Hazel Valley Overlook Demo


Armand Cabrera

This site is on my friend Palmer Smith’s Property. Palmer who is also an artist, is in the process of building a house at this site and this is the view from what will be his front yard. He was gracious enough to let me come out and paint. What attracts me to this scene is the energy of the lush spring growth here and the chance to paint the varied shades of green moving into the distance.

I start by quickly laying in the drawing with a large brush. I’ve already decided to leave out the deadfall on the right and continue the grasses and flowers in its place.

I’m not sure which way the sun is going to go so I block in my darks next, locking in the shadow shapes.

Working from the back I lay in my large masses of color and value in the dark and middle ranges.

I finish massing in with the lights in the trees

Working all over the painting I build forms and add details.

Right now the sky holes in the trees in the top left are too distracting for me. I want my center of interest toward the center of the painting just behind the road.

The finished painting
Hazel Valley Overlook 20×24 oil on linen
Painting time for this canvas was two hours.

Richmond Workshop Demo

by Armand Cabrera

I’m down with the flu, so this week’s post is a demo from my Richmond Workshop. I want to thank Cathy Ellis for taking and sending me these photos for use in the blog.

On the last day of the workshop we painted in Hollywood Cemetery which is located on a hilltop overlooking the James River in Richmond. It was a beautiful day with the leaves just starting to turn on some of the trees.

Because I was painting complex architecture and I would only have an hour for the demo, I did a small 10×8 canvas. I started with my drawing and realized I had gotten my proportions wrong so I had to wipe it off and start again even though I had 12 students watching me. I wanted to make sure they see the process and how important it is to get things right from the start.
The second take got me to be more careful and I got through the careful placement of my elements.

I was painting Major Lewis Ginter‘s mausoleum, a prominent historical figure of Richmond; I wanted the composition centered giving it a formal reverent feel.

Because the trees off to the left were beginning to cast shadows into the scene I painted the foliage and background first getting the big masses of color and shadows down and locked in.

When those elements were done I began painting the mausoleum itself. I focused on the shifts in color and value and ignored details.
I finish up by adjusting edges and completing the background elements.

Here is the finished painting. Although there were sweeping views overlooking the city of Richmond, I was drawn to this intimate scene of a part of life often ignored in paintings. I think it is important to always paint what moves you not necessarily a postcard scene of a place. The painting was purchased by one of my students who is with the Historical Society of Richmond on its completion.

16×20 Alla Prima Painting Demo

I’m back from my workshop in Amelia Island Florida which was a great success in spite of the crummy weather. Stayed in Charleston on the return trip and was unable to post to the blog last Sunday because of a lack of internet service. I will return to my weekly Sunday posting schedule following this post.

Monday I painted a 16×20 demo at Fort Clinch State Park and opened it up to the public. We had 13 people in the class and another 12 showed up in the rain to watch me paint. The last 45 minutes the rain got too heavy and we all ran inside where I finished the painting from memory. Here are a few pictures.


Starting with the line of action for the tree
Massing in the large shapes
50 degrees and light rain
Modelling the forms
Painting inside from memory. I would never do this for myself but it was a good lesson for the students on being flexible and not giving up on a painting.
The finished demo
The Old Oak 16×20
2 hours painting time
There is enough information here for me to paint a studio painting at a later time. Sometimes you can’t get a finished painting in the field but you can collect enough information for a great studio painting.
A field sketch will always have more truth than a photo will.

Firnew Farm Demo

Armand Cabrera

I had the pleasure of doing a demo for the art group at Firnew Farm Thursday afternoon. Trish Crowe was very gracious letting me come out to their beautiful property and paint, and I think we had about 40 people or more show up.

I chose a 24×36 canvas and the painting time for this demo was 3 hours.

The scene is the corn crib between the main house and Trish’s studio. Because the angle of the sun and its relationship to the scene I had fairly consistent light over the time I was painting.
I decided the placement and size of the elements for the painting. One of my decisions is to leave out the main house on the left since it would be cut in half on the canvas and be a distraction.
I quickly draw my scene and establish my shadow pattern. I am working fast because of the size of the canvas and my unfamiliarity of the place. I would normally paint a small sketch first to get a feel for the lighting shifts during the day before tackling something this size but I didn’t have time for that here.
After the drawing I block in everything with a middle shadow tone. I arrive at this tone by squinting to get just the big shapes of color and value.
I proceed to finish the painting in the time I have left, adjusting values and adding the lights and information to the initial masses.
The Corn Crib 24 x36, oil on canvas. Although this demo is looser than I usually paint I have captured the light and essence of the scene. I can now use this as a basis for a studio version knowing the colors and values will be accurate something a photo could never give me.

Butterfly Garden Demo

Armand Cabrera

The images for this article are from one of my demos at the Acadia Workshop I taught out near Bass Harbor. I demo everyday in my workshops so the students can see how I solve problems not just hear me talk about it.
Gail Ribas the owner of Acadia Workshops has a great venue and the locations are all beautiful. She has a big well lit studio for inclement days. We had a class of 9 students. We’ve scheduled another class   for next fall, Sept 19-23 and I already have a couple of students planning to be there.

For me, the trip was a dream come true, on the way up I stayed in Gloucester for two nights near Rocky Neck. I had perfect weather and got a painting in the one full day I was there. I visited the Cape Ann Museum and and got some pictures of motiff number one in Rockport so I can do my painting of it at a later date.
 Stapleton Kearns was very helpful suggesting places to visit. Once in Maine I actually got to meet Stapleton one evening after my class and he let me hang out with him and his group while they were painting in Acadia Park.

This demo is from Charlotte Rhoades Park in Southwest Harbor five minutes from the workshop center.I want to thank Wyn Easton for taking these photos of me during the painting process. Diane is always after me to photograph my demos but I can demo and talk or demo and photograph but I can’t demo, talk and photograph at the same time.

The garden club has a beautiful butterfly garden in full bloom and I always find it a treat to paint. The challenge is to not get lost in too much detail and preserve the big divisions of light and shadow in the scene. This kind of motif can easily be distracting because of all of the saturated color and lack of solid forms.

I spent a few minutes observing and deciding what I was going to move around for my painting and how I would place the elements I wanted in the image.

I started with a simple contour drawing of the big masses as I saw them.

I then blocked in the average shadows being sensitive to hue changes for the different plants and shrubs.

I continue to block all the big shapes in preserving their relative brightness to sun and shadow.

At the very last stages of the painting I refine shapes, adjust values and add the flowers and some detail being careful not to lose the lights. The biggest mistake I see people make painting scenes like this is they get confused by the blooms and fail to preserve their sense of light.

The finished painting ‘Butterfly Garden’ 12×16 oil on linen painting time two hours.