Work In Progress: Suwannee River, Update 4

Work In Progress: Suwanee River, Update 4

 

The Color Sketch

Pastels are very liberating!

I did a color sketch for the painting and, because I had a pretty good idea of what colors I wanted to use, (and I know that I can easily add to them and perhaps replace some with others as I progress) I produced only one color sketch.

Choice of colors, or more to the point, making new colors, doesn’t have to be planned out as carefully with pastels as with colored pencils. Pastels are nearly pure pigment, are opaque, and can be layered one on top of another, one color effectively replacing another color beneath it. That is difficult or impossible to do with colored pencil (unless special techniques are employed). Colored pencil color is translucent and layering one color on top of another results in an optical mixing of the two. There is an enormous selection of hues, tints and shades with pastels, so it is much easier to find the right color without having to mix it.

Although I want to use colors close to those in the actual scene, matching them identically is not critical. Getting the right value is most important, then getting a believable and pleasing color comes next. So, here is the color sketch for the painting.

IMG_2324Suwannee Update 4

I will be doing an underpainting to add variety and interest as well as help unify the painting. I’ll discuss that next time.

Work In Progress: Suwannee River, Update 3

Work In Progress: Suwanee River, Update 3

 

Last time I posed a number of questions to myself concerning this painting that I felt were important for me to answer. I’m hoping that, by answering them I can produce a better and more meaningful painting. So, here goes…

 

 

  1. What does this scene mean to me? What am I feeling that I want to convey to viewers?

This first question I posed to myself last time I answered then. I still feel the same, so I’ll go with that same answer again.

 

I’m standing in the shade, looking out into a warm, sunny morning on a peaceful, slow moving river. Overhead, the canopy of bald cypress and oaks, and a gentle breeze cools me. Beyond the shade, out in the open, the sun is still low in the sky, but it is warming the trees on the far bank of the river, resulting in a play of contrasting lights and darks.

 

  1. Should there be dramatic contrasts of lights and darks?

Dramatic lights and darks always make for an interesting painting. I’m standing in the shade of tree canopy, so the overhead limbs and the cypress trees on the right are dark and contrast with the sunlit trees out in the open.

 

  1. Should the trees be backlighted or should the sun be coming from the side?

The sun will be above the trees and to the left. That is the actual situation and I feel there is no reason for me to change it. Backlighting can be very effective and beautiful but I don’t want to change everything about this scene to make it something completely different.

 

  1. The color of the sky, as well as the reflection in the water is light near the

trees and darkens with height. The sky can be warmed with a very light peach in the lighter areas.

I’ve thought this one out and like the idea of the sun lower in the sky, causing the low sky to be lighter while the overhead sky will be darker blue. Adding a little peach to the sky will warm it a bit.

 

  1. A center of interest or focus? A lone bird or two in the distance? A kayaker?

I’m not sure yet what will be the center of interest. It will, however, be in the area near the water surface on the left side. The tree line on both sides of the river dips with distance and perspective, converging in the area of special interest. There is a very light horizontal line of sky reflection just below the river bank, so that will also help to direct interest to that area. I may enhance that reflection to strengthen the focal area. Whether I will add a specific focal point of interest, I haven’t decided yet.

  1. Time is late morning. The sun is still low in the sky and warming the tops of the trees on the far bank.

I discussed this some in #4. This will be morning, the sun is still low in the sky and the it is hitting the upper portions of the trees, giving them a warm glow.

 

  1. Clouds?

No clouds. I think they would just unnecessarily complicate the painting. They aren’t important to the messaqge.

 

  1. Keep the linear, horizontal line of white reflection from the sky. Maybe add a few minor streaks here and there below it. It makes a nice focus. It could also be used as an arrow leading the eye to a center of interest.

I’ve also discussed this earlier. The white reflection is a nice tool to use to direct attention.

 

  1. Where do I concentrate detail? What is important to convey the message and what only complicates and blurs the message? Thought needs to go into what is important to tell the story. What is necessary to support the message and what is not necessary? How much detail is necessary to convey my idea and when does it become distracting. I don’t want an abstraction but I also don’t want too much detail.

Detail will be concentrated around the center of interest. Detail will decrease away from the center of interest.

 

  1. The converging diagonals of the tree line, the white reflection and the upward pointing cypress knees help to present the center of interest.

Again, already discussed. They are strong tools to help direct attention.

