February 21, 2022 at 4:26 am #2183137
Time for a new challenge. Whilst my overall goal remains to improve my landscapes, I’d like to prioritise drawing/painting from life instead of reference photos. I’d also like to push myself to practice more time each day and miss fewer days compared to my previous challenge. So the terms of the challenge are:
- 3 hours of practice a day
- any medium
- any subject – plein air, still life, portrait, etc – ideally observed in person
Like the previous challenge, the overriding priority is simply to practice every day. So I’ll allow myself flexibility to complete NMA course assignments or other lessons (notably, Russian Academic Drawing), even if it doesn’t meet the strict criteria of the challenge.
My hope is that when I finish in June the time spent improving my observational skills will carry over into a summer of landscapes.
Let’s go!February 21, 2022 at 4:51 am #2183150
Day 1 20/02/2022
- I watched the section of Russian Academic Drawing on pipe folds. I completed the assignment first, but then set up my own sheet to mimic the lesson from observation. I actually started with a pencil drawing a couple days ago, which proved something of a mistake, as it took an absolute age and was quite tedious. So I left it incomplete.
- After a pencil sketch I worked on the same bit of drapery but in paint on a small canvas. Tricky work. I found it particularly challenging to describe cast vs core shadows, getting the gradual value shifts of form shadows. From a distance the little sketch doesn’t look too shabby, but up-close or in photo it isn’t terribly convincing.
I know my many avid readers would be bitterly disappointed without more Keys to Successful Landscape Painting, which I’m still making my way through… so here are today’s:
- Paint the foreground in shadow for dramatic lighting: Reduce the emphasis on less important parts of your painting by reducing detail/light. Light should be dramatic, there’s no drama without contrast.
- Dramatize a composition by adding cloud shadows. Exactly what the title says really. You can use clouds to create dramatic light/dark patterns.
Practice Time: 3hFebruary 22, 2022 at 12:40 pm #2189584
Day 2 21/02/2022
- Inspired by Painting Interiors in Oil with Fenkse – which I just finished watching – I set out to paint a window sill in my house. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I tried to follow a similar painting process to Fenkse in terms of getting a loose drawing down > separating light/dark > tweaking the value hierarchy> then working colour on top of that. It was liberating not getting too hung up on the colour until late in the process, instead pushing the painting around a bit to see what works. There’s something about the finished sketch that I like. It’s not a bad first effort of an interior. My partner said, “it looks like someone died in the room”. Fair point.
- I watched the section of Russian Academic Drawing on diaper folders, which I plan to do tomorrow.
The keys of the day (which, for what it’s worth, I’m finding as relevant to other subjects as I am landscapes):
- Emphasise the foreground by placing the background in cloud shadows. Essentially the advice is to stack your values, like Kearns suggest, to show depth. He also mentions the usual advice of avoiding monotony and making sure your shapes don’t align in inartistic ways.
- Achieve tonal harmony by departing from the literal. What the title says, basically. Don’t try and depict exactly what you see in front of you colour note for colour note. You should build on what’s there to enhance the idea of your picture.
Practice Time: 3hrFebruary 24, 2022 at 7:55 am #2192979February 24, 2022 at 8:39 am #2193069
Day 4 23/02/2022
- I completed a still life sketch using the shadow box.
- The main struggle of this piece was making it interesting as it all looked very boring after the lay in. So I put in some effort to get analogous cool colours in the ground plane, swirling around where the light hit. Similarly on the book, I tried to sneak in cool greens and purples to avoid a flat blue colour.
- For some reason I always find cool lights and warm shadows harder than the reverse; it feels a bit sterile.
Practice Time: 3hFebruary 28, 2022 at 5:25 am #2201087
Day 5 26/02/2022
Unfortunately, I had to miss two days of practice due to family commitments (being glued to the news hasn’t helped my productivity either!). But on Saturday I did cajole myself outside for some plein air painting on a rare sunny day!
I’m always impressed by James Gurney’s ability to turn a mundane view into a brilliant painting. Whereas I’m surrounded by lovely countryside, yet ‘I can’t find anything to paint’. So I took to a spot I drive through every day and attempted to compose a painting from the roadside.
- I spent 30 minutes on thumbnails, trying to consider what the ‘motif’ of the painting was, the light/shadow pattern, what I liked about the scene, and the ‘line’ through the painting. Every thumbnail came out looking the same. I think I struggle to prioritize and re-design compositions away from what I’m literally seeing. I liked the raking shadows of the trees behind me, and the evening glow of the yellow pub beneath the tall evergreen trees – but I think I needed to be pickier about a specific subject.
