On the short flight from Chicago to La Crosse I flew over the most scenic, rolling hills you can imagine, littered with working dairy farms. I knew I was in for a treat!
La Crosse did not disappoint and I can genuinely say that I loved the area! It reminded me so much of Bavaria Germany, minus the buildings, of course.
If you’re not familiar with LC, I highly recommend a visit. Expecting midwestern flatness, I was quite surprised to encounter the most beautiful landscape with endless subject matter to paint!
More paintings in the next blogpost!
The workshop went really well and we all created some interesting paintings. Credit for the photos I posted goes to Dave Bass, photographer and proprietor of the SG1311 Gallery in La Crosse (http://www.sg1311.blogspot.com/)
While my paintings are mostly value based they also depend a great deal on color temperature. Color change does not necessarily mean value change, although a lot of times it is the case. So color change can therefore mean a change in value (intensity) or a change in temperature, or both!
This is important stuff because temperature affects our perception of form just as much as light. The change of value and temperature of a three dimensional object depends on how low or how intense the light source is. In low light conditions, the temperature changes are more obvious since there is no significant change in value!
Just take a look at some impressionists like Van Gogh or Cezanne who often painted work that is completely devoid of light and purely based on change of color temperature!
Great painting very much depends on subtle color (temperature) changes. It is at least as important as understanding your values.
When I first started painting this whole point was completely lost on me. Many artists are not aware of this, instead assuming that transitions in three dimensional objects are achieved with value change only! Often we see work that is completely based on overly dramatic, highly graphic and intense value changes and not much else!
Studying the old masters like JSS or Zorn will quickly show how the success of their work not only depends on values but ever so subtle transitions in color temperature. A humbling lesson on how to achieve lively, beautiful and timeless art!
Media: original watercolor on paper
Image size: approx. 14″x 20″
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As a plein air artist I feel fortunate to always visit such beautiful areas in the world. I conducted a workshop in one of those areas last week: the Santa Ynez valley in California.
Plein air painting is tricky business. You are dealing with a lot of adversity: weather conditions, (i.e. heat, cold, winds etc.) pestering insects and/ or pestering people! Selection of subject matter is even more challenging! What do you paint and how do you make it work? Is there room to set up?
According to Murphy’s law some absolutely crucial fact about the scene you’re painting will change one hundred percent halfway through your painting! Like the horses you’re painting will be moved out of the pen before you can finish them. A bank truck collecting money from an ATM will block your view down the street scene you’re painting and a uniformed guy with heavy artillery is glaring at you. Ahh, what fun…NOT!
While I admit that these things can be disconcerting, there is no better teacher than nature herself! In your studio, you’ll never get a real interaction with the subject matter and staring at a photograph is just not the same thing! I can promise you, if you start painting plein air, your work will improve dramatically! The painting may not be a success every time, but the paintings that do have a beautiful spontaneity and directness about them that you can’t get in the studio. Even if the painting is no good, the studio version you do with the help of your ‘failed attempt’ will come out a lot better, simply because you were actually there! You walked through the place, you were taking everything in with your senses and you painted there and that makes all the difference!
This was a scene I came upon one early morning on the way to Domme in France. I drove around a corner and couldn’t believe what I saw: this lovely farm, the meadow with the sheep and to top it all off, a perfect painting spot slightly above with excellent views! Oh, and did I mention nice, soft, diffused light, no car traffic and perfect silence? It only happened once on this trip! In fact I don’t even recall if I ever encountered a scene so serene. I hardly had to make up or change anything. The only thing I have changed is the background. In reality, it was just too strong in value.
The mood of a painting is achieved by playing with both color and value. This painting may have a subdued quality to it, but it compliments the mood and feel I wanted to convey.
“I dream of sheep”
Media: original watercolor on paper
Image size: approx. 14″x20″