Oyster River in September, 30x20, acrylic
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This was the painting I began as a demo during the workshop I taught on Wednesday, and is now finished. We had perfect September weather, sunny, not too hot, and fairly dry after rain the day before. This is the Oyster River in Old Saybrook, CT, a place I've painted many times before. During the demo I started with a quick brush and thin paint drawing, laying in the large shapes for the river, distant tree line, near trees on the right, the little house, and areas of marsh grass. Next, I very quickly and with a very large brush (#24) laid in an under painting using transparent red oxide to establish value relationships. Since I was working in acrylic this dried rapidly. However, those students using oils were also able to achieve this quick under painting, using paint thinned with turps and either using a rag (wrapped around a finger or two) to lay in the paint and pull out the lights or by using a large brush and thinned paint. Another option for oil painters would be to do the under painting in acrylic and over paint,the local color with oils. After the under painting was completed I began the block-in working with the local colors (the colors that things actually appear) starting with the sky and moving progressively forward to the tree line, the middle ground and finally the foreground. All the while working with a fairly large brush. At the end of this stage the painting has a blocky, somewhat crude, unsophisticated look to it, BUT the drawing(perspective), values and color relationships are all established and the basic foundation has been successfully laid. That's where I left off to allow the students to begin work on their paintings. I consider student's workshop paintings a success if they get this far, to the end of the block-in and things are basically working. Perhaps it doesn't seem like it but that is a huge accomplishment, especially when working plein air. After a hundred or so starts, where you bring a small painting to this point, you will begin to "get it", and painting the landscape will become much easier. For beginning students I wouldn't even bother going any further than the block-in, until getting a painting successfully to this stage feels "easy". From this stage on it is all about more subtle shifts in value and color, manipulation of edges, creating texture through expressive brushwork and the addition of carefully chosen details. In the beginning it seems like this second stage of developing a painting is the "fun" stage where you're really painting. BUT after you've done many paintings the block-in stage is just as much fun because you already know exactly where the painting is going and you are controlling the painting instead of the painting controlling you, so the ride is a lot smoother and more enjoyable.
Check out Katherine Tyrrell's blog Making a Mark for an excellent post and related articles about creativity. Please read the article she links to, How to be Creative, definitely worth the time it takes to read the whole thing. Link below.
Full Moon, Sept. 15th, 2008 11:45pm
The day get shorter from now 'till the winter solstice.