Thursday, May 7, 2009

Studio Painting from Reference Sketches

"North Branch Spring"
9x12, pastel

Springtime showers have been dragging through the Adirondacks this week. Fortunately, they've been intermittent, giving my students and me plenty of time to paint outside.

Knowing that Tuesday would be mostly wet, we pushed ourselves on Monday to do a number of 5x7s. The intention with these sketches was to gather reference material for painting a studio piece. I had students make a color study of a composition they liked, followed by a study of a particular detail that would add interest to the scene. I've found that, quite often, the general color study doesn't show enough detail to make a convincing picture. To make it so, I like to sketch some detail that I can incorporate later.

Once in the studio, from my two color field sketches I created a nearly full-size value sketch. I used the grid system to transfer the sketch to my surface. I selected a sheet of Belgian Mist Wallis paper, since its color and value are close to the mid-value, warm tone I made the field sketches on. Finally, I used the same palette I used in the field. One way to speed up the process of pastel selection is to save the pastels used in the field in a ZipLoc bag to keep them separate from the others in your box. (I didn't, because I had other paintings to paint.)

I "pushed" the color a bit in my studio piece. Rather than make a larger copy of what I did in the field, I wanted to not only improve the composition but also make the color more exciting. One rarely has time in the field to play with the design and color scheme, so a rainy day in the studio is a perfect opportunity to experiment.

Above is my studio piece and, below, the two field sketches plus my studio value sketch.

By the way, for those of you wondering how the bugs are, the blackflies, like the rain, have been intermittent. Still young, they haven't quite figured out what their purpose in life is and aren't biting.


Donna T said...

Thanks so much for showing this process, Michael! I will try your color study and detail sketch method - maybe if I don't push so hard to make a 'painting' I will be able to concentrate more on information gathering. Your finished pastel is a beauty and I like you slightly enhanced colors.

Ed Terpening said...

Thanks again for sharing your process, Michael. You're very generous. Hope we get to paint together sometime. Cheers.

Tom Willa said...

Great work. I liked all of them a lot. Thanks for sharing a pratical approach to studio time that captures the spriit of plein aire.

Katherine Tyrrell said...

A very nice post Michael - I'm adding it into the Art Education section of my "who's made a mark this week2 post this week

I love the ziploc bag tip - the simple ones are always the best! I've never thought of that and yet it seemed so obvious once I read it!

Michael Chesley Johnson said...

Thanks, everyone! And thank you, Katherine, for the mention!

Chad Wallace said...

Fantastic demo, and a beautiful finished painting.