I know that Jeremy Lipking and Scott Christensen teach the importance of making small on-site sketches whenever possible. I even heard that in Scott’s plein air workshops, students only get 45 minutes to finish a painting on each location visited! When some of the best painters have great advice, it certainly is a good idea to consider it!
The advantages are obvious and multi-fold:
It may be less intimidating to start a small sketch than a bigger painting.
Despite the relatively small size (only 5″x6″ or so), the painting process is the same. You still need to work out values, color, drawing and edge just like in a bigger piece!
You’re going home with 3–6 paintings instead of just one (that you may or may not like).
Last but not least, you have multiple on-site sketches from which you can do a bigger studio piece from!
Oh, and here’s another one: often there isn’t enough time to finish before the light changes too much, but it’s almost always possible to finish a 5″x6″ piece. These sketches should really take no longer than 30–45 minutes each, no matter what medium you’re painting in.
I don’t even bother with an underpainting when doing these in oils. Since I am a watercolor guy, I just jot down a few lines with pencil and paint ‘alla prima’ (direct painting). The basic principle for Alla Prima painting is to observe, mix and put down the right amount of paint in the right place with the right value. If possible with little or no adjusting, changing etc.
Easier said than done! Practice, practice, practice!
Every good composition strives to hold the eyes of the viewer within the painting. It is called the eye path or leading line. It is achieved by line work and arrangements of shapes and patterns.
If you study the horse scene, you notice that the eyes go straight away to the horse on the right. It helps to have the grass point to it. (not too obvious; in a subtle way)
Right after that you start noticing the pair of horses on the left, because the right horse is looking right at them! The very left horse and the one on the right have eye contact. From the pair on the left you’ll notice the railing taking us back into the picture where the barns sit. The telegraph pole connects to the sky. Also, the tree line of the dark background tree and the lower end of the blueish hillside trees make a line that points straight to the right horse.
That’s the eye path I developed for this picture.
It is debatable whether it works the way I intended. It always is, but that’s ok. I arranged my shapes (horses, barn, pole, trees) in ways to support what I was after.
Now, what about subject matter and focal point? Aren’t those two sides competing, vying for attention? Maybe, but I think it still works. The eye contact of the horses does it for me. There is a connection, it gives it meaning and animates the scene. The look like they’re moving…they look alive.
Things to avoid: Important shapes too close to the edge of the painting. Big blocky patterns in the foreground that prevent the eyes from traveling into the picture.
All very traditional, but that’s what this is: traditional painting
I am very happy to announce that my work is now represented by Hillside Fine Art in Claremont, California.
I am the only watercolor artist in a gallery that is full of oil paintings. There are many big name artists of the California Art Club on the walls and I am quite honored to have my work exhibited with them! I hope I can do well; I have no idea, only time will tell!
I will have my first ever solo exhibition at Hillside in September! Very excited about that. Reception is scheduled for September 5, 2015. Details will follow. Please come on by if you’re in the area!
Very honored to announce that two of my works were selected by the prestigious California Art Club for this year’s Annual Exhibition! Please come on out if you’re in the area! I am one of the very few watercolor artists with work in this show! Our medium can use all the support it can get! Thank you!
103rd Annual Gold Medal Juried Exhibition
The Autry National Center
4700 Western Heritage Way, Los Angeles, CA 90027
March 30 – April 20, 2014