- Lesson Details
In this lesson, instructor Steve Huston will demonstrate his approach to building a composition. He will show you the process of creating thumbnails and finding the most compelling configuration of elements within a picture frame. Then, you will learn about painting setup, brushes, and color theory. Steve will lecture on artists that inspire him and influence his painting practice.
This lesson belongs to the course Creative Composition. In this 6-week course, Steve Huston will teach you the main visual components frequently used in fine art. You will discover how line, shape, and color help strengthen the storytelling of your work. Steve will show you examples from the Old Masters as he presents each significant concept. In doing so, he will talk about how these components are applied in other art fields. Since this course was filmed during a live workshop, you will also be tuning in to his Q&A sessions and critiques of students’ works. Moreover, you will watch Steve develop a composition for a painting from start to finish. After completing this course, you will gain a deep understanding of art philosophy and composition; what you need for creating successful artworks.
Throughout this course, you’ll have access to the NMA community for feedback and critiques to improve your work as you progress.
Transcription not available.
one of the things about reference you want good reference, so let's define that.
So generally what that means is you want reference that
has a good directional light.
That's not always the case.
I'll talk about that in a moment, but we want a good directional light.
If you're trying to build form, if you're trying to break and destroy and
deny that flat canvas, that flat surface that we fight against, then you're
going to want to have a value change.
That formula we artists have to abide by is different value, different plane.
If I can make everything over here, all these facing planes,
the same or a similar dark value,
make these plans a new grouping of light values, we're going to get that
box logic and they're going to feel the chiaroscuro, the light and shadow
sculpting tool that turns the form.
Now we'll talk about temperature, intensity, how that can help do
that, all the changes between those two facing directions will help but
value's your most powerful tool.
So if you don't have a good reference, which shows the details fairly well
conceived, in other words enough high resolution on that, or if it's
just soft, cloudy day or fluorescent light, or if there's too many bouncing
lights, light blasting out the shadows.
All those things will flatten the form.
And you're going to struggle trying to get the information, trying to
get that illusion of depth, that picture making a world that you want.
So a strong, directional light.
The other thing we want in addition, or can replace, if you're less
concerned about the objects having form, then you can go for great
effect, great atmospheric effect.
So a deep nocturne, a misty day, a sunset that blasts everything out into a strong
color range, all those kinds of things.
So you can see here, the trees have lost their form, but what we lose in sculptural
information we get for overall atmosphere and effect, and same with this one too.
And so now this all becomes about hard and soft silhouettes, lots
of gradations as things blend together and interesting color.
Everything's harmonizing around the gray cools of this.
And so now our color range is being pulled into an area that's
very interesting and non-ordinary.
So we're not seeing the local colors separate strongly, they're all getting
lost in that overall atmosphere.
And that gives a nice emotion.
So I'm going to actually use these two landscape references as
the background behind the tree.
Now notice that these have no direct light or a different direct light source here.
And so I'm going to actually use jump light in effect, I'm going to have
the little figure here in front of the tree, all lit by one directional light
coming this way, and this will not match up, but because it's a separate
level of space and because hopefully it will be painted with confidence,
the audience will never know it.
And I do this all the time in my workers, some - especially in the
boxers where I give each boxer its own light for really concept reasons.
And I'll oftentimes make the boxes the same model for the same reasons.
The Facebook posting a few days ago, I put out a John William Waterhouse piece.
He used the same model for every water nymph.
And you can create a whole new effect rather than having different personalities
as a repetition of the same personality.
It's kinda neat.
It's interesting cause it throws things off kilter, it's unexpected and you can
read into that psychologically and such.
So anyway, when we change light in a painting, have not a consistent
light source that's called jump light.
It's used quite a bit.
And it was used by the old masters it was used by portrait painters, subtly.
You've got a strong, direct light source.
So you get that nice carved out eye sockets, but that's going
to create a strong drop shadow of the nose over the mouth.
That's not attractive if you're doing a commission for
some rich patron or royalty.
And so they'll use that strong, deep upward light, get those nice drop
shadows to define the forms well, and then they'll use a separate light
source, either actually light it separately or more likely just correct it
and trim that nose back.
And so you're actually lighting the eye sockets from here and
you're lighting the nose from here.
So it's used subtly, but in movies, especially in the old illustration
days, the high watermark of movies and illustrations, they do that all the
time, especially with movie posters
cause you get a shot of whatever big movie star and it would be studio lit.
Nice soft light or lit from here, and then you'd have the action shot from
the movie that you're working from and it would be lit the other way.
And oftentimes as an artist, the studio wanted to use those particular photos.
You couldn't go and shoot your own photos.
But you want the dramatic light here.
They give you the soft studio light here.
You've got to make them match.
And so oftentimes you'd see, like Indiana Jones, Harrison Ford had his head lit
this way and his body was lit this way and then they'd put a bright shadow here.
This was lit by the fire light so it's all warm.
They put a warm little reflected light here and it would seem to
match up, but it didn't at all.
Nobody ever calls you on that stuff.
So as long as you do it with confidence and there's a certain internal logic
to it, you put there, anything that does light at this way is warm.
Everything is a drop light, even if it's a slightly different drop
light or things that are in front have a different atmospheric
situation or a different light source and things that are deep in space
evolve into something different.
And it can actually become a conceptual idea too.
As I said, just like my boxers, they're each lit by their own light source.
And so that to me says that they're each following their own needs, direction,
muse, whatever, so anyway that's that.
Now I've got a printout here.
And I've got a little tiny figure.
Now, if this was high res and the computer, I could blow it up.
Or in the old days, when I would do is I shoot this picture, spend hundreds
of dollars in printing costs and I'd shoot all sorts of different angles.
And so I might be slightly over here and by - find a better light and shadow
pattern on the tree from this side.
And use that for this one big branch and then use this from here.
And maybe I shot her from this way and that's a better pose and I'll
use that one over here and maybe I shot her when she looked this way.
And another pose I'll use the head from here.
So I'll use several sources, several reference pieces,
and I'll piece them together.
I'll pick the best of both.
So she's sitting here like this.
But in that shot, number one, this is all great, but shot number six
that hand's better, or she's holding a flower, you know, whatever.
And so I'll change this one thing from another reference.
So when you are shooting your own reference, you shoot from several
different subtly or even greatly different
areas to find the best angle, but also then when you're starting
to compose your piece, you pick several photographs, better hand
here, better head there, slightly better shadow the cheek over here.
So I'll use a little tiny bit of jump light to cheat on that cheek
and shift that shadow shape a little bit, and I'll get several references.
In the old days
and I'd do closeup of the face, close up of the hands, close up of
the difficult parts of the setup.
Nowadays, if you shoot high res, you can just zoom in and out with your digital,
of course, but I'm limited to kind of old school so I can see it here while you guys
see it on a monitor was the studio lights.
I can't look at a monitor to work.
And so what I end up with is a reference where there's not a
lot of detail in that figure.
I can't see her eyeballs.
What color her eyes are.
I can't see exactly the strands of hair or I can't see real well what
happens with the last couple of fingers as they tucked behind the hand.
And I can't quite see how that thumb finishes out as it gets
lost into the little cast shadow.
So it's a lot of stuff I can't see.
So make sure you respect your reference.
Don't invent things wholesale, unless you, you have a style that is, you know,
a make believe made up style and that's just your thing is to invent figures.
But if you're trying to be a realist don't do more than you see.
Even the best illustrators who did likenesses for movie posters and all that
kind of stuff, they wouldn't take Angelina Jolie here and try and draw her over here.
Now you can flip the picture, but I mean, you wouldn't do
this and then paint like this.
You're only as good as your reference on that stuff.
So stick with the reference.
Even the best would almost always do that.
You can sometimes change a little thing but anything that you change
that's substantial, if it's not referenced based is going to come
through will catch you on it.
And then as soon as you break trust with us, as soon as you do something
that's untrue, that doesn't ring true, that hand doesn't feel right,
those eyes don't correct, doesn't really quite look like her here.
As soon as we, we suspect it breaks the magic spell and you've lost
us, you've lost your audience.
So make sure it rings true.
So in other words, if you don't have great detail in an area, simplify it, you know,
I'm stuck with this and I want it to be stuck with this so I can make the point.
Cause I certainly could have printed out a better res on her, but I'm stuck
with a situation where I can't get the best realistic detail out of that.
So that means I'm going to keep that simple, which means it's probably not
going to be the main part of the piece.
It could be in terms of design, but in terms of detail, I can't
put a lot of detail there at all.
I can't put a lot of detail period.
I don't have several days to work on this.
But we can get a good start on it and do kind of alla prima, real
fairly tight comp of it in effect.
And then we'll take as far as we can, but typically I would paint this alla
prima as I'm going to do now, but then I'd let it dry and come back
wet over dry and build up paint.
Do some glazes, all that kind of stuff.
So, anyway, those are the limitations that make sure when you shoot
your own reference, you're getting a good, strong light source.
And you tried several variations, different eye level, different angle.
