Friday, February 13, 2015

Hay bale in the far corner of the field

Here is a lone hay bale that ended up in a nice position near some shade at the far corner of a nearby field.  I like shade on a hot summer morning.

I thought that this scene might make a good painting because it was very simple without a lot of sky and without distant hills -- just a flat field and vertical trees.  There was quite a bit of contrast in the vertical plane, very dark spots in the shadow zone and very bright areas where the sun was directly hitting the foliage.

The scene


After the drawing that was done in burnt Siena  I started working from the background.  There was glowing bright light behind the trees, so yellow /orange was washed in that area.  The trees were done by shaping with the shadows first, saving the most contrast for the near area.

Since the light was changing steadily, I picked the moment to paint the foreground when the shadows were close to a pleasing shape.  I quickly indicated those shadow shapes with diluted green/brown and then had fun filling in the remaining area with bright yellow orange to help get the eventual sunny look on the field.  The hay bale was worked up using layers of color, think and thin paint, and general fussing around until it looked like the dry textured big  heavy thing that it was.

L'ultimo Rotoballe  o/c   40 x 50cm

Monday, January 5, 2015

River painting

There is a beautiful river (the Orcia) that flows down a wide valley dividing the Siena province from that of Grosseto.  It is here that Monica and I found ourselves on a warm afternoon last year.  We had previously scouted this river and this spot was just right for a picnic and a small painting. 

The scene

The drawing


The colors here are a bit different than the usual, near the river the trees were slightly silvery.  I was concerned with the moving shadows and those were put down first.  I had to simplify the chaos in the trees on the right side.  I played up the diagonal light/shadow pattern that the afternoon had to offer.

A challenge was to paint the rocks that were under the clear water.  I stayed away from the white and tried to paint the rocks softly and very thinly.  I knew I would be dragging color over these rocks to create the water surface.


After some work back home I came up with the result below.  It was fun to drag the different blue colors over the surface of the river at the end.  The reflected trees were painted with vertical strokes and were rendered with duller color that was slightly lighter in value than the actual trees.  In the end the different layers come together to produce the illusion of water.

Fiume Orcia  o/panel  8x10in
available at the Stage Door Gallery

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Award winning sunset

Sunsets always take a good deal of planning.  I usually paint on two nights and I scout locations that are close to home (or at least close to a dinner table)  and that have a simple foreground.  Every time I paint a sunset I end up painting until it is too dark to see anything. Below is the scene-

I am painting the land purposefully darker than usual and also trying not to go blind.  I am underpainting with a reddish mix for the trees and an orange for the field. 

Beautiful orange and lavender colors this night

I am not happy here with the way the sky is going,  I think it is going to be wiped off soon...those thin wispy gray front clouds are hard to capture.

Getting dark too quickly

I am however happy with the land.  Now I will wait for another sunset another night that might inspire me with clouds that are arranged in layers and that have more density.

Rustico al Tramonto  o/panel  8x10in

I didn't take any photos on the actual night that I finished this painting- oops - I was in a frenzy as usual.  You can see that in the top part of the sky there are three simple layers - the blue sky, next a soft orange cloud layer, and finally the lavender close clouds that were painted with slightly harder edges to record the depth that was actually there in the sky.  I have to keep in mind that the sky is not a flat backdrop, but a layered three dimensional thing.  The bottom part of the sky was painted without individual clouds and was rendered with hazy murky colors.

This painting has recently won  "Best in Show"  at the Eastern Shore Art League member show.  The ESAL is based in beautiful Onancock, Virginia.  The Eastern Shore of Virginia is a wonderful narrow peninsula that is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean  and the Chesapeake bay.  The peninsula is full of salt marshes, islands, creeks, and beaches.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Who needs an umbrella?

Here is a spot near our place that has a great old oak tree standing alone in a field.  This day was very windy, so I was scouting on foot for a spot that had a natural wind block.  I brought along an 8x10 inch masonite panel but no umbrella because of the wind.

