My formal training has been in the “Boston School” tradition, at the Studio of Peter Bougie and Brian Lewis (an Atelier), in the lineage of Richard Lack. While there, I was trained in portraiture, figurative, and still life painting methods, as well as a thorough study of academic drawing approaches. I studied with Mr Bougie and Mr. Lewis every day for five days a week, approximently 7-8 hours a day, for three and a half years. Ironically, it was while I was there that I came to love the landscape.
Both of my teachers are ardent “Plein Air” ( outside, on location) landscape painters, and would often bring in their paintings for our appreciation. After much time spent in the studio their paintings were like a breath of fresh air, and the saturated colors of outdoor light seemed beyond comprehension. I was further impressed by the notion that the paintings were done without the aid of photographic references! It was their belief that, although sometimes necessary, it can often be counter-productive to the aims of a true artist.
I have been painting “on my own” since 1998, and have tried to maintain the same integrity and faithfulness towards landscape painting that I saw demonstrated there. Although there are some differences in how I see and paint the landscape, I think that is an important aspect to growing and developing as an artist. I have made an effort to dedicate several days each week to paint direct from nature. During these painting sessions I have been seeking to capture both the essence of a scene, and how it speaks to me on a personal level. Currently I am concentrating on smaller en plein air compositional studies with a focus on light and color, painted “en premiere coup” (or, in one sitting).
There is still so much to learn, and I am often overwhelmed by the challenges of landscape painting. Sometimes it seems that the more I learn, the more I realize I have a lot more to learn…but, that keeps it interesting!
Cedar Crossing – Step By Step Painting Demonstration
(Click Images for Larger Views)
STEP#1. The Drawing
Winter has come and is gone for another year.
This winter I decided to tackle a painting I have thought about for a number of years. I am just finishing up on it, and I thought I would share it with you.
I was inspired by a scene I saw once upon a time. ..The town I live in has many buildings that date back over a hundred years, on a quaint main street with vintage lamp posts. The lights hanging in the trees and the freshly fallen snow gave the town a timeless christmas feel. When I saw the horse and carriage trotting slowly down the street knew I had to paint it someday!
The next few steps show the progression from start (drawing, above) to a finished painting.
STEP #2. The Transfer
I traced the finished drawing (shown step 1) onto a piece of Acetate with a fine-point Sharpie, and now I am shown transferring it onto a linen canvas (toned golden).
This is a little time consuming, but I can save all the work I did in the drawing and concentrate more on the painting…
STEP #3- Imprimatura
I start by painting in the darks with a wash of Brown paint thinned with mineral spirits. I do this rather quickly to give me an idea of where the darks and lights will be (the values) throughout the picture.
The toned canvas helps me see the values more accurately (a white canvas is too bright and throws the values off when comparing them next to it), and I find the gold is a nice color because it shows through and adds warmth.
#4. The Underpainting
At this point you can start to see the picture develop! I find it helpful to get a feel for how the finished picture will look, and to
begin to see the overall placement of objects as well as the values.
#5. Building up the Lights
I now begin building up the lights with white paint. Of course there are several methods of painting. I could have continued developing the transparent washes and that way brough it to a finish, but rather this is just the imprimatura (or initial start before the actual painting begins)
#6. Venetian Method
I am creating an “underpainting” that is monochromatic (one color). This is called a Grisaille (pronounced Griz-eye’ ).
When you create an underpainting and then glaze color over it, that approach is called an “indirect method”. Instead of black and white, however, (which is the traditional colors for a Venetian Approach underpainting) I am using brownish umber and white.
There are various styles of “Indirect Painting” the two most notable styles are the “Venetian” and the “Flemish”, and every conceivable variation between the two. As I understand them, the main difference between them (keeping it simplified) is that the “Flemish” approach keeps transparent darks throughout, and the Venetians created opaque underpaintings and then glaze colors in the darks for depth and luminosity. There are other notable differences, but that will suffice for now.
Technically, the most important consideration for Indirect Painting is not the specific approach or even the finished result, but rather the oil content and the application. It is very important that the “Fat-over-Lean” rule be applied correctly; or, more oil over less oil.
One way to do that is to start with a “Lean” paint in the Imprimatura (thinned with Odorless Mineral Spirits), and as you begin to paint opaquelly to switch from a thinned paint to a mixture of oil that has gradually more oil and less thinner in it- the oil increasing in proprtion in each successive layer).
STEP #8. Working The Whole
I start to add some details such as lights, and definition to the horse and carriage, yet it is more important at this stage to maintain unity. I am looking to make sure that the “big picture” reads well. Notice how I am adjusting the values. I am trying to keep the lightest lights and darkest darks in the foreground to help create a sense of depth.
The paintings success will be determined by how well I paint the underpainting.
One very important aspect to indirect painting, is creating a solid foundation. I have taken this as far as I intend to, without over-working it. Now it is time to let the paint dry. In order for it to be a solid foundation to receive layers of glaze it is necessary that this part of the painting dry thoroughly.
STEP #9. Starting to add glazes
Although this is not a very “colorful” picture, I will be adding some “glazes (transparent washes of color) that will add depth and luminosity. Notice the lights and some of the awnings, for example.
It is important in the Venetian approach to avoid texture in the brush strokes until the end of the painting, and they should then be applied at the same time as the glazes and NOT glazed over. A safe approach would be to glaze the color as you want it to be, then to add thick paint right on top of the glaze- this is a safe method that is in keeping with the Fat-over-Lean approach.
The ridges in textured paint will make the glazes look uneven and the color will settle in the ridges. In most cases this is to be avoided.
Step #10. The Finished Painting