And also with the light source, get the variations of the light
source, you know, get her from here and then try the light over here.
If you've got control of the light or if it's a really key commission key piece,
come back several times at different days.
Maybe try it when it's misty, if you can be lucky enough to capture that,
try it when it's a sunset, rather than a mid day sunrise, something like
that and get your variations on it.
The more choices you have, the better.
So that's that.
And then of course, we talked about composition as design plus concept.
In a situation like this, where I'm working for an image for your
benefit, rather than something out of my, my genre of working,
I'm going to be fairly limited.
I'm not going to build up a strong mythology on that, but
we're all going to be in that spot usually early in our career.
And we may never want to come up with some big change the world kind of ideas.
As we talked about some epic, you know, it doesn't have to be at that at all.
It can be incredibly intimidating.
But what you will find, hopefully as you start painting, I'm
going to do a landscape series.
I'm actually going to start doing a landscape series
after I finished a couple commitments and it's going to take me maybe 15, 20,
30 paintings before I really build up a story about that, a mythology of it
until it starts to mean something clear.
When I started the boxers, it was that way too.
I just started doing it cause I wanted to show bodies in motion
rather than bodies on a couch or on a model stand or something like that.
And so I started out just really wanting to do nudes in effect.
And I would do female nudes that were static and I did the boxers
against them as more or less male nudes that were active.
And then I started to realize, oh, that's - I did boxing cause I used to box.
I know that.
And I like to see muscles and action.
That's a little different than what's out there so that I might
get some notice doing that.
But I like to do the traditional females model in the studio kind of stuff.
And then I realized, well, they're very different, male, female, active, passive.
There's some cliches there that might generate some controversy
or drama or interest or something, and I can play those off.
And then, you know, 50, 60 paintings later maybe I start building up this whole big
mythological backstory for it basically, but it took me a while to get there.
And that's probably what will happen with you.
You'll start painting what you love to paint and you'll paint it the way you
love to paint it with a certain color palette, a certain lighting, certain
scale and framing, all that kind of stuff.
And then you'll start to be able to say, well, that's, what does that mean to me?
What does that suggest or what did somebody say to me about that, that
sparked an idea and then you're off and running and things start to develop.
So we're gonna start with a fairly crude concept.
I've got a lush landscape here, that's growing and a little child that's growing
and notice how she is curved and flowing in the same growth pattern as this great
tree and notice how the tree is a broken tree and the buds are just coming out.
It's a springtime shot.
And so there's very few buds on this tree.
And so, so I'm going to think of thriving growth, but also cycles
of life, the seasons come and go.
He will come and she will go and the leaves will come and go.
And this tree has grown and had a long life.
And now it's starting to be wounded and maybe failing and so I'm gonna play with
that kind of growth, life and death growth and wilting and thriving and, and being
stilted, you know healed and injured.
Remember our story line idea.
When we think of stories as a certain genre that you can work,
but also there's a dramatic arc and it's finding a, a life philosophy
who I'm going to search for love.
I'm going to search for the truth.
I'm going to search for justice, whatever it is.
Having that underlying goal really helps to propel the story.
And then the fun of the story is tracking the change that happens.
He doesn't know who killed the person, at the end he does.
He thought he was a bad man, but he ends up finding that he's actually a hero.
He thought he would live without love and now he's found love.
Seeing that change is what keeps us interested.
So what I'll often do is I'll try and pick some basics genre cliche, basic idea
if I don't know where else to take it.
And then look for a change.
How is that going to move from this to that?
So is it just purely beauty?
Can be that.
Is it a beauty with a little bit of loss of beauty.
Is it fleeting beauty?
That's more interesting.
Is that life and death together?
That's more dramatic.
It may not be appropriate to what you're doing, but it's possibilities and you
kind of shuffle through those things.
So anyway, well, we'll kind of deal with the idea of thriving nature,
you know, it's various forms and then the potential loss of that.
And I can play that up with the changing foreground background.
So maybe the background will suggest more of the fading light,
the fading life kind of thing.
So, anyway, we're not going to do an epic today, but we're going
to try and do something that has a little bit of dramatics to it.
And then hopefully that will steer me into the color and shape choices
and all those compositional stuff.
We're going to switch over to the paper.
I'll draw on marker and pen.
You'll see on screen the images I draw them from off screen.
Okay, so we'll see you in just a moment.
Now I'm using Seth Cole, heavy ledger paper it's a nice basic bond in effect.
And then I've got Waterman Paris.
Waterman's brand Paris is the model and it's a fountain pen
and I've got to find nib on it.
And then I've got a brown ink and any kind of fountain pen ink, use the
actual fountain pen ink, and anything that's in the brown sepia range
I like, cause it's a little softer than the black and I'm using old beat up
Sharpies that are half dried out and that's going to give me my value range.
And now I'm going to do a little three value studies of all this.
Now ideally, you would do a bunch of bunch of studies, but we're
not under ideal circumstances.
We're only going to do a few, so we don't spend too much time.
Yeah I've got three references.
I'd start playing with each reference just to get a feel of what I like about them.
So I'm looking at the most faded out landscape right now, and I'm just trying
to get a sense of what's going on there.
And it doesn't even necessarily have to be exactly what's there.
It might just be a kind of a catching the things that are interesting as I see them.
So I've got this pretty strong foreground that fades back.
Like this, this little fir tree, this little kind of Christmas tree here,
spruce probably, is the darkest thing.
It's going to sit back and be far less contrasting and our main focus
the tree and the girl in front.
And I won't be able to see much of this behind the tree.
The main foreground is going to pick that up pretty quickly.
And then there's kind of interesting striations in the landscape that might
be fun to take us back in space somehow, or at least break up that ground.
The other one has relatively strong light sneaking through the trees and breaking
out of the mist as the morning progresses.
And it's got quite a bit of architectural landscape.
There's a little kind of depression here.
And then these trees and they're all going at their own angles, which is interesting.
And that could show, you know, I'm always kind of looking for meanings.
When you do the meanings, you start with the cliches and cliches
are cliches because they're true, but they're all very used.
And so you're going to want to try and get past that at some point.
And that might be later in your career.
It might be a great place to start early on as you develop concept, but the idea
that each has its own personality or that they're falling off that stable
vertical, because they're not healthy, they're dying out or something.
So that can mean all sorts of things or it can be that they're flowing to the
rhythm of life or something like that.
Being cut off short.
Maybe if you bring the composition down here and cut them off tight,
that can add to that discomfort level.
So they feel cropped and stilted that way, and that can be kind of the
negative, the opposite of a growth pattern, they can't grow out of this.
They're being inhibited by the frame, that kind of stuff.
So you start thinking through ideas.
And we're going to do a vertical here only because the camera framing for
what we're doing it works that way.
It gives me room to work and still stay in frame of you guys with my body
working and all that kind of stuff.
So anyway, I've been gently coaxed into a vertical.
So we have this fantastic tree and I'll start with a frame and then
notice what's going to happen here.
I'm going to keep it very simple because if I do a really great
little drawing, I'm going to say, oh, that's a great drawing, that'll be a
great painting and I'll stick to it.
Or even though it should be a little bit bigger or smaller and moved off this way,
it's so nice I don't want to move it.
And so you get attached to things for the wrong reasons sometimes, but
notice that now I've laid this in
and I've filled that tree up.
And I have no foreground.
And one of the nice things about this is these cast shadows leading in to that.
I like that.
There's subtle cast shadows here that may or may not make it in the final cut,
but for my first composition, there's some broken down rotting logs here.
All of this kind of leads us in
to welcoming mat basically to take us into the composition.
So I had to change my frame in other words, I started there.
Whoops, need a little bit more.
So you shift it or you go ahead and draw it tighter and you do another one.
That's more open framing.
You do a second one.
Now I'm noticing that this really richly textured wood, it's a willow tree
has these growth lines, these kind of staccato lines that are moving,
these dashes that are moving in the direction of the growth.
Is that going to play into the growth idea to show the movement?
You know, I think it probably will.
And we can pick up the same kind of things in the fabric of her dress.
You know, the folds, the pleated folds of her outfit are doing
very much the same thing.
So that can help to tie her into her, her environment.
So you always want to have each object, have its own character, you
know, respect and, and celebrate the beauty of each object.
But also it's got to fit into one world and one world view.
What we really are is we're aesthetic creatures.
Of course, artists certainly aren't always that, but we are.
I would hazard a guess.
So that's always one of the main points is to make it beautiful, intriguing, lush,
that kind of stuff, but we want to also kind of say, life is beautiful
or life is growth and thriving.
It can be at least, or life is becomes death, you know, all those possibilities.
You know and for example, I posted Thomas Moran this morning on
Facebook and I've always loved Moran.
It's kind of syrupy in a way.
It's like a television commercial that makes you cry.
In some sense, you could argue that it doesn't have great substance
because it's just so darn pretty, but it's just so darn pretty
and so I'm not going to play the games to be relevant it has to
be challenging or difficult art.
There is some truth to that, but that's not the only way to go at
some something deeply affects us by any means, but that whole movement
Moran was painting Yosemite a bunch.