- I painted for about 1 hour 30 mins, bringing the painting home incomplete looking like:
- Considering how badly my other plein air expeditions have gone, I was reasonably satisfied that I had achieved similar results to the studio for the amount of time/effort.
Practice Time: 2.5hFebruary 28, 2022 at 5:59 am #2201187
Day 6 27/02/2022
I spent two more hours on yesterday’s plein air painting, looking at yesterday’s photo it’s hard to see what took up so much time!
Overall, I’m pretty ‘meh’ about the result. I think the two main trees are modelled reasonably well. I also liked the idea of the foreground shadows. The overall composition and drawing was a good starting point. But there are a few things I didn’t get right as I went along and can learn from:
- There is no ‘line’ directing the eye through the painting. Typically the road would have served this purpose, but I think the shadows might be too dark, so it’s chopping it up and pointing the viewer the other way.
- I really struggled with the background hill. In person there looked to be a lot of purple, reds and oranges in it, but I couldn’t get it to recede by painting colours accurately as the day was quite clear – so I settled for muddied versions of them. It doesn’t work. Maybe I should have gone for shades of blue?
- I originally painted the sky a cooler and more consistent blue. Perhaps this looked better? I tried to ‘warm it up’, but now it looks a bit grey and less light. When I started there were wisps of cloud everywhere, but by the end it was a clear sky.
- The building in the middle sort of became the motif by accident as it was so bright. Aside from the fact it’s smack in the middle of the painting, I also struggled to make it interesting. I tried to look for variations in the hue and temperature, but it was a fairly flat colour. The way the light hit also meant there were no shadows. Perhaps I could have taken a more narrow angle to show less of it.
- I painted on a prepared panel and it was very unlike canvas. Surface was slippery and couldn’t easily be worked over.
Keys for the day:
- Create atmospheric distance by the use of color: things get bluer and lighter in the distance. Sometimes you’ve got to invent this on clear days. Think of your landscape as planes receding into the distance, like a theatre set, that must be treated differently to show depth.
- Introduce warm colors into a summer painting: Solve ‘the green problem’ by exploring the variety of colours present. Borrow from the scenery outside the picture frame if you need to. Also look for variety in shape and value.
Practice Time: 2.5 hrMarch 3, 2022 at 12:49 pm #2211838
Day 7 01/03/2022
I spent a little time watching “half lock” fold in Russian Academic Drawing. Admittedly, I’m failing to find my interest in drapery. I can see the value of practising drapery – great lessons in form shadow vs cast – but I’m finding it boring in practice. So I did a quick charcoal sketch, but didn’t labour at it.
I’m still chugging away at Keys to landscape:
- Paint moonlights with more colors than blue: Similar treatment to overcast light, in that value contrasts should be less than in a sun lit effect. Inject as much colour as you can and avoid formulaic moonlight = blue.
- Observe more colors than blue in water. Remember that water is just a mirror, especially when seen from a sharp angle – it should be full of color. Smuggle reds into green pictures.
Practice Time: 2.5hrsMarch 4, 2022 at 5:29 am #2212774
Day 8 03/03/2022
I worked on a still life in the shadow-box (which could do with a warm light instead of a cool one). I tried to mimic a style I see quite often on instagram, one of vibrant saturated colours and considerable abstraction. I just couldn’t do it and ended up with this rather ugly sketch. I found every time I deviated from the drawing, or placed a colour that didn’t seem right, then it just looked messy. It’s on oil paper too, which is quite slippery and doesn’t easily allow for layering like a canvas with a bit of tooth (more canvas is on its way).
On the whole, I’m finding still-life to be really challenging. The drawing part of the process is okay, but I struggle to imply texture or mix the right colour notes. I expect I just need to do a lot more 🙂
Keys to landscape:
- Paint cool shadows to make sunshine sparkle: Contrasts (value, hue, temperature) accentuate each other, so cool shadows make the warm light warmer. Always be looking for variety, as it’s relative relationships that create interested.
- Perceive the colors in white clouds: Exactly what the title says really. Clouds have cloud. Also, make sure the design and value of your clouds don’t compete with the motif of the painting (unless they are the motif).
