Semi-abstract landscape

September 28, 2010

abstraction of a traditional landscape, oil on cardboard, about 9x12

This is a small demo I did last week of a traditional landscape in a semi-abstracted fashion. I used the back of an old sketch pad as the surface (completely non-archival, but it works since this is just a demo). The colors I used include raw umber, ulatramarine, king’s blue, yellow ochre, cadmium barium yellow, naples yellow, burnt sienna, Grumbacher red (napthol red) and titanium white.

I began with an underpainting (value study) in raw umber, followed by mapping in the darkest darks with a combination of raw umber and ultramarine. Next, I began with the deepest greens in the shadow areas using ultramarine and yellow ochre to create a muted shade of dark green. I then moved into the middle value greens with ultramarine and cadmium barium yellow, for the brightest greens I added more of the cad-bar yellow and a small amount of white. The blue of the sky is primarily king’s blue, with a tiny bit of white and Grumbacher red in some areas for variation, this is also used for the reflections on the water.

The main thing to keep in mind when abstracting a landscape is to think in terms of shapes and mass forms, rather than details. Block in areas of leaves as one mass, further defining that mass with light and shadow as you continue. Same thing for the trees, mass in the trunks with quick vertical strokes, they will look more natural rather than if you labor over every twist and turn. For the highlights and brightly lit areas on the dappled surface of the pavement, I used naples yellow in combination with a bit of light purple made from king’s blue and Grumbacher red.

I was happy with the way this turned out as a demo, I think it illustrates the fact that you don’t have to paint every leaf on the tree to create an interesting landscape.

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You can’t rush a painting

September 27, 2010

work-in-progress, oil on canvas 11x14 in.

This is a piece I am working on, I had intended to enter it into an international juried show, but it doesn’t look like I am going to make the deadline, and that’s ok. I’d rather give this the attention it deserves, than rush it and have it not realize its full potential. I naturally paint fast, but I can’t paint “rushed”–what’s the difference? For me, painting fast is about being decisive, bold and not afraid to put a mark on the canvas, it comes naturally to me to work in this manner. Rushing on the other hand is feeling pressured, and not taking the time I need to allow the piece to evolve and go in the direction intended. I spend more time looking at my work and deciding where to go next that I do actually putting paint on canvas, and right now, I don’t have much time for looking, so whatever painting I do is being squeezed in between classes, demos and exhibits. So, I will have to go to plan B and use another piece or not submit anything this time around. I am very selective about what I put in shows–both competitions and gallery exhibits–I believe we should only show our very best work, and that it’s better to miss an exhibit opportunity, than it is to put in anything not up to standards. You’re only hurting yourself by entering sub-standard work in juried competitions, you likely won’t get in, and even if you do, will you be happy exhibiting something you are not 100% happy with?


Thank You Raritan Valley Art Association

September 21, 2010

Church Street, Lambertville, NJ - oil on canvas, 9x12 in.

This is my demo painting from the Raritan Valley Art Association meeting last night. I began the piece with an underpainting in burnt umber acrylic on a canvas tinted with light red ochre. Once the composition and values were blocked in with the acrylic, I switched to oil and began blocking in color.

Beginning with the darkest darks, I used ultramarine and raw umber to start in the deepest shadows. Next, I focused on the greens of the trees using ultramarine and yellow ochre for the darker medium values. For the shadows on the sidewalk, I used king’s blue in combination with Grumbacher red (napthol red) and a bit of yellow ochre. The sky is king’s blue with a bit of white. The dappled sunlight on the sidewalk and buildings is either naples yellow and a bit of white (for the warm highlights) or king’s blue and white (for the brighter areas that have a cooler tone to them.

The entire painting was done alla prima (wet into wet in one session of about 90 minutes). I did some minor touch ups this morning (greyed down the buildings in the distance, added a few more details on the windows and bicycle).

The group was a wonderful audience, thank you so much for inviting me to your meeting.


Figures in the Urban Landscape

September 19, 2010

Crossing 7th Avenue, acrylic on gessobord, 9x12 in.

I have recently been painting a lot of figures in my latest series of urban landscapes. Figures often add an element of personality to a landscape, they say a lot about the location. For example, the 2 fashionistas conversing as they cross 7th Ave. on a hot August afternoon–their gesture and attitude just screams NY. The feeling of casual sophistication is enhanced by focusing in on ONLY the details that matter. The brushstroke echo the rhythm of their boots as they hit the hot pavement, they come forward from the mass of figures behind them just enough to be defined without becoming the only focal point in the painting. There is a movement back and forth between the foreground and the background that pulls you in to the composition. All of this comes about as a result of drawing/painting the subject with a detached, abstracted view point. I don’t think of painting figures as drawing people, I am drawing forms and the forms link together to create larger forms which make up the painting in its entirety.


Welcome Back!

September 14, 2010

View from the Steps, acrylic on gessobord, 9x12 in.

Today was the first day of classes for me at NJ Visual Arts Center in Summit. Welcome back to my returning students and to those of you joining me this fall for the first time, I’m looking forward to getting to know you. As noted in my welcome letter, please feel free to share the info posted here and to refer to it throughout the semester. I will post class notes and demos for most classes on a weekly basis, although not separately for all courses because there is some overlap in the content I am teaching in each class. For example, in today’s Visual Interpretation course I covered the basics of starting with an under painting and importance of getting the values correct up front. I will review these concepts in my classes tomorrow and will post generic as well as medium specific items covered as they occur in each class.

I’m very excited to be starting the new season, and look forward to working with each of you this fall. You might want to bookmark this page or subscribe to the blog so that you don’t miss any updates.


Intro to Acrylics Workshop Sept. 26

September 10, 2010

5th Avenue Looking North, acrylic on gessobord, 9x12 in.

I am offering an introductory workshop in acrylics on September 26 at the NJ Visual Arts Center in Summit. The workshop will focus on the versatility of acrylics and techniques that can be used on a variety of surfaces including paper, canvas and panels such as gessobord (commercially prepared masonite). Working with mediums, layering, glazing, alla prima and other techniques will be demonstrated. The class runs from 10 am to 4 pm and costs $100. To register, call the art center at 908-273-9121. The workshop is filling quickly, so call today to reserve your space.


The Urban Palette

September 8, 2010

7th Avenue and 31st Street, oil on canvas, 9x12 in.

There are certain things that just “say New York”: sunlight and shadows on brick, heavy cornices on rooftops and sun-baked road surfaces. If you look at these elements, you will see many unexpected colors in them, black top is not black, it’s usually grey from wear and tear and loaded with purples, ochres and blues in the shadows, naples yellow makes a wonderful contrast on the sunny parts of the pavement.

What color is brick? We think of it as red, but in the city it comes in many colors: yellow, rust, white, and when the sun hits it, it picks up all sorts of reflective colors from the objects that surround it. Here, I’ve used a combination of cad red light and yellow ochre on the sunny parts of the building, the shadow areas are made up of this combination plus a mixture of cobalt and alizarin to make them have a purple cast.

The cross walk lines are not pure white, they are in shadow and pick up a really nice purple/blue cast. Here I’ve added a bit of king’s blue and some alizarin to the titanium white to make a shadow white. For the sunlit whites, I”ve added some naples yellow to the white. It’s all about color variation and really looking for those unexpected colors, rather than simply choosing the colors based on what we “know” are the colors of the subjects we paint.