Most of his career Yosemite.
And Bierstadt and the others were painting a Yellowstone and they journeyed out west
when most of the population was east.
And one of their purposes was to try and show the American public on the
east coast, living in the city in Philadelphia or wherever, how beautiful
and grand this land was what an Eden it was and let's start preserving it.
And so they, they helped to establish the idea of national parks and
preserving some of the great beauty of the land and not developing it.
And so, they would go out and it was actually a political motive
there, but they were creating these incredibly romantic scenes to evoke
a very specific and strong emotion, just like a soppy romantic comedy's
gonna pull your heart strings make you cry and they're gorgeous images.
You do feel those things and they succeeded in their, their goal.
So now we've got the basic setup here.
Notice, I can't see the figure very well, the way I've put her in.
She's so small in this little thumbnail, I put quite a lot of detail in
her, even though she's quite small, there's a lot of marks going in there.
That all hurts the separation of her, when we look at the reference
she pops out nicely because she's around a real quiet part of the tree.
There's not a lot of textured bark around her and she has
a nice color change to her.
So we've lost all of that in my little thumbnail.
And so you can say, well, I've lost that so I want to make sure to rediscover that.
So let's just do a closeup of her and make her as she is slightly.
But I'll start out over the top here just to feel the effect.
Make her slightly darker than the tree she's on against.
So now it's a dark figure.
Relatively dark figure there again.
I lost my framing.
Like so, and now I'm going to pick up some of this bark and I might end up
saying I'm going to actually crop the whole thing to this because I like that.
Well, we're not going to do that.
We're going to put her in a whole environment.
And also the fact that I don't have great reference to her, if I try and
make the whole painting about her, unless it's just a lovely little sketch,
you know, kind of alla prima sketch and it doesn't need a lot of detail
Like a little Sorolla sketch or something like that.
If I try and do a nice, more finished, like a Sargent watercolor would
do or such I'm gonna have trouble.
I'm gonna have to make up a lot so better not do that, but this can
be a little vignette that shows me what this detail here is doing.
And then also we can and start forcing a little stronger.
It's really two values kind of hatched gradations within those but two values.
So let's maybe push this a little more dramatically and see how that tracks.
Okay, this should just be playtime.
Looking for possibilities and no pressure on the drawing.
Sometimes you end up getting a nice little sketch.
That's just has great freshness and it just has an aesthetic appeal to it.
That's great if that's happens, we always want to keep our eye on the idea
that we're trying to create beauty here
if we're trying to create beauty here.
And so don't ever have a step in your process where it's ugly.
It's just to get it done.
I'm really after something other than, than a beautiful moving gets you by the
heartstrings or whatever your motive is, piece of art, you know, so if I'm studying
hands cause I'm terrible at drawing hands.
So I go to my model class at night to study hands, try and
make them beautiful hands.
Don't beat yourself over the head if they're not beautiful, but you do the
best you can under the circumstances, under the limitations of needing
to improve your learning curve on something and all that kind of stuff.
But still your hope is that you can frame that little gem and
give it as a gift or put it in a gallery and make it successful.
So never, never teach yourself sloppy lessons.
They can be quick, they can be even crude, but every single mark
I make, I want it to ring true.
So one of the things I like about this, and I'm going to play this up as not
as much in the reference, I'm going to
kind of think of that rope idea, twisting the rope.
And so I'm going to twist this
bark off this way.
It's going to twist.
And a twist just means that in this case, the top is turning one direction
and the bottom is turning another.
In this case, the bottom is facing us more or less.
And the top
is turning off axis to that frontal facing.
And so we get a S curve.
So twisting is always characterized by an S curve.
So anyway, we can take this on and on and on and do a bunch of these.
And I would encourage you to do a bunch of these.
I'm not going to do a bunch of these cause we have a lot to cover today.
And so we'll take it as is.
Let me real quickly though
And what I'll usually do is I'll just draw it and I'll draw it as I said,
several times, do five or six of them.
They don't take very long it as I'm talking and putzing around here,
they're taking maybe 10 minutes or maybe I spent 10 minutes on
that, but probably not even that.
So do a bunch of them.
Do, you know, five minutes each or whatever it takes to do, sometimes
it only takes you 30 seconds or a minute to do it and then come back in
and say, okay, can I feel this idea?
And is that important idea to keep in it or play up in it?
And so if this mighty branch here was off axis from that, maybe
I want to pull it right back in axis, or if it's on axis too much
and I want to kind of push it off that classic structural idea,
then maybe I'll kick it off axis, purposely, throw it away from that.
But if it's starting to come out, then maybe at the end here,
I'll want to turn this back in.
So it's right on axis at the very end, as it crosses out of our
window into our little world here.
Notice also I'll do this in painting.
Every one of these shapes deserves to be a little character with a real
personality, not a cardboard cutout.
I hate going to movies where it's just the same old guy, the grumpy Parisian
or the talkative cab driver or the helpless woman or whatever it is.
It's no fun to do that,
you've seen it so much before.
You're not learning anything.
It's not taking you anywhere.
You're - you're way ahead of the story that way.
And so I'll come back and make each one of these a character that breaks expectation
a little bit that has its own quirky little character as it moves through its
existence, the limits of its position there, you know, it doesn't have a big
part in our movie, but it still has a part it deserves to be fantastic on some level.
So each of these can be worked out and carefully sculpted.
And I look to the likes of Dean Cornwell and really look to Leyendecker, look
to fantastic shapes, and maybe I don't play them up as strongly as
those guys, or maybe I play them up differently, but give it a real
personality that's surprising, that's unique that hopefully speaks to your
voice, but respects the subject matter.
So I was listening to a lecture on writing and a fine teacher made the
fine point, in Alien, the first Alien, the screenwriter cared enough about
that alien, about the monster, to think of the idea that it didn't have blood.
It had acid.
And you think of that and you just say, well, it's a monster movie technique,
but I mean, he had to take the time he had to care enough about the story and
the character and the craft to bend or break expectations about what you see.
Every horror film has blood in it.
But I mean, if you splatter this guy's blood, if you try and kill
this monster, look what happens.
The whole ship's going to melt away.
That's a really cool little thing.
It's very little for the story.
The story would have made it without it, but it adds texture
to it and it shows a craft.
And we sense then that the person cares enough to make this a complete
thought, complete world, and then we feel more comfortable and
less vulnerable stepping into it.
There's gotta be a lot of trust there to commit our emotions in
public and react to an art form.
And so you've got to gain their trust and have some compassion for
what they need to feel that trust.
So anyway, we can work on and on this.
So I could look at it this way.
I could look at it this way, traditional landscape painter.
I'm going to go more this way because the subject matter suggests that, and
this direction is going to be less powerful than the other direction,
but maybe I'll bring a little hatch in here to bring that up a little bit,
or maybe not, but be a possibility.
But I'm going to go this way cause this is more of a figurative tool historically,
this is more of a landscape tool and I want that tree to be basically the wise
craggy old man in the picture, just like a Merlin character or a biblical
patriarch or something to have gravitas.
And so I'm going to treat this as a figurative composition with several
figures, not a figure standing in the middle of a landscape,
you know, that kind of suggests
We've got something that's important and then there's stuff filling in around it.
And quite often that's what happens.
Especially with figurative painters, they work so hard and so many years to get
some mastery of the figure that they put all the time and energy in learning that.
And rightly so, but then when they want to make a real picture with a
foreground background relationship.
They have very little resources to draw on, to fill in around it.
And so oftentimes it looks like a stage set where you've got the figure standing
here and it may be gloriously done.
Might be incredible.
But then they just drop in a background behind it.
And the figure feels like it's in front of the background rather than
integrated into the background.
They beam them down into the setup or they prop them up in front of the setup
and the setup doesn't have any or much in terms of depth or interest or vitality.
I don't know why I gave it two moons there, or two sons.
But anyway, it loses believability.
You go, that's great that this just stuck on, it's an afterthought and that
kind of hurts our feelings as a viewer.
You didn't care enough to create a whole world.
You know Charlie Brown, think of cartoon strips, comic strips, and such, you
know, as crude is they may be, they still have, if they're successful,
they'll still have a worldview.
There's still a philosophy behind how the characters act in terms of
the storyline, the punchline of the joke and the continuation, continuum
of the story, but just how do you draw a Charlie Brown football?
How do you draw Charlie Brown dog house?
How do you draw a little bird or a blade of grass in a Charlie Brown world?
There has to be a consistency there for us to feel comfortable in coming into it.
So it's important to kind of think these things through.
Nobody, even your art teacher may be, or your art mentor or anybody, your peers,
are going to exactly pick up on that.
The fact that this is like Merlin to the young Arthur or grandma to the little.
Child on her knee kind of idea to you, they'll probably never pick that up
and they almost certainly shouldn't be able to pick it up, but it will be some
underlying scaffolding for you to build and it will be a barometer for every
mark you makes to see if it stands the test of that subtext, that internal
need, that you'll only, you know about.
