Sunday, July 22, 2012

What I learned in my first painting lesson

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of taking my first real painting lesson.  I wasn't sure what was expected, so I took not only a blank canvas, but a quick painting that I had started recently.  I thought it would be a good idea to ask her opinion on the piece.  Of course, when you ask a fellow artist for an opinion, you have to be ready to receive an answer.  She started out with "Your mountains look good, BUT..."  then followed about 10 items that I had done incorrectly.  I watched as she made some changes with her brush and knew she was pointing out the things I too have criticized about my own work.  Below, I have included a before and after the lesson and then summarized many of the things I learned.  I would love to hear if you find any of this helpful.

1.  With large bodies of water you have to break it up to make the composition interesting.  The farther the water is away the darker it will appear.  Never use white unless you are painting waves with foam like you would see when painting an ocean scene.  Adding white to many of the bright colors result in not brightening but rather causing a graying of the color.  With water it is better to paint lines of lighter blue.  Cobalt and Cerulean make a nice color for the water for the closer to the shore but Ultramarine Blue is a wonderful color to paint the water in the distance.  Always paint water strokes horizontal to the horizon.
2.  The detail on the distant shore like should be more impressionistic.  In this painting, my shore line is too straight and the trees are too even.  Adding blue highlights to the distant shore gives the appearance of the distance
3.  My clouds were mixed with White, Paynes Gray and Cerulean Blue.  Lily recommended that I mix a purple gray shade for contrasting clouds.  She mixed a very small amount of Alizorin Crimson with Cerulean Blue and white.  The smallest touch of Paynes Gray gave a light shade of gray purple color that made my clouds pop.  The clouds also were too uniform and needed variation of the edges with break offs.  Lily referred to a tickling the clouds as she painted and then used a hake brush to blend dark to light with light sweeping strokes.
4.  Compositional the dead tree that extends from the bottom of the canvas takes away from the painting by drawing your eyes down to the edge.  Lily immediately began taking the lower portion of the tree away by painting the lake water and rocks over that area.   It was decided to leave the upper portion of the tree and add some sparse foliage to add to the feeling that the tree is dying.  This change allowed the reflection of the trees in the water to better be seen.
5.  The trees on the distant shore would not have such a highlights so we removed them and made the shore line irregular in shape.
6.  Over and over I have tried to break my habit of painting rocks that look smooth and round like all rocks on the earth's crust have been polished smooth by the ocean.  Lily pointed out that the shadow from the trees would result in just dark shapes of the rocks and not highlighting.  Also we broke up the rocks by creating sharp edges and removing the white highlighting.  She would paint dark paint with an angle brush, then use lighter painting to focus the edges of the rocks and then again with the dark to establish the bottom and cracks in each rock. I also learned that a good dirt color contains yellow.  Burnt Sienna, yellow, paynes gray and white will make a really good dirt color.
7.  The original rocks that I had painted and that extended out into the water appeared to be magically floating on the water surface.  We painted a group of them out but decided that a little grouping of rocks jetting out of the water added interested and broke the water up in the composition.  Lily shared a trick of painting the rock and then coming back in and cutting the rock by adding the water line about 2/3 down.  This allowed the remainder of the rock below the surface to appear as a reflection.  Then you come back in and add horizontal lines to across the reflection to give the appearance of water shimmering.  We also painted a number of very small rocks where the water and shore line met to give the impression of a rocky shoreline.
8.  The island needed to extend out to give the appearance of depth.  We added an additional line of rocks that gives the impression of the island extending on around rather than ending in a sharp edge.

The final result is what I believe to be a much better painting.  I'm just SO excited to be taking lessons and can't wait to work on the new oil painting that I started.

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