Practice Time: 2.5h (must practice more!)March 5, 2022 at 12:04 pm #2214318
Day 9 04/03/2022
I’m keen to maintain the challenge of drawing/painting from observation, whilst also sneaking in some portraits. Given it’s tough to find someone to sit for a few hours, I went ahead and purchased the next best thing! So I spent a couple hours sketching a skull using a conte pencil – which, a bit like charcoal, I find unwieldy and hard to control – but I know both the medium and the subject-matter is coming up in the Russian Academic Drawing Course.
I stuck the skill on a window sill and completed a 2h sketch whilst it was light out, it could used refining. Usually I have to continually shift features on the face -or worse, find out some feature is horribly wrong near the end – but I was pleased how quickly I came to the proportions on this one. Rendering leaves a lot to be desired. I look forward to trying to paint it!
- Make patterns of sunlight on buildings point towards the sun. Patterns of shadow on upright planes tend to point towards the light source. Use shadows decoratively.
- Exploit wind ripples on water. Include the cloud/sky colours in ripples.
Practice Time: 2hMarch 6, 2022 at 9:13 am #2218191
Day 10 05/03/2022
I really enjoyed working on this still life – somewhat inspired by a painting by Amy Florence of some potatoes. From the beginning, I thought the composition really lured in the viewer, and that the light effect was convincing. I also liked the challenge of a striped surface in light vs shadow. There were plenty of parts I just couldn’t quite get – like the colour of the vase which was white, but under a hot temperature light. I tried quite a few variations, so I eventually just settled.
Practice Time: 3hMarch 9, 2022 at 2:12 pm #2227732
Day 11 07/03/2022
I spent a fair bit of time on the previous still life reworking the vase and never got it looking right! Finally I just moved on to another still life, getting as far as the initial sketch.
Practice Time: 2h
Day 12 08/03/2022
The whole onion and skull thing is a bit random… but I managed another couple hours to get the lay-in done. The drawing stage took a lot longer than previous still life studies, I suspect a skull takes a bit more effort to get accurate (mine still looks a bit alien-like).
Hopefully spend a few more hours tomorrow to finish it off.
Practice Time: 2.5hMarch 10, 2022 at 1:27 pm #2228610
Day 13 09/03/2022
I’ve been slacking on my NMA-watching, but I did manage to finish the half-lock drapery fold tutorials for Russian Academic Drawing.
Still life sketch is done – a bit of a slog, part of my is tempted to keep working to come to more complete resolution, another part of me is keen to move on. I know there’s still a lot of room for improvement, with parts I both dislike and like. I’m reasonably happy with the skull, especially the cool colours snuck into the otherwise warm light shapes. I dislike the sprouting onion, who knew onions were so hard to paint?
I think I’ll take a bit of a break tomorrow and work on a landscape from reference, just to mix it up. Speaking of landscape, keys for the day:
- Darken the adjacent sky to dramatize a light object: Paint has a limited range of value, to make lights appear really light, add contrast by reducing the value of other light values (like the sky). Subordinate values based on a value hierarchy. Sometimes this requires invention.
- Choose backlighting for dramatic effects: what the title says. Flat lit paintings can be difficult to portray aerial perspective, whereas backlit (rim lit) can add drama.
Practice Time: 2.5hMarch 12, 2022 at 2:49 pm #2230853
Day 14 11/03/2022
I think this is the first day I’ve broken with the bounds of the challenge in that I worked from a reference photo rather than observation – but I was hankering after a landscape.
It’s not as good as Fenske’s version but I liked how this turned out. I would do a little self-critique as there are a few flaws that jump out at me, but it’s late and I’m out of time for the day!
Practice Time: 2.5hMarch 15, 2022 at 10:01 am #2241349
Day 15 13/03/2022
I was looking for a little still life to occupy just an hour or two, so I picked up an ornamental candle holder… sheesh, did I underestimate its complexity. It has little pieces of glass, which made it hard to discern light from shadow and the intricacy of the object itself looks off against a simple tonal background. I also realised that depicting yellow objects in shadow is difficult – looks green. Eh, the thing just didn’t work out.
Keys of landscape from Caddell:
- Design roads in an interesting way: Avoid symmetrical lines; placing the horizon too high to make the road recede; parallel shadows; monotonous colour. Consider making road off-centre; diagonal thrust.
- Place horizon above or below the middle of the picture: Do not place horizon halfway in the picture; avoiding putting two contrasting subjects in one painting.
Practice Time: 2.5h
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