And that becomes your motivation and your inspiration for creating that
and becoming the gauge for your craft gauge of the excellence of the craft.
You know, how carefully did we think everything through and then it'll go away
more than likely, at least some of it, if not all of it, all of that underlying
stuff, all that backstory work you did will go away and should go away to a
great, great degree so that the audience can step in and put their interpretation
on it and get what they need out of it.
You did the work, you got what you needed out of it.
Now, give them a turn.
Don't beat them over the head with what you think it should be.
Let them find what they need it to be.
Otherwise your art dies and it doesn't become something
that stands the test of time.
It's not, we're not going to come and see that play
300 years, 400 years later, if it doesn't have great deep symbols in it.
And if it is open-ended and slightly contradictory, so that the new age,
the new society, the new generation can come and get what they want out of them.
So we can look at these things as, as the basics, you know how to do that.
So I'll just do it here, I guess.
We have this really great zigzag.
I love zigzags.
That's a big deal in all my art.
And I use those as the inspiration for the boxer, I see kind of a knuckle joint here.
So maybe I'm gonna play up this knuckle joint down here.
So there'll be a zigzag with these kind of ball like maybe I've got a
knuckle joint here almost like this.
The finger, a finger shape with knuckle and joint, ball
and socket or drumstick idea.
And that might give it a little bit of personality, the hand of nature coming
out, or the hand of God, or just that anatomical suggestion, you know, you
see that kind of stuff all the time.
The hourglass of the torso, you know, the head and the neck, the shoulder
and the arm, the wrist and the hand.
You see that thin to thick
drum stick idea all through the body.
And so bringing that into the, I give it a little humanity
on some basic design level.
So you can see how I didn't have any of these ideas in mind.
I had the idea of thriving, been thinking about it a couple of
days, what I'm going to do exactly.
And I was thinking of the kind of thriving theme
as a possibility, but that's all I had coming into it.
I wanted to explore it with you guys so we can kind of stumble through
it together and you can see what I'm thinking and hopefully more
mythology, more of the mythology of this new world I'm starting to create.
And maybe this new series of hyper successful paintings that
will get me on the cover of every contemporary magazine in the world
and every major gallery in the world.
But at the very least, it gives me pleasure and keeps me busy, keeps
me out of trouble as I'm painting.
I start thinking of these things, but I'm building up basically
justifications for everything I'm doing with all my visual components,
zigzags, shape and design, line, value, depth of field, all that stuff.
So Stephen's asking about Edgar Payne.
I'd made the comment that he's not a great figurative artist.
He was a great landscape painter.
I think it's pretty evident.
And then Stephen asks now how can that be?
You've got a master of a craft.
Why isn't he mastering all the crafts in effect?
And if you phrase the question like that, then the answer
starts to become fairly apparent.
You know, it takes a tremendous amount of time, you know, the talent factor you
can argue about, but talent at very least let you master the material quicker.
You could argue that someone who's less talented, they work harder will do great.
And I would argue that, but in any case, he had to put in a lot of mileage to get
very, very good at landscape and landscape is oftentimes the haven for people who
are not great draftsman, they love art.
They love color.
In fact, most of us are more naturally gifted in color and
more challenged in drawing the figure let's say, or vice versa.
I was always a better draftsman than a designer of paint or color.
And it took me a long time to figure out color.
Drawing, took me a long time to figure out drawing too, but it came quicker for me.
I got better quicker at whatever level I was at.
It was - the drawing was always here.
And so that came easier for me.
Most of the time people go into landscape or many of the times
I should say, people go into the landscape because they love art and
it's a quicker in, in a lot of cases.
The only thing you have to do is learn how to deal with depth, which is
really a value scale and color problem.
It doesn't have to be a drawing, beautifully refined object problems.
So you can just make a triangle, the rougher the triangle, the better really.
So it's an organic triangle and you got a mountain.
And then the canyon are zigzagss.
The trees are just little cones or just little feathered out shapes.
There's not a lot there that has to be carefully articulated.
Now you can look at like a mountainside, water color and oil paintings by
Sargent where he's got figures or not figures on a avalanche site.
And you've got these big boulders and he's done this beautiful job of sculpting
all the planes of the boulders and rocks.
And that took some drawing skill to do that.
And some patients to do that, but you don't have to do that.
They can be very buttery paintings where you're just
getting the broad, simple shape.
So as long as he gets some basic, roughly recognizable shape, putting great color,
great value design, deal a little bit with scale, the recession of things,
or aerial perspective, the recession of the values and colors you're in there.
And so if you decided to start painting at 82, because you've retired, you
can get pretty far in two, three, five, ten years doing that would
not having to spend hours and hours.
Learning all this stuff you've got to learn here.
So it's not surprising in that case.
There are exceptions to that.
Like, you know, some of the great figurative painters could
paint all the other things.
So figure's the hardest.
And I think for most people drawing is the hardest thing and it takes the most time.
I liked it and got better at it and started at a great level,
frankly, but I was okay with it.
I struggled widely with color.
But once I put my mind to color, I learned that in a couple of years,
basically two, three years that I had it fairly well mastered, at least in
terms of the yard stick I had to do.
And then of course you're always refining, but withdrawing five years,
oftentimes barely get you started.
You're barely hanging on trying to get hold of that stuff.
And it can take you a generation to become a, a real strong grasp.
And a lot of people just don't have.
That interest in putting in that kind of work or they just
have such a love of one thing.
You so love ballet you don't want to be a tap dancer, you know, that kind of thing.
So, you know, every once in a while you get an athlete who can do baseball
and basketball and football but most, just pick one love and stick with that.
Michael asks about Rembrandt's use of light as a compositional tool
and my use.
Well that drop light, the three-quarter drop light is a
classic that used all the time.
And it's used for structural reasons.
If you've got the asymmetry, that's more in terms of design that's more
interesting because it's off axis, but if you've put it right here,
notice what happens with the face.
You have front planes throughout, of course.
And then you have side planes, but the face is more narrow than the skull.
So all of the first set aside, planes are really corner planes.
You're flaring out from the front of the forehead back along the
temple, because you're going from little face to big skull.
And so these are pointing forward.
That means if you have a drop light, that's frontal, both of these are
going to be the same value and fairly similar to value on this.
Same way here, same way here.
Same way on the nose here.
So when you get into a three-quarter position, it's more dramatic
because it's asymmetrical.
We have symmetrical features basically more or less and maybe a symmetrical pose.
And then we have an asymmetrical light.
It breaks up that expectation, or we have symmetrical features and a slightly
asymmetrical pose and a symmetrical light.
And then maybe the eyes come back this way back to symmetry,
but are off axis with this.
And so you're playing with these angle changes that creates interest.
So there's all that.
But for Rembrandt, this was a conceptual idea.
As I alluded to yesterday, he was a religious man as most Europeans were
at that time, and that was God's light.
If you notice in Rembrandt, he's one of the best draftsman in art
history, the greatest etching artists etcher in history, and
yet he drew really ugly people.
And kind of lumpy people.
Now you can put that up to the times, you know, that's just the kind of
people he hung around with people with lumpy noses and lumpy bodies,
or you can say, well it's actually a different aesthetic than Raphael that
was drawing off the classic, the Greek and Roman classical ideals of beauty.
You know, most of the European artists, especially in Italy and down the Southern
European, all work from that classical ideal, the Northern Europeans van Dyck and
Rembrandt and such work from the Gothic idea, the traditional Christian ideal,
rather than the pagan Roman Greek ideal.
And so there was a difference in temperament there is, but what he was
doing is he was in effect painting
It was realism, warts, and all kinds of thing, flawed people, rather
than idealize people that have been airbrushed out, photoshopped out.
They watched a little bit of TV in the hotel room and they're softening
the flaws or trying to idealize them.
You don't get that in Rembrandt.
You get everything right there, all the flaws, all the lack of glamour there.
And the only beauty really in that is the light coming down.
It's ugly flesh in, in his vernacular, religious vernacular it was corrupt
rotting flesh, basically it was flesh that was going to decay and
die, that thriving life, death idea that we're going to play with here.
He played with it in a very different way, but the hope, the beauty came
not from the earthly limitations, but from God's enlightenment, that
light became a religious idea for it.
And so I picked that up in my work for a couple reasons.
One, I find it incredibly beautiful.
Rembrandt's my favorite painter.
I steal from him every way I can, but also I was doing boxers because I used to box.
And so that was my in, into doing the figure to become a fine artist.
But there was George Bellows out there.
He was a 500 gram gorilla that I did not want to be compared to.
And he was the Ashcan school, the big city kind of atheistic really
gritty street with the garish colors and the dirty alleyways.
And when the boxers fought, it was like a butcher markets, raw flesh
banging together kind of thing.
It was like Rocky punching the ribs of the cut of meat.
And so it had this very, to me, kind of secular idea, you know, a
very 20th century modernist idea.
So I went the other way, so I would not be compared to him.
And so I went to the romantic direction against his more austere and harsh idea.
I went to the other direction to separate the two of us there.
