Painting Autumn Color

Armand Cabrera
Painting autumn color can be challenging. It is important to remember the relative intensity of color and not get caught up in using pure pigments for representation unless it is actually needed to describe the scene. Back lit scenes in sunlight  are very intense but again, think of everything in relation to what’s around it. For that intensity to be effective there must be areas of less saturated color or the intensity is lost.



To help find the proper intensity of a color it is important to consider its other attributes, hue and value. All three parts make up the color you are seeing and so all three aspects should be carefully considered in relationship to the surrounding areas and the rest of the picture as a whole.
It also helps to decide through careful observation in general, where the intensity lies. Is it in the shadow or the lights? By deciding this ahead of time you are keying the pictures intensity to one or the other giving you a stronger arrangement to work with.
Sometimes the limitations of paint call for a creative solution to translating the scene to your canvas. In cases where it is impossible to get the color accurate in all three aspects, I make a design decision about which attribute is most important and then hold that as close to what I am seeing in nature as possible and shift the other two aspects to give me a closer representation of the effect.
This may mean shifting the hue of a red, green or yellow to preserve its value and chroma so it reads correctly in the scene. Or it could mean shifting the chroma to something less intense while preserving the value.These decisions need awareness so a little extra effort on our part is called for to get the most from our painting during this time of year.

2014 Armand Cabrera Workshops

I am teaching two workshops this year the first will be in Highlands North Carolina at The Bascom Center for the Visual Arts.  My workshop, Practical Solutions for Painting Anything will focus on helping artists improve their skills to translate the beauty in the world around them into paintings. The class time will be split between working in the studio and working from life.  The dates are Monday through Friday August 11 to 15; hours are 10 AM to 4 PM

In September this year I will be in Southwest Harbor, Maine at the Acadia Workshop Center   Again the focus is on both Studio and Outdoor Painting. My workshop Successful Paintings for Any Level will be 4 days Monday through Thursday September 8 – 11, hours 9 AM to 4:30 PM.

These workshops have been designed by me to make each student better at what they do, not blindly copy my style of painting. I believe each artist has a unique way of seeing the world and expressing themselves. My job and my responsibilities as a teacher are to preserve that unique expression and strengthen the students skill sets, giving them more choices to explore their creative vision. 

Color Opportunities in Painting

Armand Cabrera
I’ve talked about looking for color opportunities in your paintings in passing before but people ask me how do you go about seeing more color? Like everything else color sensitivity can be acquired with focus and practice. The best way to learn about color is to paint directly from life outdoors. While working indoors is better than working from photos, it is still constricted to the variety nature has to offer.
an example of manipulating hues
The intensity of the light and its direction, the quality of the atmosphere outside provide so many more choices for your paintings than any other way of working. In fact there are so many choices  outdoor work forces them to be made and it informs us about relationships of colors we could never calculate in the studio on our own. By focusing your attention on color and color relationships outdoors you will become more sensitive toward seeing colors.
an example of manipulating chroma and hue
For you to introduce color opportunities into your work the structure of the painting must be well grounded. To do this you must prioritize the aspects of color for each image you paint. Be aware that colors and their aspects are not isolated but that they interact with everything else in the scene. The success of your color depends on your ability to recognize what you see and translate the essence of that experience, filtering out the unnecessary or unimportant. This is where designing the idea of the painting helps you. Design is imposing structure and limitations on what you see to create a more powerful statement than just strict mimesis would allow. By consciously deciding what approach is best for a particular subject you improve its impact.
an example of manipulating values
The aspects of color you have at your disposal are Value, Hue and Chroma. If you understand this you can decide which aspect dominates the scene you are looking at. This is where the decision process allows color choices to be made and insures your choices are unique to your way of thinking. If you decide the values need to be maintained then the opportunities for color are with your hues or chroma; if the hues or chroma are being maintained then the opportunities are with values.  In my opinion a good painter reveals their process of seeing the world through these decisions.  Outdoor work gives you the largest possible set of combinations and relationships to pick from and prioritize with and that is why field work is important and must be continued throughout a career.

Painting in Crowded Public Areas

Armand Cabrera
Painting in crowded public areas can be challenging, these public spaces are a little different than just painting outdoors in places where you have little contact with other people.
I’m lucky that when I started painting outdoors many years ago. I was living in Napa California and so got used to being surrounded by crowds of people as I worked. There were no places you could go in the Napa Valley without attracting onlookers.  I quickly developed the ability to paint and talk to people and now I enjoy meeting people while I paint.  I can generally stay pleasant while working as long as people are not overly rude or clueless about respecting my personal space.
I have never understood any artist who gets upset with bystanders interested in their art, especially when that painter is so visible and chooses such a public location in the first place. I’ve even witnessed bad behavior at Plein Air events by artists who obviously didn’t belong there snapping at quiet onlookers. My rule of thumb is to keep your bad attitude at home. If you don’t like or can’t handle communication while you paint then go paint in a more remote location where you can expect very little interaction while you work.
Part of the key to being in very public areas is keeping a small footprint. When a place is overly populated its best to not have too much gear where distracted people might not notice it and end up tripping over it or stepping on it.
In areas that get a lot of traffic I use a smaller setup, this way I can carry all of my gear in a small backpack. This includes my palette/ pochade box, all my paints and brushes, paint scraper , utility tool, mineral spirits and brush washer, a tripod, a small stool (if I choose to sit) paper towels, garbage bags, food and water, sketchbook, business cards and fliers, sunscreen, bug spray, rain poncho,  nightlight and up to 6 to 10 panels depending on the size. That number of panels is more than enough for a day of outdoor painting. Anything that can be ruined by getting wet goes into a ziploc plastic bag.
Whether I stand or sit when I set up, I place everything between me or directly under my easel so that no one can step on it or trip over it. If I’m not using something it stays in the pack not spread out all over the ground around me. When I take something out I put it back in the same spot so I know where to find it. By staying organized I get to spend my time painting not rummaging for something in my pack. By keeping things in their place until I need them it also allows me to pack up and break down very quickly.
Here is what it looks like all spread out on the floor. Total weight for this is only 20 lbs. including the pack. It is light enough that I can go on an extended hike and have everything I need for a days’ worth of painting.