Pastel Study for Future Painting

February 22, 2011

Pastel study, 6×8 in. pastel on Pastel Mat

I plan on painting this fairly large, not sure if I will use acrylics or oils. Really want to capture that feeling of light pouring through the scaffolding. I’ve done a few others in large format acrylic that have been very effective, however, I’m still tempted to go to oils on this for the luminosity of the colors. Having the pastel study will be of tremendous help, I’ve really come to rely on studies like these so much more than reference photos. A photo is a place to start, a sketch like this begins interpreting the things I find exciting about the subject. By having this available while working on the painting, I can use it to further capture the things I found compelling enough to paint in the first place.


Visual Interpretation – Class Notes 2/1/11

February 1, 2011

One Point Perspective Demo, pastel 9x6 in.

This morning my demo was focused on one-point perspective. This little 20-minute demo of the iron truss bridge in the town of Clinton is a good example of simple, one-point perspective.  To begin, I established the horizon line and vanishing point as part of the under painting.  There are only three directions your structural lines can go in: vertical, horizontal or diagonal leading back to the vanishing point. If you remember this, you will get an accurate depiction of one-point perspective. Once the majority of my structural lines are blocked in, I can begin working on values, blocking them in from dark to light monochromatically in the underpainting.

Once this is done, I then began adding color, starting with the darkest darks and working through the middle value colors. For the brightest brights, I tried to maintain a balance of warm and cools, using the cooler tones for the snow in the distance and the warmer tones for the sunlit snow in the foreground.

Little exercises like this are great for understanding perspective. Try sketching these types of scenes on location in charcoal to really see how perspective translates depth and space onto the 2 dimensional surface of your paper or canvas.

Studies of Metallic Surfaces

November 13, 2009

study of silver urn, oil on canvas, alla prima


silver urn, acrylic on paper


urn, creamer and cup, oil on canvas, alla prima

A few demos I did this week of metallic surfaces. Painting these types of objects are great for studying values as well as for observing subtle colors that are present but not always obvious at first glance. This is a great way to train your eye to become more attuned to your subjects, whatever they may be.

Palette = cobalt blue, alizarin, yellow ochre, burnt umber, burnt sienna, titanium white. Also added hints of King’s blue and Naples yellow, but these are colors that can easily be mixed from the above palette if you don’t have them. It’s important to capture both the warm and cool tones of the metal as you see them. Warm highlights will come from the spotlight you are using to light the subject, while cool ones may come in from ambient room light or window lighting. Push the dark values first and place colors next to one another when working alla prima, this will help you to avoid getting mud.

Painting in Oil on Paper

October 5, 2009
study in oil on Fabriano hot pressed watercolor block

study in oil on Fabriano hot pressed watercolor block

This is a demo from my Advanced Oils Class. I sometimes prefer to do my demos on paper rather than canvas, the paper absorbs the oil faster and I can do layering that might not be possible on canvas. It’s also a nice way to handle studies, less expensive than stretched canvas. If you get one you become attached to, you can always frame it behind glass as you would a water color or acrylic.

The point of this particular demo was to illustrate how transparent and reflective objects can be used to create “new” shapes within a composition. Instead of thinking of the bottles and pots as individual units, I think of them in parts. First, as the parts that create the individual vessels themselves, and then as the parts that result as a part of the overlaps of transparent areas and reflective surfaces. Doing this enables you to break a lot of compositional “rules” and can create a dyanmic and unusual composition that is semi-abstract. While this piece is unfinished, I actually like the way the white of the paper is mixed with the areas covered by paint. I may put in a few more washes of transparent color and layer a few more bright areas on some of the white paper, but will definitely leave part of it showing through as unfinished. I like the way you can see the development of the composition and objects through the construction lines. While this may not be preferable for a more formal painting, it is certainly acceptable for a sketch or study such as this.

This blog is one year old today

September 8, 2009
Herring Cove, plein air acrylic sketch on paper, 5x8 in.

Herring Cove, plein air acrylic sketch on paper, 5x8 in.

I started this blog one year ago today, Sept. 8, 2008. I’m amazed at how many visitors I’ve had from all over the world, with 23,700+ hits, I can’t help but wonder who you all are. One thing I promised myself when I started this was that I would try to write interesting and informative articles. There is no point writing a blog just for the sake of writing a blog, so I hope you’ve found the information helpful.

Moving forward I’ll continue to post class notes from my weekly classes and workshops, as well as commentary on topics like promoting your work with social media, identifying exhibit opportunities and general thoughts on drawing, painting and all forms of art. I’ll have more demos and of course will keep you up to date with my latest paintings, exhibits and course offerings, so I hope you’ll stay tuned and continue to visit my blog.

The back of my sketch pad…

May 17, 2009
study of light on glass, acrylic and pastel on cardboard, 12x18"

study of light on glass, acrylic and pastel on cardboard, 12x18"

A very quick study of light on green glass done on the back of my newsprint sketch pad. I like working with acrylic and pastel on cardboard, you can get great effects with the surface texture. I hope to incorporate much of this feeling into the large still life I am working on.

Mapping Out Composition

April 30, 2009

compositional study for large painting (30x40"), charcoal on newsprint
compositional study for large painting (30×40″), charcoal on newsprint

This is a study I did in preparation for beginning the large still life of glass objects. There are 34 separate elements in this composition, therefore a compositional study is absolutely necessary to map out how this will layout on the canvas.

I taped a large sheet of newsprint directly to the canvas I am going to use (it is still in its wrapper so the surface won’t get damaged or dirty). Using charcoal, I began mapping in the bottles, glasses and corks. The numbers indicate the sequence in which I placed objects. I did this for 2 reasons:

  1. it will assist me when I begin my under painting in that I can just follow what I did in the study in terms of establishing landmarks for proportion and placement
  2. it will be useful as a teaching tool since I’m often asked “where do you start?” especially on still lifes or urban landscapes that are highly complex

I will bring this with me to all of my classes this week. As I begin the painting on canvas, I’ll bring that along as well so students can see the work in progress and better understand the process.