Friday, May 31, 2019

30 Days of Value Thumbnails - Day 30

mini painting color study clouds and trees in the park May 28 2019
Mini color study, "Long Stretch", 3x4 oil on paper

I liked how the fluffy clouds stretched all the way across this view, combined with the simple shapes of the tree masses and grassy areas. As I painted them into my color study, I realized they were shaped quite a bit like snow-capped mountains.

One of my goals with this scene was to experiment with color mixing to get richer, more intense lights on the grass in the foreground. Sometimes my mixes get cooler and duller than I aim for and I wanted to try pushing it a bit. My eyes definitely play tricks on me when it comes to reading color intensity and value.

I'd change a few things if I worked with this scene again. One would be to decide if it's about the sky or about the land because currently it's basically cut in half across the middle, which I don't like. Another would be to create a greater value difference between the near trees and the distant trees, and take another look at the temperature of the near tree mass.

But overall there's a lot I like about this mini study! It's a scene I could definitely see playing around with it more and creating other variations.

Block-in using ultramarine blue, ultramarine violet, and transparent earth red on toned surface
Reference photo of a local park with early evening clouds
Value thumbnail of simple shapes
Black and white value check of my color study

Thursday, May 30, 2019

30 Days of Value Thumbnails - Day 29

mini painting color study grasses and trees in the park May 27 2019
Mini color study, "Soft and Fluffy", 3x4 oil on paper

I'm obsessed with mixing summer greens so I chose another photo from my pile that features trees and grasses. I also wanted to continue experimenting with cast shadows — making them more interesting and nuanced than a solid color, and making the color more intense where the shadow and light areas meet.

For my block-in colors, I incorporated burnt umber and ended up with some violet-brown mixes that I really like. It helps bring some warmth to the predominantly cool temperature of the study.

To create color harmony, I started by mixing few main color puddles and modified their value, temperature, and intensity based on their location around the composition. My main mixes included green, yellow-green, blue, and red-violet.

Block-in using burnt umber, alizarin permanent, ultramarine blue, and transparent earth red

Reference photo from a nearby park

Value thumbnail of simple shapes

Black and white value check of my color study

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

30 Days of Value Thumbnails - Day 28

mini painting color study evening sun on roadside trees May 26 2019
Mini color study, "Last Glimpse of the Sun", 3x4 oil on paper

Many of the country roads here in NC are thickly lined with trees, and always tempt me to pull over and take pictures when I'm out and about. But it's often hard to find a good spot to pull over. One evening I was on my way home and the sun was setting, illuminating the sides of some trees and part of the gravel road with bright, warm light. Lucky for me there was an ideal place to park and jump out for a few shots. I only got a couple of them taken before the sun went behind the trees and the light became much less interesting.

For my block-in colors, I thought about the primary value and temperature of each simple shape. It's starting to sink in that one of the benefits of a block-in is to have some color on the surface to respond to. I noticed that when I applied the first dark greens to the trees on the left, it looked relatively appropriate. But when I did the same thing with the tree on the right, the color was much too light. Which makes sense — the main tree mass on the left was blocked in lighter than I intended. (One of my big struggles with trees is that I swing back and forth between being too dark and too light.)

But I really like how the tree forms are modeled, so that feels like a win! The greens get more intense and slightly lighter as they get hit by more light, and I feel like they have a good sense of being in direct sun without losing the overall shape or getting disjointed.

Block-in using transparent earth red, ultramarine blue, alizarin permanent, and Winsor Lemon

I love the composition of this thumbnail and the mix of shapes — it would be a good candidate for turning into a larger painting.

Reference photo taken on the way home one evening as the sun was setting behind the trees

Value thumbnails of simple shapes

Black and white value check of my color study

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

30 Days of Value Thumbnails - Day 27

mini painting color study structure in the park May 25 2019
Mini color study, "Sun Seeker", 3x4 oil on paper

At the park where I took photos recently, there's a farm building from when the land was used for farming. I liked the way it was peeking out from behind this large tree, like it was trying to find the sun.

With this subject, I wanted to play with the colors in the shadows being cast in the foreground area. Instead of just plain dark, cool green, I used several colors of the same value including a cool grey, red-violet, and green. And at the edge of the shadow, where the light starts to hit it, I used a more intense green in a value between the grass and shadow shapes. Things got rather muddied up because I kept making adjustments to my colors, but I see the potential for some interesting things there.

I also thought more about color harmony, and how to unify the colors by using the same hues throughout the painting and adjusting their value, temperature, and intensity based on their location. So I mixed starter piles of blue, green, red-orange, and red-violet and tried to intermix with those piles rather than making all new mixes when I needed a different color.

Block-in using transparent earth red, ultramarine blue, and alizarin permanent

After getting my colors blocked in, I didn't like how there was a big open space right in the middle so I added another small tree on the left. It helped it a little, but this composition could use some additional exploration if I made a larger painting of it.

