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Sunday, November 27, 2022

Make a Small Experiment and Get a Big Solution - Corrected

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(My apologies.  An earlier version of this post had a graphic labelled incorrectly.  Here is the correct version.)

"Autumn Glow" 9x12 oil / SOLD
Some places I might experiment to solve problems, as noted in the text.
A.  A good spot to figure out the relationship between sky and mountain.  If I can find a solution in this small area, I can then apply the same solution to the rest of the sky and mountain shape.
B. A good spot to figure out the relationship between the shadowed cottonwoods and the mountain.  Again, if I can find a solution in this small area, I can then apply it to the remaining line of shadowed cottonwoods and this part of the mountain.  One cottonwood here has been "hit" with a lighter, more intense yellow to indicate an area where sunshine illuminates the tree.  Having figured out the relationship of the shadowed cottonwoods and the mountain makes it easy to get the right sunlit note here.
C.  A good spot to figure out the relationship between these sunlit, closer cottonwoods and the rocky cliff.  Again, if I can get a solution here, I can apply it to the whole line of cottonwoods and the cliff side.

Let's say you're working on a large canvas, maybe 16x20. It's a scene of cottonwoods, glowing in all their autumn finery against a distant mountain. You're trying to make those cottonwoods really, really glow—you want them darn near incandescent. But as much as you paint the mountain blue and the cottonwoods yellowy-orange and try a dozen variations of complements and near-complements, you just can't strike the right spark. And you're wasting a lot of paint and time, going back and forth. Your mountain takes up half your canvas, and your trees, a quarter. That's a lot of real estate to cover.

We've all been there. Well, here's the problem: You're trying a big experiment when a small experiment, one that's quick and economical, will do the trick. Here's how to do this.

Pick a smaller area where trees and mountain meet, and try a solution just there. Maybe this spot covers only a couple of square inches, but it should be sufficient to test out your idea. Because you're experimenting in a small area, you can quickly try different solutions until you hit on the right one. Then you can carry this solution to the rest of the painting.

Anytime you have large adjacent areas—and it doesn't have to be just two but can be three or more that meet—and want to get the relationship right, try this approach. I use it all the time. In many of my landscapes, for example, I'll find a small spot where tree, mountain and sky meet, and I work out the color and value relationships. Once I've got the right solution, I can very quickly paint the large shapes correctly.

By the way! Just a reminder about my book. Beautiful Landscape Painting Outdoors: Mastering Plein Air is the perfect gift for your beginning painter friends -- and the advanced painter will enjoy it, too. And hey, it would also make a nice gift for yourself! You can get it at Amazon. (While you're waiting for your copy to arrive, you might like to watch the video interviews I made with several of the artists.)

And don't forget my May workshop at Bluebird Studios in Santa Fe. Santa Fe is an awesome place to hold a plein air painting workshop -- great scenery, but also lots of extracurricular activities like galleries and museums! Details here.

Last but not least, my 50% Studio Sale on Southwest paintings continues through December 24th. Check out the artwork here.