Monday, January 28, 2013

for my Painting Students...finishing Winter Morning


It has been a couple of weeks since our last class and in the time in between I have finished the painting Winter Morning, framed it and delivered it to the Painting the Winter show at the Thousand Islands Arts Center in Clayton. I had been planning on speaking to the class on a few points concerning color mixing with a limited palette. The painting would have been great for the demo, but I really needed to get it finished and off to the show. So, we will use the blog as a way to finish this particular lesson.

The intent for this painting was to portray the effect of early morning light on the snow covered ground. Using a photo as a starting point I sketched the main parts of the painting, which also happens to be the focal point. The group of 3 or 4 trees in the foreground is my focal point. I have a secondary focal point, which are the logs in the lower right corner. They are considered a secondary focal point because they help lead our eyes to the main grouping of trees. Most of the trees in the background were not sketched except for a few of the more prominent trees. After underpainting in complementary colors I began to work toward bringing my colors closer to the real or local color.

The snow had a warm yellow and orange underpainting which helped with conveying the idea of sunlight on the snow. I used titanium white combined with a touch of soft blues and purples to bring my snow closer to conventional snow colors.

When it was time to paint the long shadows stretching across the snow I chose deeper versions of the same blues and purples, but kept my lines soft and diffused so that the shadows appeared to fall across a soft new-fallen snow, rather than a hard surface. The trees in the background are implied with a series of vertical strokes rather than carefully painted, so as not to detract from the focal point.

A combination of lighter and darker colors was used to create a sense of depth. The trees in the foreground have the appearance of being painted in various shades of brown, but no real brown was on the palette. Instead, a "brown" was created by mixing the blues and purples already on the palette with a warm cadmium red. Those three colors in various combinations made up most of the colors in the trees in the foreground and in the backgound. A touch of white here and there was used to lighten the colors. Creating new colors, especially those neutrals, can be done very effectively by using the colors on your palette, those colors that are already in your painting. This creates a type of color harmony, which re-inforces composition. Using color in this way can also "save" a weak composition.

All finishing touches, like the small snow covered twigs and branches was done last, after the color adjustments on the background, middleground and foreground were done. Before finishing touches are applied it is important to step away from your painting for a bit, then come back to look at it with fresh eyes. This is the time to make color adjustments on the large background surfaces especially. When color temperature (warm/cool)and harmony are adjusted, then finishing touches can be applied.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Painting the Winter Landscape

When I think of painting the winter landscape I think of snow sparkling in the sunlight and long purple and blue shadows stretching across the snow covered ground. Unfortunately here in Central New York we seldom see the bright side of winter. We hardly ever get to ski with the sun on our backs. Instead we have low hanging gray clouds or no clouds at all just a dull sky and dead white snow. If we do see the sun, it is usually accompanied by frigid temperatures. Today is one of those sunny days and true to form, it is about 11 degrees, and the colors are glorious! I have just finished a painting based on another one of those cold glorious days, and just in time for the "Painting the Winter" show at the Thousand Islands Arts Center. The scene is from our backyard at camp. I woke up one morning to find a North Country winter wonderland of new fallen snow sparkling in the early morning sunlight. The painting is titled Winter Morning.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


"Winter" by Greta Crosby Let us not wish away the winter. It is a season in itself, Not simply the way to spring. When trees rest, growing no leaves, gathering no light, They let in sky and trace themselves delicately against dawns and sunsets. I have always loved those words by Greta Crosby. Winter here in Central New York tends to be long, dull and very gray and can be a bit depressing until you learn to embrace winter for what it is. The skiers and ice skaters have already figured that out! Cold, snow and gray skies don't bother them; dressed for the weather, they rush outside to seize the moment, to play in the snow. But winter also invites us inside; sometimes to the warmth of the fire, other times inside ourselves to introspection. That is where I find myself these days as I embrace winter at Windy Hill Studio. For many years my artwork has been squeezed in around family, home and work obligations. Most of my artist friends are doing the same balancing act. We don't find time for art, we make time for art, because it is our passion. But now my balancing act has shifted in favor of Windy Hill Studio. Family obligations have lessened a bit and I am working less hours than I was last year. I had been wearing two hats at the Y Arts Studio, I was the Studio Coordinator(part time) and one of the Art Instructors. My coordinator's position ended at the end of September, but I am still teaching at least 3 or 4 classes per week. Of course, my paycheck is considerably smaller as a result of the loss of one job. So with all of these hours freed up I am making the most of my time in the studio...finally. I say finally because it took a while before I was able to structure a day in the studio without the constraints of meetings and deadlines. I was so used to working on the artwork under the pressure of squeezing it in around EVERYTHING else, that I was totally lost when given a "free day". I knew I would need to give myself structure in order to get anything done. So with the New Year comes resolutions, calendars and schedules! And even deadlines!!! Since many of the galleries and shops where I show and sell my artwork are seasonal (May - December) I can use the winter as my time to create new paintings, have prints made etc. Also a good time to try some experimental work and of course write lesson plans for my classes. I am enjoying the winter as my time to refresh and rejuvenate. I currently have 3 paintings underway, one of them an experimental piece on silk. I have scheduled a couple of solo art shows, and started making plans for a studio expansion at Windy Hill Studio North, AKA camp. Although it's not such a big expansion given that the studio at camp is in a corner of one of the bedrooms, there is a skylight! And room for a storage cabinet. The lake and woods provide the inspiration, so I guess that's all I will need. And, I won't be spending all of my winter indoors in my studio. I just heard that there are $8 lift tickets this Sunday night at Labrador, and we have a snowshoe hike planned with the Indian River Lakes Conservancy in a couple of weeks, ice skating at Clinton Square, cross country skiing at Highland Forest. And the colors of the sunlight on the snow ...amazing! Gotta paint it. Overcast sky??? That's why we have Payne's Gray. I plan on enjoying this "downtime" as much as I can. And here is Winter, by Greta Crosby in its entirety. "Winter" Let us not wish away the winter. It is a season in itself, Not simply the way to spring. When trees rest, growing no leaves, gathering no light, They let in sky and trace themselves delicately against dawns and sunsets. The clarity and brilliance of the winter sky delight. The loom of fog softens edges, lulls the eyes and ears of the quiet, Awakens by risk the unquiet. A low dark sky can snow, emblem of individuality, liberality, and aggregate power. Snow invites to contemplation and to sport. Winter is a table set with ice and starlight. Winter dark tends to warm light: fire and candle; Winter cold to hugs and huddles; winter want to gifts and sharing; Winter danger to visions, plans, and common endeavoring -- And the zest of narrow escapes; winter tedium to merrymaking. Let us therefore praise winter, Rich in beauty, challenge, and pregnant negativities.