(My "On the Easel" posts give you a behind-the-scenes look at what I am working on, what went well, what went wrong, and things I learn).
Let's take a look at my recent painting, Maleny, Late Afternoon. It captures the tranquil landscape as the sun's warmth battles nature's cool greens.
Reference Photo and Study
Below is the reference photo. Feel free to try and paint it yourself.
I also painted the following small study in preparation. Though it ended up being a rather charming piece in its own right, as is often the case when I paint without care for the outcome.
- Oil on Ambersand gessoboard. 18 x 24 inches.
- Main colors: Ultramarine blue, cobalt blue, cadmium red, alizarin crimson, cadmium yellow, cadmium yellow deep, viridian green, and titanium white.
Refer to my supplies list for more details on what I use.
- This painting was a lesson in and of itself: I tried to paint as if it were only a study, with the same level of spontaneity and freshness. Like you might see in Sir Arthur Streeton's work. Prior to this, my larger paintings were getting a bit stiff and tight. I was trying too hard and the outcome was suffering.
- I painted fast, careful not to get caught up in the details. I also used larger brushes than usual.
- The big idea of the painting is the beautiful contrast between warm oranges and yellows against cool greens, blues, and purples. The warm colors are powerful, but the cool colors are vast. There's balance in this sense.
- As with most landscape paintings, I focused on creating the illusion of detail. How can I capture all the rocks, leaves, twigs, insects, plants, flowers, highlights, and shadows without spending years painting every little detail with a tiny brush?
- I used all kinds of unusual techniques to get the desired marks. Negative drawing in the wet paint with my fingernail, the blunt end of my brush, or a palette knife. Swirling, van Gogh-like strokes with an earbud. Lifting paint with a solvent-dabbed paper towel. Close-ups of the painting reveal subtle hints as to what techniques I used. Keep this in mind the next time you are in front of one of your favorite master paintings. Look closely for hints of how it was painted.