Julie asked about my taking from writing theory and what were my sources that
John Truby book, and he has a website.
You can actually buy his genre courses or he's got a bunch
of writing 101 master courses.
He's got a whole library of maybe 20 different courses you can take
on the particular story, beats of comedy or how to develop character
and plot and have them come together.
Seamlessly, all that kind of writing 101 stuff.
And I liked Truby because he's very visual.
He deals with the visual components.
Like Bruce Block does.
I mentioned Bruce Block, but it's good basic stuff.
It's for screenwriters primarily, but as a storyteller of sorts and one who's taught
for years in the studios teaching Disney and Dreamworks and these guys how to do
better drawings to tell their stories, their sequential stories through pictures.
It was important that I learned that and I've found great inspiration for
that as we talked about yesterday.
So anyway, John Truby is really good.
They're probably the top of the heap is Robert McKee and he has
these famous workshops all over the world that are quite expensive.
And they're three-day marathons usually on basic writing or all the
basic sub genre and such, but he's more of a character guy and he's
more of in the head kind of guy.
And so if you really want to be a writer, he's terrific.
But in terms of taking some bullet points, taking a few inspirations or
fewer ideas and seeing how they connect that your idea of what your art form
is, Truby is really good for that.
There's a bunch of others.
If you're interested in a, how to course on any particular thing,
look to children's or young adult sections in the library or
wherever you're getting it from.
And there's some really great basic books on writing if you want to write a
young adult novel and you're a beginning writer, and so you're working for a
slightly less sophisticated audience and you're working from the beginning up.
And so they're trying to teach the hobbyist in a way.
And you can get the broad strokes there very easily.
And then that gives you an in and that might be all you need.
It might just be a curiosity and you might be able to grab a few things
or you might find nothing there, but then you can always take it farther.
So, but he's great.
And then Bruce Block, he doesn't teach story, but he teaches the visual component
idea and he's basically all he's done is taken the old master compositional
tools that Rubens and Titian and the ateliers and the academies all knew.
It was just ingrained in their bones.
They grew up with it basically as artists, if they were
immersed in it, in their society.
For us, it's these revelations.
But for them, it was pretty common knowledge back then.
And that's true in a lot of the crafts and writing too.
Anyway, all he's done is look at compositional theory of painting,
pulled those out and codified them and given them to the filmmakers,
he's added editing in it basically.
And that's about it.
But anyway, he'll look at line, shape, tone, all the things we
did in a real clear, simple way.
And he separates it out.
Each visual components have different chapter more or less.
And he say, okay, now here gives you a broad sense of the possibilities
of shape and how to use them.
And he's talking about dramatic change, not shape, but how does shape
change over time to create drama?
And so we have the circle becomes the triangle or for us, we'll have
a lot of circles with a triangle in it, or you've got the pale staircase
in a French new wave of movie
and you got the girl in the red dress running up the staircase and
that's the only splash it color.
So you have this real white whited out marble staircase, you know, steps going up
the piatsa or whatever, and this beautiful flash or red going up, or the red shoe
is, which is a famous movie that inspired Scorsese and so same kind of thing.
And so you use the visual component of a color, no color except for that
red shoe or that red dress to, and you can get clearly the points of those.
So anyway, he takes you through the film, which you'll be more familiar with,
breaks it down very, very simply, but he's just doing what composition books do.
I haven't exhausted lately
what's out there, but the basic skill set in the books, the best
ones are usually 60, 70 years old.
None of them are complete.
And I haven't seen any composition books that aren't either really dry theory,
you know, kind of digging in the notes of Vasari or something like that, or
really basic kind of something you'd see on PBS as an art appreciation course.
So anyway, those are the possibilities and you can just Google or go
to whatever online store and find a whole plethora of stuff.
Andreas asked how I got to the metaphor of life as a fight or a struggle or a battle.
And do I have a background in boxing working and street
sweeping, whatever else.
And yes, I boxed, I wrestled, I did martial arts and stuff.
So I had that kind of sports background.
I always felt that that helped me in drawing the body because I was aware
of my body and worked to develop the body and all that kind of stuff.
So that kind of helps having awareness of the subject matter on whatever level.
In writing, you always say, write what you know.
So if you were a janitor, that's a great place to have a character come
from cause you know what janitors do, or if you were a gallery painter, have
a story that's set in the world of New York galleries or something like that.
So anyway, as an artist, paint or write or do what you know.
And so, yeah, I knew that, and that was the inspiration for that.
And then life is a struggle.
You're always looking for drama, for the juices to flow, for
It's the change or the contrast that's interesting.
If everything gets along, if everything's the same, if it's all pastel colors,
like Thomas Moran can get, it gets a little much after a while.
live with a room of Moran posters, it'd be too much, but every once in a while,
going to Huntington Gardens, when I lived in Pasadena and looking at that
really lovely little painting, it's like treating yourself to a suite almost.
It's really terrific.
And you can take things from that for your own work.
I don't have any kind of palette like Moran.
But he uses the same brown ground underneath and to see all those
pastel temperature changes come on top of, and that ground come
through, taught me a few lessons.
So anyway, what I'm looking for, what most artists are going to
look for is some kind of drama.
And that's why, you know, everything's melodramatic in
Hollywood and on the stage.
And oftentimes in contemporary art, they want to shock you.
They do some shocking image that offends somebody because they
want to get the juices going.
They want to get noticed.
Remember, we're in a quiet art form in a loud world.
How do you get noticed?
So fighting, boxing in general is really controversial.
It's been compared to Roman gladiators killing the Christians or slaves fighting
and dying for the enjoyment of an audience of bored public, you know, same way
there's football, concussions and things.
There's certain controversy there.
And so, especially if you're going to live in New York or L.A., that's
a fairly conservative subject in a liberal environment, you know, is
it okay to punch somebody in the nose and get some money for it?
There's some good questions to ask there.
And there's a lot of deep emotions that come.
In fact, I had one person come up to me and she goes, you know, I feel guilty.
I hate boxing.
I think it's a nasty evil institution, but I really like your paintings.
You know, what do I do with those emotions?
That's exactly what I was hoping for cause that's dramatic.
It makes people think, it gets people engaged in the work.
They have to kind of struggle to find what they need out of it.
Is it okay to hate this thing?
Better hate it and yet I can't quite bring myself to hate it.
That conflict makes for a good story.
That's what a drama is about when you have a good drama.
And so finding things, not that just need your pushes button, just to tease
someone, just poking them in the side to make them notice you, but have something
that generally has two sides to the story.
They can argue, you know, life is a struggle in a way.
Sometimes I struggle just finding a pair of socks that matches, you
know, life can be a battle at times.
And sometimes you got to stand up and fight for your job or your career
or your country, or your loved ones, or for your point of view, you know?
So there's all that stuff going on there.
And so that became juicy.
And I didn't start with that idea.
I came to it after many paintings.
I started to find my way through that as I painted boxer after boxer.
Marie Catherine's asking about the triangle of light that
hits in a Rembrandt portrait.
Rembrandt - there's lots of things you can say about that.
You can make the light become a shape component too, and that can have
all the, you know, triangles and Trinity and Christianity tie together.
So there's a lots of ways to take that question, but the way I look at
Rembrandt light is you got one, it's a great teacher of reads or three reads.
R E A D S.
What do you see
What do you see second.
What do you see third?
With the Rembrandt, the light always drops off and we can read
into that religiously of course, and say, well, God's illumination.
You know, so you can read that whole thing into it, but just in
terms of read, this gets blasted with light in the shadowy world.
And then here a little less, here a little less, the hands not at all, or
almost not at all, depending on the piece.
And so it drops off and that makes this more important and notice
that the head's turned this way and the eyes are back this way.
And the lights here.
This eye is more important than this eye.
Symmetrical eyes, but this is a first read, this is a
second read, compare the two.
So almost always in portraiture, you'll have one, a little more
important than other, not always.
See Albrecht Dürer's famous self portrait he's straight on, but generally that's
more interesting, more dramatic attic, more flattering and more kind of regal,
you know, self imposing kind of thing.
It's just more interesting.
So anyway you have that, but I always think of Rembrandt takes
the head and makes it a perfect egg in terms of tonal composition.
And it is more or less that, but if we have a highlight here, it will be
much brighter than the highlight here.
And that will be much brighter than the highlight here.
And that will be brighter than the highlight here and it all drops off.
So the blasted out glorious golden light starts to fade away and becomes less
and less powerful and it makes the area less and less interesting, less and less
glorious, less and less saved religiously.
And by the time we get down here, it's lost completely.
So the whole canvas it's like if you had a ball, the light slowly fades away
and hits the ball with ever diminishing power till it doesn't hit it at all.
And that's what the whole canvas does.
And the face itself does.
Mark asked when putting a figure into a landscape environment,
how do we control our values to create the illusion of depth?
And it's that thumbnail design, where everything's really simple, not only
simple, crude and not attached to it.
And you can play the games of value.
That value's your most powerful tool in breaking the plane of the
canvas, breaking that picture plane.
