Artists have many words to describe it: notan, value study, underlying abstract patterns, compositional plans - a painting needs to have "good bones." I've talked about doing small value studies before, so have a lot of artists, but I thought I could show you how I take the value study further in the development of a painting.
Here is the underlying bone structure for my painting Walton Lake Trail:
Working quickly, I used a thinned wash of dark transparents with a round brush, scrubbing the color onto the surface with light gesture movements - thinking where are the dark masses, and what did I want this painting to say. This is like working in charcoal for me, additive and reductive, putting it on and wiping it off until I'm happy with the result.
Tip: For this painting I used a loose mixture of green umber, transparent oxide brown, and ultramarine blue. The oxide brown (Daniel Smith) dilutes to a rich dark orange/red that is less intense than oxide red, allowing me to push the color later with the reds. You may prefer other colors, but keep to the transparents as they allow the white of the canvas to shine through, much like watercolor.
Here is an image of the finished painting (read about it here):
Walton Lake Trail, oil on linen, 11 x 14
I've found that it's much easier to bring a painting to a good finish when I'm excited and confident about the composition. All I have to concentrate on is defining the forms, the quality of the light, color and interesting brushwork.
Here is another example, using my newest painting Yellow Rabbitbrush:
For this painting I knew the challenge would be the center of interest area, where the twigs and grasses created intricate patterns of light against dark. After using the gesture approach to get the larger mass, I wiped out/drew in the stems with a q-tip. I knew that many of these lines would disappear in the final painting, but there would still be opportunities I could exploit.
Tip: After reading a post by Kevin Courter on Facebook, on how he uses frames to evaluate his work during the painting process, I now place my painting in a frame at this early stage. It is very helpful in evaluating the effectiveness of my design.
Yellow Rabbitbrush, oil on linen, 12 x 16
Painting is always full of risks. This process helps you manage them with more confidence.
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Happy Announcement: I was recently awarded Signature Status in Women Artists of the West. Look for a mention of the upcoming national show, WAOWing the Texas Hill Country at the HS Hanna Gallery, in the November issue of Southwest Art. I'm thrilled that my artwork was included in the Spotlight section about the show.
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