Jac’s 100 days of landscape

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  • #2102185
    No points.

    Day 85 19/01/22

    I thought I’d mix it up to try and muster some energy for practising, so I sketched my partner as she watched a show. I think this is the first time I’ve ever drawn a portrait from life. Quite a challenge to get the planes right of a constantly changing pose, but very good fun!

    She’s far more beautiful than I was able to capture! Maybe she’ll sit for a proper portrait one day 🙂

    Practice Time: 2h

    • This reply was modified 1 year, 1 month ago by JackJack.
    • This reply was modified 1 year, 1 month ago by JackJack.
    No points.

    Day 86 21/01/22

    I’m still trying to overcome a feeling of  low-energy towards practising art. I suspect it’s the day-job sapping my energy and leaving me a bit anxious for peace – I keep fantasising how brilliant it’d be to have nothing to do all day but learn art. I’m finding some success in looking through a book of Wendt’s landscapes. The trick seems to be lowering the commitment to no more than a thumbnail, then once I start going, I tend to give it more time.

    • I watched week 13 of Designing Your Landscape Painting. I think it was harder for Kearn’s to communicate why he was making decisions when in the studio compared to outdoors, his choices seems more intuitive and subjective.
    • I finished off Gurney’s Color and Light. Great book. Not a ‘how to’ that I could immediately apply, but a great reference book for solving specific problems –  the section on colour theory specifically I found immensely useful. I have Mastering Composition by Ian Roberts to work through next.
    • I completed a reasonably quick still life of a glass vase to follow along on the Introduction to Still Life Painting. I did a few pencil thumbnails of the still life below (on the 20th) then did the bulk of the painting the next day. Just like the previous still life attempts, the bits that come effortlessly are better painted – in this case, the chopping board. I just threw in a few colours, layering  with a scumbling-like effect. It immediately looked satisfying and could be left largely untouched. I re-drew the book probably 5-6 times – going between what I thought it should look like according to the rules of perspective, before eventually just giving in and drawing what I saw instead. I liked the cool top-light and warm light reflecting from the chopping board. The vase is possibly the weakest element -not easy!

    My hope is that painting from life will improve my plein air painting, but perhaps I’m giving myself too much leeway for this “landscape” challenge 🙂

    Practice Time: 2.5h

    Jo SheridanJo Sheridan
    No points.

    Hi Jac, I’m loving the colours on your book – makes me want to read it…

    No points.

    Thanks Jo! It was a copy of Good Wives, which is apparently part two of Little Women. Can’t say I’ve read it, but makes a nice prop 🙂

    Day 86 23/01/22

    • I’ve started reading Mastering Composition. The opening section was about “Armatures”… compositional templates, basically. Similar content to Payne’s Composition of Outdoor Painting thus far:
      • The proportion of the canvas are the four most important lines as they establish the relationship for all the shapes within.
      •  S-curve: meandering line to guide the viewer through a picture.
      • L-type: Motif is usually at the intersection of a horizontal-vertical line, with decreasing variation away from the motif.
      • Diagonal: Watch out for the viewer falling out of the frame, lose the “momentum” of strong diagonals with flats, verticals or loss of detail.
      • Triangle: Often found when using perspective and objects converge on vanishing point. Motif is usually at one of the angles of triangle. Same problems as diagonals.
      • Radiating Lines: Think one-point perspective or clouds radiating across a sky.
      • Steelyard (he calls fulcrum): balance of major masses by size, value, etc.
      • O (circular): Two types. One where the O emphasises the motif in the centre, OR where the O creates space to guide the eye around.
      • Intersecting vertical-horizontals: exactly as the name suggests, a composition dominated by line.
      • Cruciform: Essentially, it’s the de-emphasising of the corners – though not symmetrically. Placing the motif in the centre of the cross somewhere in the page, but not in the centre. This sort of reminds me of Kearn’s always trying to link darks horizontally across the page, forms the breadth of a cruciform.
    • I worked on the sketch below over two days in short bursts and just experimenting. I’ve used the reference before and really like the photo, but I struggle to get a decent composition from it. Plus, I have to make up a lighting scheme – so I just don’t think it comes out very good. Now that I’ve used up my better references, it feels like I’m really starting to struggle to paint from photos.
    • The most frustrating part is not knowing why the design of the picture doesn’t work. Some theories:
      • Compositionally, the left-to-right slants aren’t adequately balanced. The page might be too symmetrically divided.
      • Balance: There are no other masses to balance the tree. I hoped the shadow would do this, but it doesn’t.
      • Lack of a real middle-ground. I tried to push the back field into the distance with greys, but in the reality it’s just the next field over. It should be treated similarly to the foreground, but if given the same treatment, then there’s no middle-ground and it reads flat. Bit of a conundrum.  I invented the distant bluish and purple hills, which were an improvement.
    • I think I need to clean up my up-front planning routine: more thumbnails, value hierarchy, etc.


