, and I'm loving the process of painting so much more!

So, I'm trying to get some paintings done for a few spring shows, and for this one I wanted to do something with bright fall aspens. I'm doing this painting on a 24x18" Ampersand gessobord, and using a palette of titanium white, cad yellow lemon, cad yellow light, cad orange, quinacridone red, perm alizarin crimson, burnt sienna, and ultramarine blue. To start, I sketch in my composition using a thinned mixture of alizarin, ultramarine, and white.

Once the drawing is done, I block in the yellow foliage of the aspens using paint thinned with mineral spirits. I like to get these in first in a painting like this so that the color is nice and clean from the start. At this point, I'm using a 1" hog bristle brush to keep things nice and basic.

Next, I start to block in the background around the aspens, still using fairly thin paint. I want to reserve thicker paint for later stages of the painting, and leave the background thin so it recedes.

I continue to work forward, using slightly thicker paint as I block in the foliage in the foreground. I'm mainly trying to put down major shapes, colors, and values at this point, still using the 1" brush.

Once the background is blocked in, I start to paint the aspen trunks, first indicating the placement of the dark knots. At this point I switch to a smaller (size 6 or 8) brush so that I can go a bit smaller with my brushstrokes.

Next, I start to paint the darker side of the aspen trunks, trying to make sure I have the values right in comparison to my background, and using different colors and values to indicate the curvature of the trunks. I work with flat bristle brushes (still the size 6-8), and use the side of the brush to block in some of the thinner branches.

Once the darker part of the trunks is complete, I go back in and paint the sunlit side of the aspens. I use a palette knife or small liner brush for the highlights on the background trunks and smaller twigs.

At this point the block-in is complete and I'm ready to start refining different areas of the painting.

This is a good point to stop, so I'll post the rest tomorrow!


  1. Hi Stacey! I'm commenting for the first time.I followed your link while seeing milind mulick's blog and I'm glad I did! Your paintings are very nice!

  2. Greta demo seeing how you work!

  3. Stacey, thank you for this demo. It is good to stay how a beautiful painting is developed.

  4. Ramesh - thanks for commenting. I just checked out your work and your figuratives are very nice!

    Theresa, Peggy, and Mary - thanks, I'm glad you're finding it useful somehow. I'll probably post the rest of it tonight when I get around to resizing the photos...

  5. Thanks Stacey....that was extremely interesting. It was fascinating to watch how this painting developed