The oak tree

I was protected  from the wind by a row of trees to my left, but the sun would not stay in one place and soon I found myself rotating my easel to the left to keep the sun off the panel.  It was kind of funny in the end - I was facing a direction well away from my subject and later I moved the whole rig closer to the trees to stay in the shade.  I could have used the umbrella after all.

What happened to all that shade?

Below is the finished painting 

Quercia Solitaria, Toscana  o/panel  8x10in  - available at the Stage Door Gallery

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Roadside painting

Here is a spot on the back road to Porrona.  I loved the way the dirt road curves through the scene, vanishes for a bit and then reappears on the left.  I painted right on the side of the road as there was hardly anyone passing on this back road near Cinigiano.  A few farm tractors passed, but that was about it.

calm morning, blue sky

There was not a lot of shadowed areas in this painting, I sketched the shapes and then tried to get the few shadows placed accurately.  Then some extra light sky value.

drawing with burnt Siena

Next it was a matter of dealing with the greens, the grasses where bright and yellowish up front and I had to gray down the distant grass to make things work.  The interesting part was the dark greens in the upright forms of the trees and bushes.  I usually mix my own greens but I also modify oxide of chromium green with orange and red to get the darker values. These rich greens are usually placed over a thinner layer of near black that I make for shadowed green areas with alizarin crimson and french ultramarine blue.

the wide view

Adding thicker paint -the shadow is now gone from the road and it is getting too hot 

I did a bit of finishing back on the front porch and in the end I didn't have to go back to the site for a second day.  Working at home the sky was completed and the foreground tree was developed.  The tree's edges were kept soft against the sky.  Below is the finished piece:

Strada Tra I Campi, Toscana  o/c  30x40cm  - available at the Stage Door Gallery

Friday, August 1, 2014

Spring colors

I know it is summer, but I am just now writing about a painting done in April.  I guess I have been busy.  I did travel to the States for a short visit,  delivered some paintings to the Stage Door Gallery in Cape Charles, Virginia, and I found time to visit my old teacher and friend Jack Richardson who has a great gallery in Onancock, Virginia.

So- below is the scene back in April, the leaves are not fully out on the trees.  This site is just down the hill from the plum tree in my last post.  I am in the shady area that you can see in the plum tree photo,  in the distance to the left of the tree.

The dark verticals and diagonal shadow shapes made for an interesting image.  Now how to paint all that overwhelming info.  First came the drawing below:

Then it was a matter of simplifying everything and just plowing through, trying not to get discouraged.  At this point it looks like a child's painting:

Here was my set up:

The next day I returned and decided to move the canvas to my right side, as the sun was not striking the canvas directly-  it was a bit more bright that way.  The tall trees on the left were built up slowly with overlapping layers of color.  There were many  little sky holes and foliage color spots side by side that eventually produced the effect of light coming through the tree branches

After making sky holes one should put back some foliage spots over parts of the holes, and watch that the edges are varied and not too sharp.  Back in the studio (or rather the front porch) I was dropping in sky holes, then partially covering them, and then repeating, adding branches etc, until I was satisfied with the layered look -

detail of foreground trees

Primavera, Toscana  o/c  40x50cm  -available at the Stage Door Gallery

Friday, June 20, 2014

Plum tree in bloom

I waited one year for this particular tree to bloom again, last year I waited too long and a big wind took away all the blossoms.  The way the branches bend a bit to the left and the depth of the background drew me to this tree two years in a row.

Not too late

I decided on a vertical composition and then began blocking in the white areas for the flowers with a very light gray.  That way I would not be putting white flowers over the dark background -making a muddy mess.  It was then a question of filling in the background in between the white areas.  This was a great time to paint because the colors were not all green.  I had fun with the white flowers, cool in the shadows and warm in the light.

Beginning by blocking in the white areas

Now we have only to wait for the fruit to appear and ripen - and fight with the thieving crows.

Albero di Susino  o/c  40x30cm -available at the Stage Door Gallery