As promised in this month’s SPOTLIGHT that I'm hosting on Wetcanvas.com, here is a step-by-step demonstration on how I painted “Charlotte’s Farm.”
As I looked at the beautiful reference photo, I knew I wanted to create a bit more depth than the photo shows so my plan was to push the trees on the left of the main grouping back behind the main tree, which is the largest tree on the right which will be the focal point.
To warm up and prepare, I did several thumbnail sketches to work out my composition, and turned on some nice soft music. So, as I relaxed, sketched, and got in the zone, lots of thoughts and questions were flowing in my mind. For example, will I do a wet underpainting (no, am going to try something different this time), should I go with a more realistic style (yes), what color should I use to unify the whole painting (purple), should I paint in the front grasses (no), how will I handle the sky (time will only tell), where do I want the light source to be (straight up above), what do I want to say about this painting (these beautiful majestic summer trees feel as light as air because of all the sky holes), how will I get those trees in the background to recede so they don’t pull the eye back in that area (keep them cool in color and light in value). Lots and lots of questions pop up before I ever step up to my easel.
Most of the time they can all be solved by doing several things before you start to paint. First, always do thumbnail sketches to work out composition issues. Second, to take it one step farther, do value sketches… and one step beyond that do a color study. For this piece, I didn’t do a color study, but did do the thumbnails which incorporated values.
Ok, I’m all relaxed and ready to paint!
1. Preliminary sketch. I am looking at my final thumbnail sketch to draw the sketch on my board, NOT the reference photo.
2. Block in of all the main colors, lightly. (Mount Visions, Terry Ludwigs, Paul deMarrais-the big orange one on the right end) Included in this is my favorite color of the darkest green Mount Vision #700.
3. This is different for me. Instead of doing an alcohol wash at this point, I took a paper towel and smudged in all the main colors.
4. Went back to the areas where my darkest darks will be and scumbled in more darks. That is the darkest navy blue by Mount Vision, #514.
5. A light wheat color for the front grasses goes in.
A very warm, dark Terry Ludwig green goes into the trees.
For the background grasses, the color is actually a bit warmer than the foreground, and is bit darker. We’ll see how this goes farther into the painting. If it doesn’t work, it can be changed.
A few vertical strokes to show some ground holes in the base of the trees and also a few strokes in the tops of trees for sky holes.
Background trees get some lavenders and blues.
In the closest foreground, some darker areas go in with a medium, warm green and some burnt umber.
6. Some gorgeous Terry Ludwig eggplant gets put into the lower parts of the focal tree.
7. Very important… stand back sever feet to see the painting. If you are standing up close all the time, you can’t see the painting!!! You can see already that the left main trees are receding. DO THIS OFTEN!!! If you are not able to stand while painting, and therefore can not walk back from your painting every few minutes, I suggest buying a REDUCING.GLASS . It will give you the same effect as walking back several feet.
8. That long square stick is a charcoal stick that is used to put in some tree trunks, two different values of blue-greens go into the left focal trees, and more air holes go into the mid section of the trees.
Don’t be afraid to use charcoal in a painting. It does not muddy pastels, and it’s a great color that is seen in nature.
9. Starting to establish groupings of leaves in the main tree by using a lighter value of Kelly greens and yellow greens, and more air holes.