    Practice Time: Unsure, 2 hours?

    No points.

    Day 87 27/01/22

    My few days of being incommunicado were not totally artless, but working on the “early renaissance bust” for the Russian Academic Drawing course. It was a strange one. Initially I thought the cast looked easier than the cadaver, but the 5+ hours of tutorial was an early indicator of the challenge ahead. It took me a long time to get the proportions, placement of the features, and yet, I still don’t think I captured the tilt of the head or the right alignment. Portraying both softness and form/structure is really difficult.

    I was fairly fed up with it by the end, so it’ll have to do!

    On the landscape front, I’ve done little more than read. I picked up another book “Keys to successful landscape painting”  by Foster Caddell, as Kearns had recommended, it looks promising as it lays out 50 “keys” for painting, illustrating an amateur’s painting (most of which I’d be pleased to have painted myself!) and the professional side-by-side. It looks like a productive way of learning to self-critique. Interestingly,  he mentions in the introduction of the importance of landscape painters learning all subject matter, as long as it’s from life. Perhaps that justifies me counting all sorts as part of this challenge!

    The firsty “key” was  redesign your subject whenever necessary. The gist is that you’re lucky if a scene is 75% what you need to make a good picture, so you shouldn’t hesitate to rearrange what you see so long as it could have looked that way. Considers when redesigning include:

    • is balance, so that the design isn’t weighted too heavily on one side
    • arrangement of lights and darks
    • unwanted repetition
    • unfortunate alignments or lines meeting awkwardly

    Practice Time: 8 hours over 4 days

    • This reply was modified 1 year, 1 month ago by JackJack.
    • This reply was modified 1 year, 1 month ago by JackJack.
    • This reply was modified 1 year, 1 month ago by JackJack.
    No points.

    Day 88 28/01/22

    • I read a couple more of the “keys” in Keys to Successful Landscape Painting.
      • Look for the dramatic possibilities of an unusual vantage point. I know I’m guilty of just settling on the first decent view I find, but Caddell advocates exploring as many perspectives of a scene as possible.
      • Include only one center of interest in a paintingAvoid competing interests in a painting, it’s like multiple people shouting at you. Instead, have a hierchy of ‘reads’, what’s your first read, second read, and so on. This might require cropping. Avoid symmetrical design and repeating shapes.”When in doubt, simplify”.
    • After going down a wikipedia rabbit hole, I stumbled on Australian tonalism as an art genre. Paintings of this type had a look that I thought really captured the soft amorphous shapes of my locale in the winter (and not how I imagine Australia at all!). So I completed a little study of one of the paintings from the wikipedia page. My overall impression was how much they achieve using subtle changes and seemingly simple designs. More difficult than it looks to impart the effect.
      • I completed the initial drawing with charcoal, which I haven’t done before. I liked being able to more neatly refine the initial drawing, but as soon as paint hit the charcoal it erased it. I’m not sure if most people ‘fix’ the charcoal before painting on top of it?
      • There was a great deal of hue and temperature variety in the shapes, more than at first glance. Not exactly the “shimmering” quality of impressionism, but one that implies depth and detail using desaturated greens, blues, oranges even.
      • An interesting composition of just a few simple shapes. The original has a great sense of overcast light that I failed to capture.
      • I loved the blue-less sky, which I tried to imitate with bit of red dulled with green. My palette only include y. ochre, ultramarine, alizarin crimson – and occasional recourse to a dab of cad red and cad yellow. I definitely enjoy mixing with fewer colours.