For a realist and oftentimes even for a modern artist, even Jackson
Pollack, playing with depth, breaking the service becomes a key
part of the picture making process.
And so how do we get past the reality to this, to the idea of that, that
we go through and into that, and so value's your most powerful tool.
And what we do is we break things down into three values.
And when you take a whole world, a whole perceived world and reduce it down to
three values, things are going to end up grouping together and the details,
separations will be lost.
And by grouping things in the right way, you can group the things that are
closer to you say with more contrast, the things that are farther away, get grouped
into a more limited range of values.
We get that pop.
Or everything that turns to the right it gets darker and everything turns
to the front or left gets lighter.
Everything that goes down gets darker and then it goes up.
You give a certain internal logic to it.
And then scale and all the other stuff, but you give a certain internal
logic to it that the audience can hold on to and say, oh, I get it.
You know, I know mountains are usually far away with the clouds
and now I see in your world, they get more middle value and blue.
And so if that cow is more blue over there, then the cow is here.
That cow is probably farther away from me too.
And they get it on a intuitive level.
All right so I use paper towels and you can use the cotton rags or whatever,
and I'm terrible at this because I'll get painting oftentimes I'll even
forget that I didn't use the paper towel and I'll toss it in the trash can.
In fact, I need a trash can.
So I'm not as efficient or as friendly to the trees as I should be.
But that's the way it is.
So what I'm going to do this, I'm going to create a frame and I'm
going to paint this inside here.
Normally I wouldn't, I'd use the whole thing, but for presentation
purposes, I think for fairly obvious reasons, we'll do that.
And normally, especially for a landscape that has green grass, because if you look
at the reference here, you got the green grass and you have the brown soil coming
through and that's one of the hallmarks
of a good landscape oftentimes as you see the layers, hallmark of a good
painting, if you get two different colors, that's more interesting
than just one flat graphic color.
It seems more rich, more complicated.
And if you got a gray orange, which is what the brown earth is, brown
is just a gray orange and the rich green, the grass green on top, that
orange and green or reddish and green
are complimentary or near compliments and you get a little
bit of energy going on there.
The, the red against the green vibrates and makes it more vibrant.
If you mix them together, you get a dirty gray, but if you leave them red and
green, like a Seurat, the pointillists did you step back and it grays out,
but you get up there and the colors are vibrating and energetic and more alive.
And so having broken color or putting one color a little loosely on top
of the underlying color, stitches them together to great effect.
And that's the reality of soil is sometimes the brown comes through
the green and most of the time the green covers most of the brown, but
having it sneak through is terrific.
So doing a wash here and rubbing it down, so it's nice and dry.
Maybe even letting it dry overnight or a day or two planning ahead is a
nice way to get this green grass bit.
So anyway, we're going to just wor all a prima here and work on the white canvas.
And we're going to want to make sure that we get rid of that white.
This is your enemy.
It's one of the reasons toning the canvas, one of the many
reasons toning is a great strategy.
It gets rid of the white.
You will lose your sense of environment if you paint a white canvas, remember that
the Leyendeckers they're vignetted out.
So you've got this beautiful little baby or whatever the, the image is
and then it goes to the white paper that kills the sense of
a window into an environment.
So if you're trying to create depth in your painting, atmosphere, a strong
sense of light, a sense of reality, even if it's your own reality,
you've got to get rid of that white.
There is no real white in nature.
Everything is colored and tinted and polluted by the things around it,
the local colors and light source.
And then someone rightly asked me to mention the materials.
Now I use Gamblin paints because they're a good quality paint.
And the main reason I use them, they're a good quality paint, but there's a
lot of good quality paints out there.
You can get every single color in their line in the big tubes.
And notice I put out a lot of paint and if I were at home, my
palette would be a big table.
It's actually a big dresser that's bigger than this.
And so by the time I've got my brushes and my turpentine and this
and that, I end up having and I'm, and I stay close enough to my painting
I end up having about this much palette to work with.
And so I'll put out a lot of color.
So I've put out some, not as much as I normally would have,
especially for alla prima painting.
You really should put out two times this.
So you're not dabbing and scrubbing it in, but you're getting good coverage.
So Gamblin paints, I just buy the cheapest brushes I can because
I'm really hard on the brushes.
So I hold it like this, just like when I draw with charcoal and I scrub a lot.
Put a lot of energy into each stroke to try and get some
interesting shapes popping out.
And just to feel that package of energy, that quantum package of,
of energy ready to burst out of the shade adds to that kinetics idea that
I'm so interested in, in my work.
So I wasted a lot of brushes that way.
These are new, but they get rubbed down and thrown away pretty quickly or
splayed out even because the solvent will rot out the brushes eventually.
So anyway, they don't last long.
So I buy cheap ones.
As long as they're not so cheap that when you do this, if I can do this and
pull up bristles, you don't want that.
That's too cheap, but these are actually on sale.
I usually bring brushes with me.
I forgot to.
So I went and bought some at the art store and they were on sale.
I bought the cheapest brushes I could, that held a good shape.
If you do this, they're slightly glued together so they hold their
shape and look nice in the display case and you don't have the hairs
getting damaged in shipping, but before you buy the brush, you can see it
- you might even be able to see a little dust coming out there,
but loosen that up, make sure it still holds its shape pretty well.
And then when you get your paint down here, you can do it with a palette knife.
I just use a brush, do that.
And then oftentimes I'll roll the brush this way and try and reclaim
that nice pointed shape and work.
And then I use just rounds at this point.
I didn't use to, but now I do.
So every once in a while I use a filbert if I need to scrub
in a big area or a square even.
But notice that if I do
this and push that down, let me do it this way.
I've turned it into a filbert basically.
Or if I took a filbert and turned it on edge, I would basically get a round.
And so you can mix and match.
I find for students, if they use big rounds of squares, that's great
for covering big areas, but they have these real clunky shapes.
These crudely designed shapes and all the strokes are the
same and it gets awful boring.
And I want to see variations.
I want to be surprised in how that paint comes down and I want
to surprise myself in what I get.
So as I scrub this down and cover, by doing back and forth, different
angles, I'll push back through the paint and spread it out,
get closer to the canvas, have some of the white canvas come through, pile it
up in little ridges and it'll create interesting little effects there.
On an abstract level then, that little abstract painting of that
filled in area is interesting.
And that's what I want to do.
Just like Vermeer would take a frame, like this tree is creating a frame and
now this can be a brand new picture.
So if we were to have a horrible accident, that was all destroyed, is that
still a worthwhile little competition?
Is this, is this, cause it's a tree.
So I'll take little areas and I'll make sure that area just on its own
is beautifully composed within the limits of the greater composition.
Or Dean Cornwell,
and others would do this too, but Dean Cornwell was famous for putting a
little still life on a table somewhere.
And so if you just cut that out, it was a beautifully composed little still life.
So anyway, that's that.
So and then colors, viridian, ivory black, and you could have
done without the ivory black.
Titanium white, Indian yellow, could have been transparent orange.
If you get a really cheap brand Indian yellow, it's just going
to be a cheap yellow ochre.
This Indian yellow is a stain.
It's a dark yellow.
It's the only relatively dark yellow.
It's the only dark yellow you can get.
Everything else yellow's really light.
Of all of the primaries and secondaries, yellow's really light.
Everything else is in the middle and darker range.
And so if you need to get yellow in the shadows, that's a great one for it.
And it has other properties that are nice.
But anyway, Indian yellow, or transparent orange.
Transparent orange is just Indian yellow with a little
bit of alizarin crimson in it.
This is a lemon yellow, actually.
I usually don't do that, but since we had the grass, I thought I'd go ahead.
But I could have used this with the viridian or a warmer
yellow with the viridian.
This is naphthol red.
It's basically a fire engine red, any fire engine red would be good.
Cad red medium, for example, alizarin crimson, but it could
have been a magenta or a permanent rose or any slightly blue red.
And then this is ultramarine blue.
This is a slightly reddish blue, so I can get a great purple.
I can get a good or great green.
I can get a really nice orange and notice that I can get an orange,
an orange, an orange, an orange.
I can get four different oranges by mix and matching my two
yellows against my two reds.
And the blue-ish yellow is going to make a really - or the bluish red is
going to make a pretty gray orange.
And the warmer yellow with the warmer red will make a much more of a bronzy
rich orange, and that is overloaded there because I'm a figurative
painter, even though we don't have much figurative work to do here.
And that is typical for figurative painters, you overload in that
orange range for the European figurative subjects, at least.
So, anyway, I don't have much in terms of figure, but I do have warm
brown wood and that's my other figure.
So this is a, a group figurative piece in effect.
And now I'm going to use some solvent just to gray things down
and that's going to be my drawing.
So I'm going to use my three primaries, but I could also, instead of blue, I could
use my really gray blue, which is black and make a, some kind of, non-color a
brown, I don't want a bright color here because then that's going to sneak through
into my painting maybe and give me trouble.
And let's make it, we'll put it here, I guess.
Just make it about this big.
