Monday, July 30, 2012

Wild Horses of Nevada

I realize that Nevada is not the only state to have wild horses.  According to Wild Horse Facts at  "Wild horses in North America live on islands off the Atlantic coast, as well as on the mainland. Small populations of horses live on Sable Island (Canada), Assateague Island (coast of Maryland and Virginia), Shackleford Island (off the coast of North Carolina) and Cumberland Islands (off the coast of Georgia). As well as the following western states including Nevada, Wyoming, Utah, Oregon, California, Colorado, Idaho, Arizona, Montana, North Dakota and New Mexico."

Nevada is however the state with the largest population of wild horses and burros and so it isn't uncommon to be treated to a sighting of these magnificent creatures when driving anywhere in the state.  Several months ago, Brad and I took the opportunity to take a drive to Goldfield and while out exploring the area just North we came upon a small herd of wild horses.  We took some great pictures of them and I knew that I would be painting wild horses very soon.  

Today was the day and so I pulled out a 24 x 36 inch canvas and started working on my composition.  As you can see by my painting in progress shot, the work has only just begun.  This particular mare in the photograph that I am working from appeared to be an Appaloosa I believe at the time of our visit she had a young colt following her.  I love the angle of the photo and the two lone Joshua Trees in the background.

I have only roughed in the background and sketched my mare in with pencil.  I am struggling with the vast openness of this canvas and just how to make the composition interesting.  I believe that I am going to make the mare larger and add that colt so that the idea of how that generations of wild horses have been roaming the desert of Nevada for over 100 year.

Here are a few more pictures that we took of this herd.

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.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Painting lessons

I think there comes a time in the evolution of artistic growth that you have to receive actual lessons from other successful artists. Today is that day for me. I feel that to accelerate my skill to a higher level, it is necessary to take some lessons and so I have schedule a session with a wonderful local artist, Lily Adamczyk. To check out her work, just follow this link to her gallery album.

Her skill in painting landscapes far exceeds my own and so I am looking forward to my 2 hour painting session with her today. She asked me last night what I wanted to work on during my lesson today and my reply was that I needed to improve specific landscape elements such as water, rocks and clouds. I really feel that I am going to learn a great deal from Lily and so I am going to blog each week about my lessons and share my accomplishments. Right now I'm looking at a blank canvas, white and empty but full of potential. My Saturday stretches before me and I can only dream of that completed piece that will soon emerge. I think that is the magic of painting...the possibility of transforming that blank canvas into a work of art.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Joshua Trees are not Trees

You can't consider capturing the rugged beauty of the Mojave Desert without at some point making a study of the Joshua Tree...I always considered that the Joshua tree to be part of the cactus family. I mean the desert is full of cactus and succulents and you would assume that this spiny tree must fit in there some where. This morning I am waking up in Yucca Valley, California after a night of heavy rain, inspired by the raw beauty of the Joshua Tree that is standing outside my room. I hadn't noticed that the spines actually have a blue green tint with just a hint of silver, rather than what my memory sees as a much darker shade of green, almost an olive green.

After consulting the Joshua Tree National Forest website, which I would consider to be a very reliable source, I learned that for many years the Joshua Tree was considered to be part of the lily family. Who would have guessed that one? As I read on I find that recently, some really smart people, working from some government grant obviously, decided to test that assumption and after some DNA testing we are now educated and informed because the Joshua Tree is really part of the Agave family. This information confirms what I have always known in my heart....The Joshua Tree can't be a lily!

Regardless of the genealogy, surname or classification, the Joshua Tree is a main feature in the landscape in the desert that I call home. You won't paint many desert landscapes without having to consider the irregular and spiny shape of this desert plant along with it's very close relative, the Yucca. Both plants have beautiful spears covered with greenish white flowers in the spring. I found this website to be very informative and covered the very interesting details about where it got it's name and the important relationship it has with the yucca moth.

Early in my return to painting I tried to capture a scene at beautiful Red Rock State park. I'm inspired today to reprint this scene because in the past two years of constant painting, I have improved my techniques.

Here is a more recent painting that I have completed that contains a yucca plant in it.