    Practice Time: 2 hours

    • This reply was modified 1 year, 1 month ago by JackJack.
    • This reply was modified 1 year, 1 month ago by JackJack.
    No points.

    Day 89 29/01/22

    • Landscape keys for the day:
      • Understand and apply the rules of perspective: Caddell emphasised the importance of drawing well to paint well, and observation over pre-formed notions of what stuff should look like – that students falls into the trap of overriding their observation of foreshortened forms when they “know” things to be large.
      • Prevent the viewer’s eye from leaving the picture. Fairly obvious one that is easy to fall into it. Look at the domination lines of your painting, the thrust of shapes, to see if they guide onlookers out of the painting (e.g. a river or slanted hills, etc). Consider putting a “block” shape in to prevent this.
    • I spent a little more time on the landscape sketch from yesterday. I noticed a lot more subtle variations when viewing the picture on my laptop compared to the screen aside my easel. So I spent some time making a few adjustments.
    • I started to work on a still life to try and utilise  lessons from Introduction to Still Life Painting regarding painting patterned objects. I began the drawing in charcoal to mix things up. I only intended to do a quick sketch, but instead I got quite into it and spent a full hour just working to get a value pattern down.

    Practice Time: 2.5h


    Day 90 30/01/22

    • Landscape keys for the day:
      • Guide the viewer’s eye into your painting with directional lines. Don’t be afraid to adjust your composition to make better use of the lines nature provides. Point to the motif.
      • When in doubt, simplify your design. This is a piece of advice to widely expressed it’d be a platitude if it weren’t so hard to follow. One of painting’s paradoxes, making simpler designs is often harder than making complex ones.  Design in this context is the organisation of light and dark in a picture. Avoid monotony, repetition, or ‘record keeping’.  Stick to your design no matter what.
    • I finished the still life sketch from the day before. A damn tricky one. I found I really couldn’t get anywhere near the pattern on the tea pot, I had to settle for a speckled abstract mish-mash of green and white. It was unsatisfactory. I disliked the shadow colours too, they never quite “read” correctly. The little silver horse figurine was good fun though; I enjoyed trying to capture a reasonably complex shape in a few simple brushstrokes.
    • I can’t really explain why, but I felt this still life marked an improvement. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a great deal of learning to do. But it felt like I achieved similar results to previous work but with much less effort – perhaps mixing subtler greys was coming more naturally, or maybe the charcoal drawing eliminated the initial difficultly when starting. Who knows, onto the next one!


    Practice Time: 3h

    No points.

    Day 91 1/02/22

    • I spent a little more time on the previous still life, changing bits that bothered me after I stuck it on my wall 🙂
    • Keys for the day:
      • Vary your solution to the same subject. Paint the same scene in different seasons, lighting effects, different moods. Avoid repetition across works.
      • Occasionally tell a story in your painting. Gather information by way of sketching for use in later works.
    • I did a quick sketch from another Wendt painting. I must admit, I was really just going through the motions – not enjoying the process a great deal. I’ve got a bit of hankering to work on portraits and more still life work. I do sort of like the cloud in the upper right hand corner though…


    Practice Time: 4h (over two days, actually)

    No points.

    Day 92 2/02/22

    • Keys of the day:
      • Simplify areas to accentuate detail. suborinate conflicting and competing passages to focus on your subject. Consider your composition, does it defer to the motif? Simplify secondary shapes. Play up what’s important. The main subject should occupy most of the canvas.
      • To bring a painting to life, include a figureWhat it says on the tin. I’d definitely have to practice my figure drawing (and painting) if I were to attempt this seriously 🙂
    • I spent a good few hours on a landscape sketch from a photo reference. Initially I set about to do a tree study, but I thoroughly enjoyed so kept on going… I tried to focus on a few lessons:
      • Following the procedure laid out by Caddell: Designing the canvas with thinned paint, laying in tonal values, indicating the lights, pulling it together. finishing touches.
      • A clear “line” through the picture, guiding the view to the focal point
      • Emphasising the focal point with contrast (value and colour)
      • Composing a string of darks from one side of the canvas to the other
      • Finding areas to add colour variety, like the path

    I think I probably went too dark on the tree – lured to stony shores by the photo reference. I’ve also been struggling with skies a lot lately. Perhaps it’s time to revisit some of the fundamental principles and do a few studies. Onto the next…

    Practice Time: 2.5hrs

    Jo SheridanJo Sheridan
    No points.

