Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Learning Landscapes

I love landscapes, but haven't had much of a chance to practice the painting technique. The challenge for me is getting my head around the color value choices that allow one object in the painting to appear in the foreground while another seems to be pushed way back into the distance. Since most of my work is essentially bird portraiture, this is not something I regularly think about when painting and I haven't worked with it enough for it to feel natural yet.

Although I well remember the classic exercises in art class where you draw a series of mountains going off into the distance and the mountains become bluer and fade as they progress, those always seemed to be stereotypical mountains. What happens when the distant mountains are not all that distant and are covered in dried grasses (warm colors) rather than trees (cool colors that lend themselves to distance)? I suppose the next question would be why would I choose such a subject when I'm just a beginner at this. I have to learn to crawl and then walk before I can run, right? Well, I've always been stubborn like that.

Anyway, while Paul and I were essentially homeless this summer we took a road trip across the country and one morning we had the good fortune to go to Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota. I know North Dakota ends up being the butt of a lot of jokes and people look at me funny when I say it is beautiful there, but it is! We had a wonderful time in the park (stay tuned for future posts on that), the wildlife and scenery was so inspiring and I knew that eventually I'd be using my reference photos for some paintings.

So here I am, twiddling my thumbs waiting to hear back on the countless job applications I've filled out in the last few weeks. What a perfect time to put all of that nervous energy to work! I also had some Claybord laying around that I was just looking for an excuse to try out.


Everything was in place but it lacked depth. (The trees also looked suspiciously like evergreens, not cottonwoods.) Time to think about my color values.


Hopefully this version has more depth, with the river, trees and hills falling visually
into foreground, mid ground and background.

I'm not sure the study is actually done yet. I may still go back and change a few things, but you hopefully see the difference (and some improvement) between the two versions. I had fun with this and hope to do more again soon.

And now some thoughts on painting on Claybord -

1). Prime it! Even though the Claybord is essentially already primed, I paint using very thin washes of acrylic and that pure white background just shown through my first few layers like a light. Next time I will use a good layer of mid-tone grey before starting my painting.

2). I liked working on something with a good solid back and being able to pick it up while I was painting on it. I know a lot of painters work on masonite for the same reason, but I haven't tried that yet. I've worked on canvas panel before and although that's solid, it does have a tendency to warp a little with use.

3). I don't actually know if this is a function of the Claybord or of the extremely dry environment we're now living in, but my paint layers dried almost instantly. Sometimes I didn't have time to move the paint around on the surface before it dried. Also, sometimes when I painted a new layer on top, some of the previous layer lifted off a little. Again, I don't know if that was the climate or the Claybord.

I'd be interested to know anyone else's experiences with painting on Claybord, and your thoughts on landscape painting as well. Thanks!

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