 

  1. Use an underpainting of warm colors to emphasize the warmth of the light and to make the greens more interesting.

I will be doing an underpainting to introduce warm colors in sunlit areas and dark, cool colors in the shadows.  These colors will be fixed to the paper by using an alcohol wash. Over the top of the underpainting colors I’ll use the colors seen in the photo reference. Hopefully, the underpainting will help to add interest and support for the final colors.

 

  1. Do I add complementary colors to the underpainting?

I’m not going to do too much with complementary colors for an underpainting. Use cool blues in the shadows. Where the shadows become lighter as they approach the sunlit areas I will add warmer blues (purples) to the mix.

 

  1. Add mid tone purples to the sky as an undertone?

Will probably not add purples or violets to the sky. This painting is not all about the sky, so I’ll keep the sky simple.

 

With these thoughts and guidelines in mind, I’ll start on the painting. If I haven’t already mentioned it, I’m going to do this one in pastel. Size is 14 X 19 inches on Pastelmat. The underpainting will be done with soft pastels and the finish painting primarily with pastel pencil. I’m wondering how well suited the pastel pencils will be to doing the landscape painting. Will I eventually switch over to soft pastels? This will be one test.

IMG_2322 WIP Suwannee River Update 1              IMG_2321WIP Suwannee River Update 1

 

Work In Progress: Suwannee River, Update 2

Work In Progress: Suwanee River, Update 2

If we are just going to copy a photo or scene our task is simplified to a great degree. But many times the photo of the scene doesn’t do justice to what lies before us. Not only is there a vista that the eyes can take in but there is a feeling, an emotion that is elicited from the experience. The mind’s eye may amplify certain aspects of the scene that support a feeling elicited, or ignore other aspects that interfere with that feeling. Our mind’s eye idealizes the scene before us – romanticizes it. We can visualize other things in the scene or consciously alter aspects, such as time of day or year, or the placement of the sun that can heighten the feeling. As we gaze upon the landscape we make judgments about what is important and what is not in conveying the feeling and emotions. It should be our undertaking as artists to portray the scene before us not as it actually appears in its infinite detail, but as it affects us emotionally – to simplify it, to emphasize those parts that are important to the message.

That’s not an easy task – for me. I’ve been focused over the past seven years on painting scenes just as I see them. I started off by reproducing scenes as I saw them – with all their detail. Then I learned to improve the compositions by adding and removing, moving things around, creating focal points and centers of interest, but I still retained a great amount of detail. I thought attention to detail would improve my paintings. The more I read and the more I watched other great artists, the more I began to question that idea. Increasing detail in my paintings didn’t result in increasing satisfaction or a feeling of improvement. I began to realize that increasing detail wasn’t the answer. Rather, it was reducing detail, simplifying, and rather than portraying what I see, portraying what I feel.

I have come to equate time spent to complete a painting with quality. The more time spent (mostly on detailed drawing), the better the quality. Not true! The time that should be spent on the painting shouldn’t be on attention to detail but in what needs to be included to convey the idea and emotion I feel being enveloped by a scene and it’s affect on me. It is emotion that is important, not accuracy.

Now, for some thoughts on how to portray this landscape scene along the Suannee River.

  1. What does this scene mean to me? What am I feeling that I want to convey to viewers?

I’m standing in the shade, looking out into a warm, sunny morning on a peaceful, slow moving river. Overhead, the canopy of bald cypress and oaks, and a gentle breeze cools me. Beyond the shade, out in the open, the sun is still low in the sky, but it is warming the trees on the far bank of the river, resulting in a play of contrasting lights and darks.

 

  1. Should there be dramatic contrasts of lights and darks?
  2. Should the trees be backlighted or should the sun be coming from the side?
  3. The color of the sky, as well as the reflection in the water is light near the trees and darkens with height. The sky can be warmed with a very light peach in the lighter areas.
  4. A center of interest or focus? A lone bird or two in the distance? A kayaker?
  5. Time is late morning. The sun is still low in the sky and warming the tops of the trees on the far bank.
  6. Clouds?
  7. Keep the linear, horizontal line of white reflection from the sky. Maybe add a few minor streaks here and there below it. It makes a nice focus. It could also be used as an arrow leading the eye to a center of interest.
  8. Where do I concentrate detail? What is important to convey the message and what only complicates and blurs the message? Thought needs to go into what is important to tell the story. What is necessary to support the message and what is not necessary? How much detail is necessary to convey my idea and when does it become distracting. I don’t want an abstraction but I also don’t want too much detail.
  9. The converging diagonals of the tree line, the white reflection and the upward pointing cypress knees help to present the center of interest.
  10. Use an underpainting of warm colors to emphasize the warmth of the light and to make the greens more interesting.
  11. Do I add complementary colors to the underpainting?
  12. Use cool blues in the shadows. Where the shadows become lighter as they approach the sunlit areas should I add warmer blues (purples) to the mix?
  13. Add mid tone purples to the sky as an undertone?