    Hi Jac, the contrast between days 91 & 92 is very clear (“going through the motions” ‘v’ “thoroughly enjoyed”) – that should tell us a lot on its own…

    I like your tree, despite its darkness and love the cast shadows it makes on the path, they make your lights describe a hot day in the bottom half of your picture – if you look at the grey clouds though, these don’t connect to a hot day in the same way…

    Your “onto the next” comment absolutely sums up how I feel doing this challenge – and to be honest sometimes this is accompanied by a sigh, and at other times an excited grin – I’m not surprised a lot of folk don’t reach the end, but it is now in sight for both of us 🙂

    No points.

    Thanks Jo! Yes. I was quite faithful to the photo reference, which was a cloudy day in the background with bright sun from the left – but I’d agree it doesn’t read properly. I expect a photo must contain certain nuances to make it believable that I didn’t capture in paint. Stapleton Kearns often seems to just invent how he wants the sky to look, perhaps I should try the same!

    We are both bearing down on the end of 100 days, but you’ve been a lot more faithful to your challenge than I have 🙂 I’ve slipped in all sorts under the guise of improving my landscapes.

    Will you take on another 100 day challenge afterwards?

    Jo SheridanJo Sheridan
    No points.

    Hmm, good question… Not immediately I don’t think… but it has been really good for me and I see the progression over the days which I like… When I do- I shall choose a broader topic so I can skip about a bit more…

    No points.

    Day 93-94 4-5/02/22

    I fancied doing a portrait in graphite, so that’s what I did. Far from finished (I didn’t even get to the hair), I just wanted to try sketching the reference photo before attempting it in paint.

    Keys to landscape:

    • Choose the best lighting: Try to introduce a strong light/shadow pattern – avoid uniformly lit scenes. Try to stack your values to create contrast and interest.
    • Play lights against darks, not color against color.  Value is more important than colour and denote the form of objects. Avoid having objects just touch each other as it draws the eye without giving information; avoid symmetry in your designs.

    Practice Time: 4h


    Day 95 6/02/22

    I’ve had a thoroughly enjoyable day wrestling with a portrait painting. I’ve been keen to get back to Todorovitch’s Portrait Painting for Beginners course and couldn’t help myself to give it a go. So I watched his first demo and tried to follow Todorovitch’s process, he made it look so easy, but I struggled.  I’m a bit embarrassed to show the picture below – but given it was my first attempt at a portrait in colour,  perhaps I shouldn’t be.  I swung back and forth between getting the colours right but ruining the drawing, to fixing the drawing but with the wrong colour. I think the subtly of the shadow and dark half-tone made it more challenging. It took me a good hour to get her to stop looking like a man –


    Practice Time : 4h

    No points.

    Day 96 7/02/22

    I figured a fun way to end the 100 day challenge would be to revisit reference photos I used in my earliest attempts at landscapes, ignoring the sketch I had previously completed and looking at it with fresh eyes. So here’s a before and after.