And I think I'll move it up a little bit here.
Just so it's - I don't have to step out of the way quite so much.
When I illustrated I do my illustration like this, I do it on wood or
on illustration board sometimes.
And that way I could overpaint, this was going to be the dimensions for
the movie poster or whatever it was.
But I'd over paint it like this and that way if they had a different
format they needed to cut and paste it into, they had more room to work.
And also I could fine tune the composition.
I could put a frame over it.
Or cropping nails and say, actually this is better if I use this
upper left corner here like that.
And it felt like they were getting a little more there, it's a little bigger
than it had to be, so they had room to work with their graphic
and the print ad limitations.
I'm going to take a look at my little thumbnail real quick over here.
And now I'm in good shape here, because if I draw this too big or too small, I
can move my frame since I'm not forced into the limits of the stretch canvas.
If you've got a surface that you're painting on, that's fixed
in proportion has to stay that way, which is almost always the case.
Then you gotta be a little more careful in your scale.
And so if I was using this whole thing and it's going to go into a frame.
Or I just want it that big.
I might draw this like this two or three times and go, well now that's not big
enough and wipe it out and do it again.
Oh, that's too big.
Wipe it out and do it again.
I avoid cadmium and cobalt colors because it's so toxic.
And they're expensive too.
So that's a bad combination, you know, take your pocket
book down and it'll kill you.
So neither one is good.
So yeah, I avoid that.
Oil's toxic enough, so, and I don't wear rubber or gloves or anything, and there's
arguments on whether that helps anyway.
And I'm messy.
I get it on my fingers.
So I don't do the real toxic colors.
Try and pick, although for all I know, naphthol is really toxic.
So I avoid those.
They're too expensive.
And they're tough on you.
Having said that though, you want to try a bunch of colors,
there's a million reds out there.
There's a million yellows.
And so take a few years and buy a different yellow every once in a while.
You'll find your favorites and that's great, but don't settle too quickly.
Look at what we did.
We've got four somewhat different anyway oranges we can
work from without any mixing.
You know that's instructive, teaches you quite a bit.
I use this yellow instead of that other yellow, I'm getting a certain
orange that's fresh and new.
I really liked that orange better.
That's real bronzy and more quickly gets to that sun tan skin of the
worker out in the hot environment.
I'm just putting in marks here just to maybe something will catch my eye.
Or it'll sneak through the paint and I love happy accidents where
things happen I didn't plan.
So I keep things loose enough, wild enough, that I got to kind of get myself
out of trouble and little surprises happen and I get a shape or a quality of paint
that I would never have thought to do,
couldn't really plan, but it is just a lovely little addition to the painting.
You know, I want to teach myself something as I'm trying to teach my audience.
How to see a tree or a landscape, or how to think about life or whatever
it is I'm after, usually several things I'm after and notice that
nature is organic, like a figure.
And so it works off that same dynamic.
A dynamic figure twists and so you'll find planes rotating into dynamic
positions to deal with the gravity and action and opposing forces and all that
kind of stuff and so picking some of that up, you know, playing, how could I
make this symmetrical and asymmetrical?
It spreads out to give a wider base, cause this is a mighty tree,
but this spreads out differently.
It steps out.
And then back in.
And this bumps and wanders out, more of a typical route.
And so they're the same and yet they're different.
They have this symmetry, asymmetry, this dramatic personality.
They're both tree ideas, but one's a good old days codger and one's, you
know, aerodynamic new age, young pup, young whipper snapper, or something.
So kind of talk to your art as you're going, you know, talk
to yourself, commentate about it and give it a personality.
And the strokes, you know, this wanders or steps or struggles or fights its
way down, you know, use active verbs.
You know, in my world, you know, go back to your, your motivation in my world.
Things that are close to me have more detail.
They're more alive.
They show off their life, their fluidity more, more water-based things that
go away are maybe more stilted, more fragile, a delicate lines, whatever it is.
So now we'll add our little figure here.
And I was switching around just for fun and to keep you guys on
your toes using different red blues and oranges or yellows, I mean.
And you can see maybe how it's slightly different, and this is a red or purple.
This is more of a yellow umber.
This is a little greener yet.
Yellow, yellow sienna let's say, this is a little greener umber.
And that might come through the painting, you know, as the,
the redder and the yellow under drawing might come through and give
variation and sophistication or might suggest, oh, you know, that's,
I didn't mean to go that green, but you know, actually the brown wood
needs a little green that green brown idea might be playing in a different
way than the grass up in the trees.
So that's not a bad idea and you stumble into success.
Not sure how much of that we'll put in there, but we'll just use a little
notations to think about how the little branches that kind of scrub brush of a
cottonwood before it gets its leaves.
It's really kind of, you know, it almost looks like a Halloween wicked
witch tree before it gets its leaves.
Always do less solvent than you think you can always thin
it out more if you need to.
Then we have this little young lady here.
And I'm not putting any shadows yet because I want to
make sure the scale's right.
I'm not crazy about the fact she has these kind of clunky boots on.
So I'll probably make that something that's not very important or hide it
completely down in the shadows, the base of the tree, you know, a little brush
or bush coming over at some, some way to play down that fairly unflattering idea.
I'm gonna make a big deal about this bumping out this way.
Because I want to kind of play off this.
This is also bumping out in a different way.
So I'm going to make her go out and back and that'll make her feel.
Hopefully like she's leaning into that tree a little bit more than she really is.
So you don't want to change wholesale anything, but you do want to being in
a place where you can exaggerate, play it up, make it a little more tilted.
Maybe her face tips down a little farther than it really was.
And this is fine for what we're going to do here, you know,
and I'll change it as I go.
But just to show you the process.
This was clunky so maybe I'll hide a shadow across it like that.
And maybe this is a comp.
And so I'll say, well, I had the model come out and I didn't think to put her
in better shoes or to take off the leg.
And so that's bare legs or whatever.
So I'll do the comp and I'll rough in that idea that that's
fleshy legs down there maybe.
And then I'll have her come back again and shoot it for real and get
her bare feet, toes, and her little shoes are correct and work that out.
So, you know, you respect the piece and the piece that she started working
on, it will start to become a friend that's going to open up to you.
And it will tell you what it needs.
And my paintings often tell me they need a better artist painting them,
but I tell them tough luck, but you'll start to notice and it's a good place
to get to where you really start looking at what the painting needs.
We're realists, we're working from life and with all the seductions of life, all
of this, so beautiful, look at - no way
I could imagine a tree as fantastic as this tree.
It's bent over.
It's got this incredible texture, you know, there's all these amazing rhythms
coming out and you go god, or is she such a cute little girl or he's such
a rugged heroic young man or whatever it is, and I better do them justice.
And then you start to freeze up.
You go, oh my God, she's got to look prettier and it's got to look more
tree-like and there's gotta be, and you try and copy it and you go, nah, it's not
blue enough cause it's bluer over there.
And it's - her little fingers aren't right because over there it says - rather
than saying, well, the painting,
the pain is telling me that needs to go away.
That needs to be a soft, lost edge.
And in fact, edge a - a great way to use edges, you know, don't use it as a
total crutch, but it can be a helpmate.
You can say that area is driving me crazy.
I can't figure out how to do that hand simply loosely and well.
I'm going to hide it into the shadows and I'm going to pretend the cast
shadow covers it, or I'm going to blend that off and lose that detail.
I can't quite make this craggy bark into well against this
bare under side of the tree.
And so I'm just going to blend that away and lose that really beautiful
transition of the bark peeling away.
I can't get it as well as this there, it's hurting this piece, even though it's
the thing I like most about this part.
And so I edit that out or I change it appropriately, or I go to
my other reference to pull new wisdom or new inspiration from.
So I was going to make a change here.
Well, her head should be better.
I screwed up that head.
So I'm going to clean off my brush or if I was a smart guy, which I'm not, I would
get a new brush and then I'm going to take most of the turpentine solvent off.
So it's not dripping into my painting and I'm going to come in and I'm gonna
scrub away that face and push away the shadow so it's bigger.
And I made this little change here.
I go, oh my goodness.
It's - when you make a little change, it seems like a big change.
Oh, I've ruined the white canvas.
Oh man now I don't have anything to work with, I can be able to draw it
back even as well as it was before.
Or I got to make that color a little bit brighter before that might be too bright.
And you, instead of really making a solid change, that makes a difference.
You just say that's a little different that should do.
And you leave it.
So I make a change and then I'm going to come back here.
I'll get off camera
so I don't freak you out and I'll look at it from a distance
and see if it's working.
It's working so well, I think we'll just stop there and just call it a day now.
No, I'm just kidding.
So anyway, that's that.
And then that'll take a few moments really to dry out a few
minutes for that wash to dry out.
So it might affect the area if I try and come in and render it in
again and design a good shape.
So I might want to just leave it, but if you're feeling brave or feelings
okay, or you don't have to do much, then
you can go ahead and attack it there, okay.
So we'll just do that.
And you can say, you know, one of the things I like now, here's
a happy accident let's say I really actually like that color.