IMG_2322 WIP Suwannee River Update 1

Now, I’ll work up some color sketches based on these thoughts and see what I can come up with.

Work In Progress: Suwannee River, Update 1

Last September my wife and I, looking to get away from the house for a few hours, after the loss of our dear, long time companion, Peaches, took a drive up to Suwanee River State Park. The park is located in northwest Florida, in the Big Bend Area, in Hamilton County. The park is associated with a lot of Florida’s history. Andrew Jackson led troops through the area in 1818 looking for Indian strongholds. In 1863 Confederate forces constructed earthworks along the river to protect a railroad bridge near what was once the town of Columbus to guard against Union troops marching from Jacksonville. The Confederate army prevailed during that encounter, turning back Union soldiers in the Battle of Olustee in 1864. Columbus is gone now but a cemetery still remains nearby.

My wife and I walked along the banks of the river and picnicked there in the early afternoon. I found some good vantage points to take pictures. Those pictures have been stored away on my computer since then, but I recently looked back through them and found a few promising shots. One stood out. It was a view of the river, past some baldcypress trees, their bases swollen from a long association with the water of the river bank. It is a peaceful scene, looking out from the shadows of overhead tree canopy into the sunlit river as it slowly meanders out to the Gulf of Mexico. I think it will make a good painting.

IMG_2322 WIP Suwannee River Update 1

 

My first step was to work out some value sketches and see if I could improve the composition a bit. The darks of the bald cypress trees, the foliage mass in the upper left and the cypress knees at the bottom formed a natural frame for a center of interest in the area to the left of the cypress trees – the light area of the sky and its reflection in the river. The lights of the sky and water, plus the mid tones of the background trees seemed to balance the darks nicely.

Although I liked the idea of the bald cypress trees, I wasn’t happy with the amount of space between the two trees. I felt the trees needed to be closer together or one needed to be eliminated – or more trees needed to be added. Also, some changes needed to be made to the cypress knees at the bottom. The rightmost cypress knee in particular seemed out of place and demanded too much attention.

In my first value sketch (Sketch 1) I eliminated one of the bald cypress trees. That seemed to help some, but it still left me a little dissatisfied.  I also removed the cypress knee furthest to the right at the bottom. That helped also.

IMG_2319 WIP Suwannee River Update 1

 

Then, something else struck me. The picture seemed divided nearly in half by the horizontal line of the river bank. My feeling was that the river bank had to be moved either up or down.

I then tried another, similar composition (Sketch 2) but raised the river bank up higher, to almost two thirds of the way up. I also added two cypress trees back in to the composition, and grouped them closer together, but with unequal distances between them. Having a grouping of trees increased the mass of darks on the right, and I felt it looked better than having just one tree. Having only one tree seemed distracting to me. The larger dark mass felt better. The higher river bank also seemed to be an improvement.

IMG_2320 WIP Suwannee River Update 1

 

I did a third sketch, this time moving the line of the river bank downward to about a third of the way from the bottom. I liked that also.

IMG_2321WIP Suwannee River Update 1

The question now was – river bank higher or lower?  At this point I’m leaning toward the higher river bank but I’m going to have to think on it.

IMG_2320 WIP Suwannee River Update 1         IMG_2321WIP Suwannee River Update 1

 

A last consideration in the composition is adding a focal point or center of interest. I need to add something to draw the eye to. Kayak or birds – or something else? In addition to these questions, there are other considerations that will affect how this painting looks in the end. I’ll discuss them in the next installment.

Work In Progress: Hydrangea, Update 6

Work In Progress: Hydrangea, Update 6

            Final Touches

Here is the completed painting. I completed the background on the left side. Also added some violet to some of the petals. PP 138 was used. This pastel was a little intense, so I had to use a very light touch and blend it in with white or a light blue to keep the color subtle.