Monday, May 27, 2019

30 Days of Value Thumbnails - Day 26

mini painting color study roadside grasses and trees May 24 2019
Mini color study, "Just Passing Through", 3x4 oil on paper

I was driving home one evening and noticed strong low-sun light making these trees and grasses glow with warm colors. And the effect was heightened by some clouds that were passing through, but didn't drop any rain on us. I love the contrast between the warm light and cool clouds.

Before mixing up my colors, I blocked in the trees and grasses with a combination of transparent earth red and alizarin permanent, following my value thumbnail. I like how this warm underpainting color helped harmonize everything.

Photo reference taken by some roadside grasses and trees with evening light and a hint of dark clouds
Value thumbnail of simple shapes
Black and white value check of my color study

Sunday, May 26, 2019

30 Days of Value Thumbnails - Day 25

mini painting color study tree in the park May 23 2019
Mini color study, "Golden Light on the Meadow", 3x4 oil on paper

My main focus with today's mini color study was to incorporate violets and mauves with the greens in the landscape. And building off of yesterday's success with the tree underpainting, I wanted to experiment with a more colorful block-in. Since the main tree was in shadow, I used a cool green color for the underpainting, and a red-violet in the shadow area of the foreground.

Colorful block-in

But I really missed the warmth that the transparent earth red added to the tree. This cool green wasn't as interesting with the other colors in the tree, since it basically blended in and didn't add any contrast. A red-violet or burgundy might be good options to try. The red-violet peeking out from the lower portion is much more interesting to me. And during my searching around for a good sunlight-on-the-grasses color, I obliterated the red underpainting there.

One of my favorite things about exploring soft pastels is how pastelists seem to get much more adventurous with their block-ins/underpaintings. I'm not sure why that would be — perhaps there's a big reason oil painters do it differently that I just haven't discovered yet. It sure is a fun topic to play with though!

Reference photo from a local park
Value thumbnail of simple shapes
Black and white value check of my color study

Saturday, May 25, 2019

30 Days of Value Thumbnails - Day 24

mini painting color study tree by path in the park May 22 2019
Mini color study, "Guarding the Path", 3x4 oil on paper

I'm really happy with today's mini color study! It's a very simple scene, but I think my value thumbnail was particularly effective, and my color mixing worked great for the most part. I did a quick block-in of the tree and cast shadow with a mix of transparent earth red and ultramarine blue which introduced a dark, warm reddish orange into the greens that I like.

Two areas I'd work on next time are the cast shadow along the path and grass, and the value contrast on the right side. It got a little sticky there because as I added the sunlit area to the main tree, it became the same value as the more distant trees. I could try going a bit lighter with the distant trees and a bit darker with sunlight on the big tree — I don't think it would take much of a shift, but just enough to make that area more clear.

Reference photo from a local park
Value thumbnail of simple shapes
Black and white value check of my color study

Friday, May 24, 2019

30 Days of Value Thumbnails - Day 23

mini painting color study trees in the park May 21 2019

For this mini color study I selected a double complementary (rectangular tetrad) color scheme of yellow-green, blue-green, red-violet, and red-orange. These are basically the colors I see in the reference photo I took, but by giving myself that parameter to work within I found it much easier to make color decisions. It was another way to help me avoid attempts to match the colors in the photo and instead focus on making them the right value, intensity, and temperature.

One of my favorite moments with mixing the colors was when I put the muted red-orange on the sunlit grasses. That small touch made that area so much more interesting than before I placed it.

I tried suggesting sky holes in the treeline in the background, but mostly just muddied up the deep, cool green I had going there. Aside from that, I think the colors in this one are much closer to the feeling of summer trees than some of my recent studies.

Reference photo taken one evening in a local park
Value thumbnail of simple shapes
Black and white value check of my color study

Thursday, May 23, 2019

30 Days of Value Thumbnails - Day 22

mini painting color study clouds at the park May 20 2019
Mini color study, "Whipped Cream", 3x4 oil on paper

Based on another photo I took in the local park, this study is focused on the colors in the cloud formations. I took some notes when I was on location, but forgot to reference them when mixing my colors. I like the way the warm and cool grays subtly contrast with each other. It's amazing how much color variety is possible with paints that look virtually white on the palette!

I've been noticing that even though mixing warmer, more orange greens it helps create a sense of light on the trees while limiting the value shifts, it also makes it feel like autumn trees. Doing this study helped prompt me to explore ways to show light on summer trees that I'm excited to try out.

I'd also like to devote some time at some point to painting cloud shapes, really looking at them to understand light and shadow as well as learning how to hold the brush to get the look I want.

