Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Work-in-Progress / Painting a Montana Sky

This is a work-in-progress post of Lake McDonald at Glacier National Park, Montana. I began with a neutral gray background and basic layout of the composition with dots of color. I am using a 16x12" stretched linen canvas. The washes of bright oil colors serve as marks for warm verses cool sections.
The sky is painted with a variety of purple and blue tones. You can hardly see the pink base of the clouds or bright orange in the mountains.  
The dark area of pine trees becomes the focal point.
16x12 Oil on linen
Here are the final adjustments. I added lighter details in the mountains and bundle of trees to the right.
Early this summer, I learned the National Park Service would be celebrating 100 years, on August 25. I began thinking about the state and national parks I have painted and visited including Yellowstone, Glacier, Acadia, Yosemite, Bryce, Zion and the Everglades. They are places I will never tire of exploring, with many sites still on my checklist. I simply love viewing the beauty of the landscape and animals in their natural habitat!
These original paintings and prints are available on my websites. Clickable links are located in the upper right sidebar.
Thank you for preserving and protecting our landscape, NPS! 

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Painting Mediums & Serene Skies

Sunset Spectrum
16x12 Oil on linen
As discussed in my previous posts, the personality of a sky is essential to defining landscapes and seascapes. It automatically becomes the focal point when the majority of the canvas contains clouds or atmosphere, regardless the amount of color and contrast.

In these oil paintings, the fading sun seems to merge with the sea. Cast shadows are visible on the beach. These are ordinary scenes with flow between the elements. My goal was to recreate the peaceful sunset at the coast, with an underlying message of simplicity. An oil-based medium was used for creating smooth transitions.
Sailor's Delight
Oil on canvas


Base Coat

The first few layers are what I like to call the base coat. With these paintings, I used a foundation of gray. Two or three layers is usually enough to obtain thorough coverage. You can select between oils or acrylics for priming the surface, but never apply acrylics over oils in the following stages.

I find it easiest to work from medium to dark and lastly adding highlights. In rare instances, I will forgo the priming step and paint directly onto a white surface.

Combining Mediums

There is some controversy regarding the long-term effects for applying acrylic and oil paints in the same work. I believe the ideal scenario is to have an oil-primed surface, base, and top coat. Having mentioned that, none of my prior paintings have cracked or shown changes in color, when acrylics have been used underneath the oil layers and as a base coat.  I ensure the acrylics are thoroughly dry, curing overnight. My evidence dates back to early 2000, with paintings that still remain in my collection. Please feel free to share your experience and knowledge about combining mediums in the comments section!

Mediums as Paint Thinners

Oil-based mediums used as paint thinners are ideal for creating an ultra-smooth transitional appearance, as compared with turpentine substitute. Depending upon the type of brush, the paint spreads onto the surface like glass, enabling a single dot of pigment to go a long way.
I have also tried blending with Liquin. Still others on the market are Neo-Megilp and Maroger medium. Some are more hazardous than others, so keep in mind proper ventilation for a safe studio environment.
Since there are many different brands of oil and acrylic mediums, I recommend using one for several months. Learn its properties and outcomes. Additionally, many paints contain enough oil within the tube and you may not need to thin them at all.

Drying Time

If you choose an oil-based glazing method, plan for several days of drying time in between layers. When the surface feels tacky to touch, this means the oil is still wet. Wait several more days, before painting the next layer. Otherwise, the paint may lift from the canvas. Even worse, it can cause areas to cake or bead. I am also cautious when applying turpentine substitute over layers containing dried oil medium and vice versa.

On the other hand, many artists effectively use two mediums at various stages in their paintings, such as oil for canvas priming and turpentine substitute (or equivalent) for paint removal. The most important aspect is learning which products will help you achieve the desired effect.

Continuity of Products

Until you develop a consistent way of painting, it is best to use the same medium, paints, and products. Determine what you like and want to change. Once the outcome is predictable, you can gradually experiment with new products and adopt the most effective method for creating your work.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Painting Reflective Light

Ripple Effect
16x12 Oil on canvas
Ripple Effect was inspired by a beautiful sunset I viewed from Cadillac Mountain at Acadia National Park last summer.
I learn something new with every painting. The challenge is to interpret and express my connection to the subject. The relationship typically occurs in the planning phase or initial development. In this scene, I was most fascinated with the radiant properties of sun, as the light began to fade.

Here are the concepts I used in creating this work:
Clouds consume the majority of the canvas, with the sun along the lower third. The vertical format projects a sense of height and atmosphere, although a horizontal format would most likely translate similar properties.

Tones and Pigments
Medium tones surround the single brightest area of the sun. I used little white, even in color mixing. If you are a new painter, I would encourage you to try using pure pigments to lighten colors, instead of always opting for white. The end result will be a more vibrant hue. You will also discover some amazing new colors in the process! Lightening with white often causes a chalky and dull presentation when dry. However, there are situations where you might prefer a subdued palette and matte appearance.
Horizon Lines
Before starting this painting, I thought about how to create perspective in the clouds and horizon lines by the use of edges and details. With sunsets/sunrises, I try to create a sense of flowing atmosphere from to bottom, which means obscuring the horizon line. In this work, the horizon plays a supporting role in defining the atmosphere and provides a hint of the location with the hilltops and lakes.
Some of my works have sharp and crisp horizon lines. I will often use a defined line with sunny beach scenes, to emphasize the blue tones and depict the time of day. 

Variation in the Clouds
I also added cloud variations in layers to create a sense of depth. The layer that is nearest the viewer is defined by thin wavy lines of color. Distant clouds appear blended.
Painting the UnSun
When it came to painting the sun,  I broke the traditional round white orb format. My objective was to express the amazing effects that a small and irregularly shaped sun can have on a landscape and sky.