I think I accomplished what I set out to with this painting. I wanted to use detail selectively and make use of edges to focus attention on the center of interest. The center of interest, the focal point, was in the area of the lower mass of flowers. Most of the detail was centered there. Detail decreased outward from that focal point. The flower masses across the top were the least important and contained the least detail. Secondary areas of interest were to the upper left and upper right of the main center. Together they formed a roughly triangular area. The leaves surrounding the center of interest also have less detail. When completed, they, at first, competed with the flowers for attention. However, after adding in the diffuse, soft, out of focus, background I believe their importance diminished some. The dark shadows surrounding the lower flower mass also helped to focus attention on the flowers. The leaves almost provide a partial frame for the flowers.

I tried to include some lost edges in this composition also. They are evident mostly in the handling of the leaves – edges are lost in the shadows. I also lost some edges of flowers on the far outside left and right, and also here and there within the floral mass itself.

IMG_2313 WIP Hydrangea Update 6

 

I really like pastel and, moving forward, I think pastel will become an important medium for me.

Work In Progress: Hydrangea, Update 5

Work In Progress: Hydrangea Update 5

            Refining the Shapes

In this pass I brought more clarity to the shapes, making them look more three dimensional. First, I went back over the flowers. I concentrated detail in the lower mass of flowers. Moving away from this center of interest, I gradually decreased the detail until, in the outer masses at the top and to the right, detail was the least. There was also the least amount of variety in tone and contrast on the perimeter. Most of the tonal range  and contrast is centered in the bottom mass of flowers. The blues used in the center of interest were CO 390 prussian blue, CO 405 ultramarine blue, CO 450 cyan blue, CO 440 sky blue, CO 435 ultramarine blue light, PP 143 cobalt blue and PP 140 light ultramarine. The darker colors were used more in the center of interest. I used some CO 100 titanium white for the flower centers, some highlights on petal edges and near the centers of the flowers.

The leaves came next. I had initially blocked them in but did little additional work on them. The deepest shadows were a mix of CO 390 prussian blue and PP 174 chrome green opaque. The lighter areas were a mix of PP 174 and PP 168 earth green yellowish. In the sunlit portions of the leaves I added CO 106 light chrome yellow. After initially filling in the area of the leaf, I used PP 106 to draw in the veins, then I added texture to the leaves with a combination of the three Pitt Pastels.

I decided to add some background to the mass of flowers, but wanted to keep it diffuse. Here I used CO 440 sky blue, CO 450 cyan blue, CO 435 ultramarine blue light, PP168 earth green yellowish and PP174 chrome green opaque. I stroked in the colors and smudged them with my finger. Adding the background also had the effect of diminishing the importance of the leaves. I felt they were beginning to compete with the flowers for attention. Now they seemed to blend more into the background, especially in areas where I purposely lost some edges.

IMG_2312a WIP Hydrangea Updaet 5

            Next, I’ll complete the background and add the final touches to the painting.

Work In Progress: Hydrangea, Update 4

Work In Progress: Hydrangea Update 4

Developing the Shapes

In the last Update I described blocking in the shapes – darks, midtones and lights – without too much regard to any definition. It’s beneficial to see the big picture first, then gradually work toward greater definition. In this second pass I worked from darks to middle tones to lights again, but this time I began to develop the focal point to a greater degree. The same colors are used at this stage as in the previous. Color becomes more solid as more of the paper is covered. Shapes include the positive shapes of the flowers as well as the shadow shapes. The focus will be in the area of the lower floral mass. Here is where most of the detail will be concentrated. Moving further away from this center of interest, detail decreases.

Forms still appear more or less flat in this pass, as the subtle form shadows have not been added yet. That will come in the refinement stage.

IMG_2307 WIP Hydrangea Update 4

Work In Progress: Hydrangea, Update 3

Work In Progress: Hydrangea, Update 3

As in the last two paintings, completion of this painting will be done in a number of stages. The first three stages have already been accomplished – developing the composition, the tonal study and the color study. After transferring the drawing to the finish paper, the final four stages will be carried out to complete the painting. Those four stages are blocking in the shapes, developing the shapes, refining the shapes and final touches.

