by Armand Cabrera
I was in California this last week teaching a private one on one class with one of my students. We had a great time and painted all the sites around the central coast there in Monterey and Carmel.
One morning was spent at the mission. The property is still active and has tours all day long but we picked a spot against a wall to paint out of the way of the crowds.
I started with a careful drawing made with my number four brush and a thin wash of paint. The first thing for the drawing was to establish the longest axis of the mission ( in this case the Dome and tower) within my picture plane, this insures everything will fit into the picture. All my subsequent marks will be measured against this as proportions of its height
Once my drawing is done I check it and correct any inaccuracies before starting to paint.
Because I am looking into a bright foggy sky I establish my dark areas to keep me from painting the mission walls and foliage too light.
Next I work on the middle tones throughout the painting at this point in the day the fog is starting too lift and I have to bounce around the canvas more than usual while I wait for the light to stabilize.
I paint the larger shape of the plaza and paint the shapes of the details on the mission, leaving the rendering of their forms for a little later.
I fill in the sky and work on the garden areas surrounding the mission and the patterns in the plaza.
Just as the sun breaks through the fog, I finish up with the tree and plants and model the more precise architectural details on the mission and within the grounds. My total painting time is three hours.
Carmel Mission 12×16 oil on linen.
By Armand Cabrera
I had a great week of painting with my friend Paul Vosper who was out visiting from the Seattle area.
One day we drove up to Winchester and painted in Old town there. It was a beautiful spring day.
We were both drawn to this café scene of the Village Square Restaurant. They were just opening for the local lunch crowd so we set up and got right to painting.
First I made a relatively careful drawing of the scene. Scenes like this one require a more careful approach than your usual outdoor landscape painting. I decided on the placement of my larger shapes and marked those on the canvas.¬
Next I placed the elements in relation to my initial drawing.
Since most of the scene was in shadow I started blocking in my darkest shapes so I wouldn’t paint the rest of the shadow planes too dark.
I then proceeded to work around the canvas to establish the big color shapes of the various elements. Usually I just focus on the value and colors aspects at this stage having already locked in my drawing but in this case because the drawing was so complex I am correcting small errors in size shape and angle as I go.
As the lunch crowd arrives I place them for interest before going on with the rest of the painting. While patterns of light move through the scene I pick and choose their placement to enhance a sense of movement.
I finish with the trees and background buildings and tighten up the people. I let edges go where I think it is appropriate. The complete painting time is three hours. This painting will be the basis for a larger studio painting of the same scene.
The village Square 12×16 oil on linen
The bluebells are starting to peak around the Piedmont here and I had to get out and paint them while they last. They usually come and go in about 10 to 15 days. My two favorite spots are at the old stone bridge at Bull Run in The Manassas Battlefield and Riverbend Park on the Potomac in Great Falls. The Bull Run patch is much smaller than Riverbend Park but provides an intimate setting within the trees along the river. The painting time for this 16×20 was two hours.
In this scene everything is backlit, the sun is low in the sky and is moving from left to right as the sun sets. In a scene like this it is important to lock in shadow patterns and stick to them from the beginning as they will change in a matter of minutes.
I establish my horizon line and big anchor points first in the correct tone and color.
My goal is to cover the entire canvas in the first few minutes to get the color and value relationships that will be constantly shifting later as I paint. While I am willing to incorporate some changes that occur later it is important not to deviate too much or the strong sense of light and shadow is ruined.
Once I have the big shapes established, I start adding elements by designing them into the scene not just trying to copy their placement.
I want to use the colors of the bluebells and there leaves and the game trail that is leading away from me to weave back through the painting breaking up the verticals of the trees and the angles of their cast shadows.
I continue to add elements and refine the larger masses of the painting.
At this point the light has changed enough that I focus on the painting looking up occasionally for information from nature to resolve any passages that haven’t been resolved to my satisfaction.
The finished painting, Bull Run Bluebells 16×20 Oil on Linen
I’m back from my Texas trip painting for a week out in the hill country. The flowers were a little past peak in some areas but still spectacular.Here is a demo from one of my sketches.
My process is to mass in the averages for the big shapes and work towards the smaller shapes and more detail in the later stages of the painting. Complete painting time in a little over an hour.
Here is a photo of the scene when I started to paint. I’m actually a little to the left of where I set up.
I wanted to lock in the shadows first to preserve the light effects
The ground plane was my largest shape so I started there and then re-established the correct values for the trees after seeing it against the color I laid down for the grass
I worked the colors of the wild flowers into the grass colors and started modeling the two foreground trees.
The sky started to cloud up at this point so I designed my clouds into the scene.
I model the background trees and refined the sky a little more.
At this point I work all over the painting developing any unfinished elements and work to unify everything.
The finished painting 9×12 oil on linen
I painted this with my friend Jack at Riverbend Park here in Northern VA back when the Bluebells were peaking.
Same approach although I forgot to take pictures of the drawing portion of this demo. To busy talking with Jack and painting. Luckily he reminded me and I made sure to take pictures from that point on. The sun was in and out of cloud cover that morning which made it a little more challenging than usual. When things like that happen I just wait for the suns return and if it doesn’t I wipe the canvas and start over. Luckily the sun came out and stayed eventually.