Define Under Lighting
Under lighting is the term I am adopting for this type of scenario - when the sunlight highlights clouds below their surface.
The direction of light source greatly guides the outcome. During the daytime, clouds will typically have direct lighting or back lighting. Ideal times for viewing sunsets or sunrises have a mix of clouds, with sun exposure that creates a vast range of colors. I have also witnessed amazing displays with angled lighting, moments prior to sunset.

Before your next landscape painting, think about the role the sky plays. How much space should it consume? What characteristics do you most want to depict? Which colors and patterns best describe the atmosphere, and how will it affect the landscape or body of water below it?

Thank you for reading and commenting ~ Eve :)

Monday, May 9, 2016

Painting Grey Skies and Overcast Days

In the last two posts, I described the methods I use for painting colorful skies and sunsets. This post overlaps with examples for creating gray skies and overcast landscapes.
Transitioning Values  

From light to dark, clouds contain multiple values. In monochromatic paintings, capturing subtle shifts in tones is essential. These transitions can be soft or distinct in the edges. How paint is applied to the edges will also help to define the mood.  

With this painting “Overshadowed”, the gray tones fall in the medium range. The edges are white or light gray, with the central and lower portion a darker gray. Pure black would rarely be a selection.

Framed 10x8 Oil on Panel
Another concept to consider is the placement of values in the composition. The “weight” of darkness in this painting is mainly at the bottom of the canvas. In vertical paintings, I tend to place the darkest values at the lower section. I believe this gives the top portion a more atmospheric feeling. 

Observe Nature  

By observing nature, you can see patterns where the light hovers above the landscape, ocean, or any other body of water. I also look for the presence of sun rays.  

Shadows greatly affect the color of objects and sections below them. Water reflections give another clue to the opacity or transparency of the clouds. Using photography allows us to capture and study the subtle shifts in tones that constantly change.  

Define the Size and Scope  

The character of clouds is easily defined in size and width by the objects below or near them. Buildings may appear as tiny squares, while birds and other flying objects become dots in the sky. Trees, shrubs, and bodies of water serve as supporting elements which help to define the location. In “Surrounded”, the distant palm trees are barely recognizable. Foreground trees are larger in comparison and also appear to be closer to the sky, producing a low-lying cloud effect.

“Storm Chasers”
18x24 Oil on Canvas


In “Overshadowed,” I used a vertical composition. It has a different effect as compared to “Storm Chasers” and "Misting the Mangroves," where the clouds spread across the canvas horizontally. I like to experiment with the same scene using different formats.
"Misting the Mangroves"
8x10 Oil on linen

 Add Color Sparingly
Gray is a neutral color that works well with many others. In home d├ęcor, it seems to be the new black. Accent colors pop when placed next to any shade of gray.
With landscapes, you can greatly alter the scene by the accent colors. They enhance the mood, depict the time of day, and define the season. For example, by adding light blue in the background of "Overshadowed", the time reads as noon or daylight. The addition of pink and purple gives  variation, without the high contrast that I would most likely use in a sunset scene.

In the next post, I will discuss how I paint reflective low light during sunsets.
Thanks for reading ~ Eve

Monday, April 11, 2016

Painting Dramatic Skies Using Oils - 2

Royal Sunset
16x12 Oil on linen

This oil painting “Royal Sunset” is an attempt to create another evening sky with dramatic clouds. The post is a continuation of the last and includes additional tips.
Riverside Light Show
11x14 Oil on stretched canvas

Define the Clouds

Place highlights around the edges, consistent with the direction of light. In “RS”, the sunlight is beaming from the right side of the canvas. Even though the sun is not visible, you can gain a sense of its position above the horizon.

With the second painting, “RLS” the sun is obviously behind the clouds. I used bright white at the edges. The rays extend to the upper portion of the canvas. I avoided painting the sun rays too far to the upper right corner. The majority of the cloud is dark, which also helps to define its opaque qualities.

In both paintings, the value range between the edges and largest cloud surface is wide. The cloud edges are light in color, and the main surface is several shades darker. The surrounding sky is painted in the medium tonal range.

Placement and Use of Silhouettes

Dark or black forms in the foreground and sky can help to define the time of day, add points of interest, and introduce another element into the scene. Keep in mind that silhouettes may become the focal point when they are the “darkest dark”.

The placement of silhouettes should add to the overall composition of the painting. For example, the bird silhouette at the bottom left corner in “RS” was added for balance. It was positioned diagonally from the three birds near the focal cloud, rather than directly underneath them. My intention was to form a visual flow from the lower left corner to the spacious right upper area.

In the next painting, the silhouette is the tree line. It serves as a divider between the water and sky. The sky then becomes the focal area, given more space, activity, and tonal variation than the land or water.

Vary the Layers                                                                

In these paintings, I approached the sky, water, and foreground as individual layers. The top layer contains the most detail. It has the most color and brush stroke variations. Lines in the water layer are created with a finer width and appear softer than the cloud highlights.  The wave lines are similar in color of that entire layer, so the focus shifts to the layer of complexity.

Selecting Colors for Time of Day

Paintings of sunrises and sunsets can often be challenging to distinguish the time of day. I tend to select warm colors for sunrises and cool tones for sunsets, based on color theory. For example, using amber, orange, and yellows can create a sense of energy. Cool colors such as purple, pink, and blue tend to have a calming visual effect and foster a sense of relaxation. In “RS”, I used a small amount of yellow in the sky and cloud’s edge for subtle contrast, while ensuring the overall application was low in saturation. You can see in my last post how a mix of warm and cool colors was applied in sunsets, forming a higher level of intensity.