    • The sketch on the left was from 15/09/21, a few weeks before starting this challenge. It was the second landscape I had ever painted, informed entirely by Fenske’s Introduction to Landscape Painting. I remember being quite pleased with it at the time, and even now there are commendable aspects – specifically the sense of light, emphasised by the foreground shadow. Perhaps, as expected, there isn’t a giant leap in quality between the two picture, I think I have a lot more learning to do 🙂 Some notes:
      • The before picture is green. Very green. Green everywhere. I think I have made some progress in adding more colour variety into the shapes and avoiding ‘the green problem’ – notably in the foreground and in the tree.
      • The colours in the before picture are desaturated and chalky. I was turning to white as a default to try and brighten colours – now I know that white desaturates and cools. The light effect was supposed to be a bright day, but the before picture looks unintentionally foggy and stormy.
      • Compositionally, the tree in the before picture is very dominant. Too dominant? It feels quite suffocating. I had tried at the time to consciously design the “line” through the picture, but I doubled down on this in the new sketch by inventing a dirt path to take you to the motif. In the new picture, I think I placed the horizon line too low as it emphasises the sky, which wasn’t my intention.
      • Canvas size was made to be more square – whilst not an improvement per se, a squarer ratio seems to be more common in landscapes and pleasing.
      • The sky gradation in the new painting better suits the lighting effect, but the clouds are all over the place and defy reality- I struggled as this was invented. I definitely need to practice more skies and clouds. The photo reference more closely matches the before picture, but I wanted it to be a sunnier picture.
      • Areas I haven’t improved include the background hills. In the new picture, no matter how I shifted and moved them, they continued to look repetitious, monotonous and a bit of a caricature. My eye immediately goes to them and I groan a bit. But there is a better sense of space and distance, I think.

    Before 15/09/21 (left). Today’s 08/02/22 (right)

    • I’ve also been doing some reading, here are the keys to landscape for today from Keys to Successful Landscape Painting:
      • Group lights and darks to avoid a spotty painting. Organise your lights and darks into simple shapes; values in the dark should not be lighter than those in the light, vice versa. Avoid areas of even light/dark, one should predominate. Most important key to escaping amateurism.
      • Limit the amount of light in some paintings. Use the drama of light and the interesting patterns it creates. Light will only register against dark, not against other light – so use it sparingly for dramatic effect. Drawing should be specific, but soft, and not rigid.


    Practice Time: 3h

    • This reply was modified 1 year, 1 month ago by JackJack.
    • This reply was modified 1 year, 1 month ago by JackJack.
    No points.

    Day 97-98 11-12/02/22

    I had a couple days away from art practice as it was my partner’s birthday – but it was very much on my mind! 🙂 Closing out the 100 day challenge, I revisited a sketch I completed back in September. It’s view from below a deserted 18th century welsh farmstead, isolated from any roads, sitting idyllically in the Carmarthenshire hills. Whenever I walk by it I can’t help fantasise what it would be like to renovate it. Anyway…

    I wasn’t happy with my original effort back in September. I remember feeling frustrated that a view that I liked so much turned out so badly. I think for this reason, the improvement five months later is notable. Improvements I tried to make in the new sketch:

    • Like the previous before/after, the before picture was oppressively green. Every landscape I do now, I challenge myself to use as little green as possible. There’s considerable more colour variety in the foreground.
    • I reduced the value from hill to hill, desaturated colours, and reduced variety as shapes receded to emphasise depth.
    • I invented a path to lead the eye around the tree. I also emphasised the brushstrokes of the hills to show the slow.
    • I tried to create more balance by reducing the amount of canvas given over to the main tree, adding a second little foreground shrub.
    • The sky is a higher value, more gradated, warmer, and subsequently, more full of light.
    • The main tree itself could still use some work, it’s a bit swiss cheese at the moment – but it’s colours, shape, value, etc, give it a better form.
    • The shadows are still pretty weak. Caddell described this problem when shadows appear like missing jigsaw pieces.

    Before (left, 22/09/21) – After (12/02/22)

    Speaking of Caddell, here are today’s landscape keys from his book:

    • Emphasise the dark shadow sides of white buildings. Fairly straight forward, white objects when in shadow aren’t bright. It reminds me of the ‘checker shadow illusion’ where white squares in shadow appear to be brighter than the dark squares in light, despite being the same value. Basically, humans struggle to turn off what they think they know – like, white stuff in the dark is still bright. Squinting is the best way to see true value.
    • <b>Make the focal point a tonal climax. </b>What’s your subject, message, or motif? Try to make that part of your painting high value contrast. All other value relationships should defer to this contrast and not compete. Simplify if you need to.


    Practice Time: 4h (over 2 days)

Viewing 15 posts - 106 through 120 (of 124 total)

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