Reference photo of early evening clouds
Value thumbnail of simple shapes

Black and white value check of my color study

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

30 Days of Value Thumbnails - Day 21

mini painting color study clouds over NC Museum of Art May 19 2019
Mini color study, "Sky Art at the Museum", 3x4 oil on paper

A few months after moving to North Carolina, I was finally feeling just settled enough to do some exploring, and one of the first places on my list was the North Carolina Museum of Art. In addition to a great collection of paintings, the museum is located on a huge piece of land with outdoor sculptures and walking paths. I love how they've blended the experience of fine art with nature and created a very holistic experience. It's hard not to feel uplifted and more centered after a visit there.

During this first visit, the weather was too warm to be walking outdoors for very long, but I did get to see some nice fluffy clouds and great vistas. For this value thumbnail I wanted to create a lighter, more airy sky, consistent with what I felt when I was actually there. The photo I took makes the clouds look darker and heavier than I remember them, and the land is overly dark as well.

I simplified my clouds and used colors to create a peaceful, dreamy quality…with no sense of urgency, as if you have all the time in the world to watch the clouds pass by and there's nowhere you'd rather be. To convey the warmth of the day, the colors of the trees and grasses have a warm, somewhat hazy quality. I feel like I could do an infinite number of studies just on clouds, playing with the color of the light and shadows to express different ideas.

A couple of things I'd do differently next time: make the distant trees a little lighter so they separate from the closer mass of trees and are the same value as the grass area, and connect the sky to the land more by bringing color from one into the other.

Reference photo from the North Carolina Museum of Art
Value thumbnail of simple shapes

I handled the values in this study a bit differently from how I normally do it by keeping the light and mid light close together on the scale, and the mid dark and dark close together. I like how this gave me more room to play in the sky while keeping the land areas simpler by lowering the contrast there. I'd like to explore this style of value relationships more and remember that the values don't have to step evenly up the scale.

Black and white value check of my study

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

30 Days of Value Thumbnails - Day 20

mini painting color study evening in Carroll Joyner Park May 18 2019
Mini color study, "Early Evening in the Park", 3x4 oil on paper

After a few days of overcast skies, I got extremely lucky when I went to a local park one evening to take some reference photos. The sky had amazing clouds full of subtle, early evening colors, and the light hit the sides of the trees, casting long shadows on the ground. It was exactly what I was hoping for! I was grateful that the timing worked and I could get out to appreciate all of the beauty.

While taking photos, I stopped at this grouping of trees to do my value thumbnail. With the sun low in the sky, I considered breaking the trees into two values: dark for the shadow side and mid dark for the sunlit sides. In the end I chose to keep them single value shapes so I could distinguish them from the more distant tree line.

As I tested out my colors on my little 3x4 paper, I had to remind myself that this was a study in value, color, and composition — not a portrait of a tree. I was definitely not striving for gumdrop trees! I did work on suggesting form in the trees by warming up the greens and lightening the values somewhat as they faced the low sun. But I was mindful not to introduce too much value contrast and destroy the overall form of the trees.

I used the swatch tester again, and am finding it super helpful for keeping my value areas where I want them.

Value thumbnail of simple shapes
Black and white value check of my color study

Monday, May 20, 2019

30 Days of Value Thumbnails - Day 19

mini painting color study No Outlet May 17 2019
Mini color study, "No Outlet", 3x4 oil on paper

I sketched the value thumbnail for this mini study outdoors, with the mid-morning sun glaring over my right shoulder. It lit up the trees and ground on the left so fiercely that I wanted to capture that in this color study. I made a few adjustments to my typical approach: picked a larger brush, keyed my colors lighter, and tested each color I mixed against a printout of 6 main values (black for accents, dark, mid dark, mid light, light, and white for highlights).

I didn't think too much about how interesting the composition of the scene I selected would be — I just stopped the car at the end of a dead end road, where I could see some trees going into the distance and a road to provide some angles. I realized later that it's pretty darn boring, but wanted to keep going as a color mixing exercise anyway.

My favorite area is the distant tree shape that is cooler green in the shadows and warmer green in the sunlit areas, but both colors lighter and duller to push them into the distance. The two greens are the same value, but the contrast in temperature helps suggest the form in a way that I love.

I made this 8 1/2 x 11 template based on Marla Baggetta's video tip — the actual printout is much darker than the digital file looks!

The value scale printout was really cool to use. I've experimented with various ways to determine the values of the colors I'm mixing, but this one is my favorite so far. I saw it being used in a video by artist Marla Baggetta, where she demos how to match a pastel color to a reference image. I made my own scale based on the values from my printer and tested each color on it as I mixed. The key for me was how there's a nice big area to test the colors, and when the sheet is full I can just print a new one. I'll be curious to see how it works for more transparent oil paint mixes, and whether I need to adjust the template to accommodate variations in opacity. I think it would also be useful to make a version with more values, so I could choose 4 that aren't just evenly stepped down the scale.

Value thumbnail of simple shapes (messy pencil lines that I couldn't erase in this one)

Black and white value check of my color study