You’ll notice I describe progressing through the painting in terms of shapes – that’s what I have to keep in mind. Although this a floral painting – a painting of Hydrangea flowers, it is ultimately a painting of shapes – the arrangement of shapes of varying tones into a pleasing composition. For me, at least, it’s not always easy determining whether I have the best arrangement or a universally pleasing arrangement of shapes. I think it’s very subjective. What I’m comfortable with may not make you comfortable. But, that’s all we have. We put together shapes in varying configurations and of differing tonality according to generally accepted beliefs and choose the one that we feel best about – and hope that most others feel the same way. It’s a very personal journey.

Many pastel artists work their paintings from dark to mid tone to light, and that’s the way I worked this one. Working in this fashion can develop the three dimensionality of a shape – the mid tones are always in between the lights and darks, giving solidity to a form. However, another way of tackling a painting is to place the darks first, then the lights, then the mid tones. Establishing the two ends first allows you to develop the mid tones as needed to fit in. This way makes a lot of sense to me and I may try that in my next painting.

In this painting I placed in the darks first. For the first pass, or blocking in stage the shadow areas within the flowers established with CO 390. For the shadows with in the foliage I used a combination of CO 390 and PP 168. These colors seemed pretty close to what I observed when looking at Hydrangea flowers outside in my own garden. During this first pass I’m not using the darkest darks or lightest lights so that I can go darker or lighter if necessary to expand the range of tones. The dark blues somewhat frame the lighter shapes of the flowers.

IMG_2290 WIP Hydrangea Update 3

            The midtones came next . Here I used CO 440, 450 and PP 140 for the flowers and PP168 for the leaves.

  IMG_2305 WIP Hydrangea Update 3

            All the lighter areas of the flowers were layed in with CO 435. I didn’t go any lighter on the leaves at this point.

IMG_2306 WIP Hydrangea Update 3

            It wasn’t always easy but I tried to think in terms of large shapes when blocking in at this stage. Standing back away from the reference photos to eliminate details helped. I also squinted. At this stage I’m only interested in the most basic shapes and their tone in relation to one another. I had a tendency to start placing details, that’s why I had to consciously think only in terms large shapes, including only landmarks here and there to make it easier later to find things.

 

The next pass through will be development of the shapes.

Work In Progress: Hydrangea, Update 2

Work In Progress: Hydrangea Update 2

            From the thumbnail value and color sketches I developed the full size pencil drawing. After doing so, I went back to the sketch made from the combined photos and made some notes. The notes were my first thoughts and may or may not be fully followed as I go forward, but they’ll serve as a guide. The main focus will be on the lower flower mass. This is the area where the most detail will be concentrated. It is here that some of the sharpest edges and greatest contrasts will be found. I’ve constructed the composition so that the entrance point for the viewer’s eye will be on the branch at the bottom – not clearly visible on the sketch with the notes but easily seen on the full size drawing. The branch leads directly to the center of interest – the lower mass of flowers. The eye will then pass up and around the rest of the floral masses. The dark shadows of the flowers and foliage mass tend to frame the lighter floral masses. As the eye progress upward from the focus area it will encounter progressively less detailed floral masses, the lightest and least detailed are those three masses across the top.

 IMG_2291 WIP Hydrangea Update 2

            The full size drawing is not intended to be a fully detailed drawing but merely a guide to the floral masses. I indicated some landmarks – flowers and flower centers – to help me fill in the other features as I start the color work.

IMG_2289 WIP Hydrangea Update 2

            The painting will be 11” by 14” long and done in pastel pencil. The paper I chose was UArt sanded pastel paper, 500 grade. I like the sanded papers. I like the feel of the pastel going on and the fact that they can take a lot of pastel before they fill up.

 

Next, transfer the drawing and start the color process.

“Osprey” published in CP Treasures IV

I’m pleased to announce that one of my colored pencil paintings, “Osprey: Lovers Key, Florida” has been published and included in Ann Kullberg’s CP Treasures IV. I feel honored to be included in the company of some of the best colored pencil artists in the world. This is the second time a painting of mine has been included in CP Treasures. My painting of “Raine and Megan” was included in CP Treasures III.

            CP Treasures IV contains the creations of 120 colored pencil artists, picked from 827 submissions. It is just out and can be purchase online at Ann Kullberg’s website by going to http//annkullberg.com/products/cp-treasures-volume-iv. If you are a colored pencil enthusiast and want inspiration, this book is a must have. I’ve seen the works that have been included and I found much to inspire me.

               Osprey Lovers Key Florida Art Walk