Every Spring I make a point of painting the bluebells when they come out and bloom. They never last more than a few days once they peak and so depending on the weather you can miss them completely if you don’t check on them. I know every April I need to make a trip to my bluebell spots and see what kind of a year it will be.
This year they weren’t as thick as in years past but they were still good enough to paint. I set up at my favorite spot at the Manassas Battlefield, the path along the stone Bridge at Bull Run.
The afternoon light is my favorite for this spot because I’m looking into the sun and everything is backlit on a sunny day. I found a place not too far off the trail and got to work.
The first thing I did was to establish the tree line.
Next I blocked in a medium tone for the bare trees in the distance.
Then I blocked in the ground plain keying it to my tree color.
Now using the scene I design the trunks of the trees in my middle and foreground. I want to vary their placement angle and individual widths so they aren’t too static.
I move to the background again and start designing my sky holes in the background tree color already on the board. Once I have that in I carefully move forward in the picture plane marking key elements like the color of the bushes in the understory and the trail through the flowers.
With my big shapes locked in I start modelling the areas building a sense of light and form to the individual elements without obliterating my groundwork for the structure of the painting.
I spend the last 45 minutes unifying the whole picture adding details where it enhances the mood simplifying areas that distract from the feel.
The finished painting, ‘Battlefield Bluebells,’ 12 x 16, oil on board. The total working time was 2 hours from start to finish.
Summer is here. It’s not just the excessive heat and oppressive humidity and proliferation of insect life that we have to deal with. Once again and many people are dealing with summer greens. I’ve covered this subject quite a bit in earlier posts and while those ideas may overlap with some presented here, I think there is always something to add to these types of discussions.
When I teach, the biggest problem I see with people painting a monochromatic landscape is artists ignore the forms of objects robbing their subject of some of its subtle diversity. Light and shadow are always important but especially in a monochromatic setting.
A limited color setting turns the focus to other painting aspects. It raises the importance of lighting (value) and shape (design). It becomes more about how you organize what you are seeing. This is because we can rarely mimic with any accuracy the visual range presented to us in nature. With less variety the limitations of pigment become exaggerated. Remember careful choices in subjects will lead to better painting outcomes.
Whenever you have areas of light and shadow in a painting you have an opportunity to introduce color shifts relative to the surrounding area by paying attention to all of the aspects of color, hue, value, chroma and relative temperature. It is possible to tease out more interest from a subtle painting, heightening its impact. Bright sunny days will give you a greater range of value for your contrast overcast or cloudy days will give you more chance for subtle shifts.
Shape and pattern help add interest in monochromatic paintings when the colors are subtle and similar. When you are using patterns, think about using small shapes against big shapes varying your brushwork accordingly. Large marks against smaller tighter marks and hard edges and against softer ones.
The concept should drive your choices for the painting. Design helps to decide on the approach to the subject and composition is your arrangement and editing of the pieces. Together they all allow for something that permits you to capture the unique essence of that time and place on canvas.
One of my favorite times of the year is finally here. Spring is slowly taking hold again which means it’s time for bluebells. They only last a few days in early spring so if you live in Virginia get out and see them while you can. Today was a beautiful day with temps in the 70’s. I went to one of my favorite bluebell spots The bridge at Bull Run in the Manassas Battlefield. This year did not disappoint.
I set up and decided to try a 16 x 20 canvas. A little large for the angle of the light and subject but it’s good to push yourself in the field.
After deciding on my subject I started to draw the landmarks with a big brush.
Next, I quickly blocked in the large flat poster shapes for my background middle and foreground locking in the lights and shadows for the image.
Working all over the canvas I started to pick out important details and add them to the mix.
I established my darks and strengthened my color in the places I thought it needed more emphasis.
I weave in colors to give the impression of branches and leaves and refine more of my shapes.
I continue to refine shapes color and edges.
The finished painting Bull Run Spring 16 x 20 oil. Total painting time 3 hours.
Between 6 to 9 pm, I will start and finish a larger painting from a small sketch at the gallery as part of their First Friday Gallery Events in Old Town Leesburg. The address is:
The Cooley Gallery
9 North King Street
There is no charge for this event.
This will be the small sketch from which I will be painting.