It's a, it's a warm color.
So it feels like it could be slightly tan flesh, but it's also
kind of the same color as the wood.
And it makes her look.
Wouldn't infant a way she's a creature of the woods.
And that might work beautifully into my idea of nature as a healing idea or
a we're all part of the cycle of life.
We're all natural critters.
And so I can now use that wash technique to stay in.
Let's say she's got a little bit of chest here.
like, so, and that might be a beautiful little color.
That's just right.
And I can rub it back and see, does that work if I rub it back?
Does it work even better, s or does it not work as well?
I, you know, it works okay.
That's good enough for now.
I'll lose that.
Give her a little bit more chin there.
Not gonna fuss too much about it, but I'll do a little bit of work to, to pick it
out there and that's good enough for now.
That'll get me far and maybe if this ends up just being a study.
And sometimes I'll start out and I'll say, okay, this is
going to be a finished piece.
I'm going to frame it, I'm going to send it to the gallery.
It'll be a new high point in my career.
And then you get into it and you go, you know, it's just not working or it's
actually a good idea, but it's just okay.
It's just, it's an idea that needs to to a flower.
And so I need a little more experience, so I'm gonna make this a comp, a
composition, a pretty ambitious sketch, and then I'll redo it again.
It's not fun to go through, but a fun story I've told a
couple of times to people.
I don't know if I've told New Masters audience, but I did a eight by ten foot
commission last year and the gesso was flawed on it, I spent a full year
on the thing doing other stuff too, but I spent been a full year on it.
It turns out that the gesso was defective and the canvas was ruined in effect.
And so I had to call it the collector and say the piece I just spent a year on now
just became the world's biggest sketch and I'm going to repaint the thing for you.
Cause I don't want to give you a flawed canvas.
And so what started out to be a, one of my most ambitious paintings ever
ended up being a practice piece for my next attempt, I was disappointed.
I wasn't crushed.
It out me behind on doing some of the work I need to do and doing
actually some more classes for New Masters and things like that.
But actually it was a great opportunity because now I can do the painting
again and I can make it better.
And I'm almost done with the second one now.
And probably 80% done, 90% done, and it's going to be a better piece.
So I mean, it's, that's what I do is I paint.
So I'd rather not paint the same painting over and over again.
But I've painted an idea, variations of it over and over again, cause I've really
liked the idea or sometimes I'll do it,
here's a secret for you, don't tell my collectors sometimes I'll do the
comp the sketch after I do the piece, because I have the idea down and I
like to be out of control a little bit and my drawing skills are good enough.
If I screw something up, I can fix it with the drawing and then repaint over that.
And so I like that energy and that kind of a slightly on the edge, you know,
having to fix trouble, it freshens up the painting and it keeps me
interested in the process and stuff.
So quite often I'll start something with little or no, usually with no
preliminary work and just see where it goes and then fix it on the fly.
And some of my best paintings have happened that way in some of the most
spectacular failures also have happened.
But I'll come up with a painting and I just loved that image.
I really liked the idea and I don't want to let it go.
It's like reading a novel when you read it again, because you just
don't want to leave that world.
So I'll paint it again and I'll paint a sketch so it's a different form and
I can put that out into the world.
Or I'll keep one and sell the other one, but there'll be two different.
It's not a knockoff.
I'm not putting one over on anybody in, if I guess I am in a way, but because the
implication is I did the sketch first, but I mean, it's not horribly immoral.
Let's put it that way.
It's just, I wanted to spend time with that.
And now I've got a looser version.
And the interesting thing about it is if I.
Spend a bunch of time, really rendering that, that little figure out with a double
or triple out brush and really learn all the subtle nuances of the face and locks
of the hair and all that kind of stuff,
now I really know that form.
I really know that subject and now I can do it again with more freedom,
more confidence, more energy, and bring some vitality to it that might've
been missing in the careful rendering.
And that's true in doing a series too.
If I do a series of paintings, if I'm going to end up doing
300 boxers in my career,
I'd have no idea how many boxing paintings I've done, but if I've done say 300
boxers in my career, you know, you get to know that and you can just, they can
be come these distilled down shortcuts.
Now the face has gone completely and the glove is just a red blur,
a zig zagging blur that crashes into the other opponent.
So you can get some really great stuff by getting very competent, becoming
a good friend of close ally, intimate confidant with your subject matter.
So anything that lets you do that you could go back again and
find new inspiration or take it farther is a real fantastic idea.
So that's that.
Here is this.
As soon as I get talking, I get less efficient.
And here's the - I'm going to take that over there.
On break I'll move that over just a little bit.
And I can paint this out here, this kind of tree line and
then we can crop it in later.
And like I said, I love to do that.
It's more creative to me to keep my choices open and to be constantly
questioning, you know, don't let the materials limit you too much if possible,
they're going to have absolutely certain limitations, strengths, and
weaknesses and, and all that kind of stuff, but try and keep control of it.
You know, if I can control the frame you know, I'm going to
make this way better piece.
I'm just going to paint off here and then that filling in of
the sky might be the best part.
Oh the way that did that suggested wispy clouds do that there, or keep
that because it's a nice looser version of the same, more careful thing here.
And then you go, oh, well, you know, that should be the way I paint.
Not this tight crank down, you know, I'm gritting your teeth type of style,
but a wild free let's do it four times to get one good one kind of
thing maybe or something like that.
So anyway, you get the point on that.
So there's my beginning drawing.
So I draw it about as tightly as I would a, a, a five minute figure drawing
sketch, and then I'll start filling in.
And if you're dealing with bright color, it's a smart idea to
change brushes for the new color.
I've got a dirty color down there.
I need to get some bright colors in here.
So best to do the bright colors with a fresh brush, fresh area of
the palette, scrape your palette
if you have to and better to do the warm colors first.
These cool colors, you know if that sky gets a little grayer.
If the green gets a little grayer, it's not a killer.
If her flesh gets dirty, you're done in, so I'm going to do that first and
then everything else will come around.
It's not the only way to do it, but it's a, it's a good strategy,
especially if you're learning to control your medium and you're not
the great master you will soon be.
So notice that I've got a cool red, a bluish red.
And now when I add a white notice that it gets much lighter, no
surprise, but also way grayer.
So yeah, I look at that and it's about that light, but that's pretty gray
maybe, maybe that's grayer than I want.
So I'm not going to be happy with that.
I may end up using that because that's the right value.
It's the right temperature, but I was expecting it to be a little grayer.
So what I'll do is, I'll try and do a pink again, but this time
I'm going to try a different pink.
I'm going to come out of that same purple pink magenta.
But I'm going to use this fire engine red rather than the blood red.
And that's better.
I'm gonna use that instead, knowing that it's probably
gonna get dirty as I work on it.
As I push brown wood against it, put some variation.
It's probably going to get dirtier.
Every time I add more white to render up to a brighter lit area.
Okay now this is going to hit that brown, dirty brown.
I'm going to get dirty brown here.
I'm going to wipe it off, clean it off, reload, pick it up again.
And I'm going to scrub this way to get some energy in those strokes, but
also I'm going to ease up against the other silhouette, the dirty drawing
or the different colored silhouette to keep my brush as clean as possible
and to make it more interesting, I'm going to use the warm and cool together.
I'm not going to do anything about the rendering.
Yeah, the, the and such, because might be the wrong color might be the wrong shape.
It might decide to do a completely different figure here.
Okay, so that's that.
And I'm going to do the green now.
And that's what I did.
I did kind of a rainbow of reds.
In fact, I did a variations two or three reds, pinks to find what I want.
I'm going to do the same thing with each color.
So I have choices.
I don't default to some basic choice.
Now notice when I use the Indian yellow, the Indian yellow is also slightly
green, but it does find into the oranges.
I don't have any orange fruit that I have to worry about.
Even then I could get a decent orange.
This moves nicely into the greens, and this is much more of a grass green.
The grass is slightly all live and all live green is a yellow and blue together
with a yellow dominating, but it also has a little bit of the brown or orange in it.
And that you'll see this in the romantic period Delacroixs.
You can see it into William Merritt Chases, they'll all use this and
what that is it's the grass green
with some of the brown earth in it.
And notice I'm testing it.
I'm testing this here.
Cause it's going to look different here than here with the other colors, of
course, white on white at this point so it's not a big difference, but
as you're painting, you're painting, the relationship of all the colors
here is going to depart from the relationship of all the colors here.
And especially if you're putting one color on top of another,
that's going to look very different than if you put it just on white.
And you can see how I go through brushes pretty quickly now.
And just for time sake, I'm going to thin this paint down.
So I don't - otherwise I'm going to use this whole thing to mix green
and I'm going to have to tear it off.
I will anyway at some point, but
I'm gonna just put it down thinly.
And so we'll see quite a bit of drawing, although I can do this and
kind of struggle away that drawing for the most part, it'll always
have a little bit of a ghost there.
I used the drawing to put that shape change, the cast shadow
or the terrain line or whatever.
But it's not a big deal.
It can always be fixed later.
And then I'm always interested in gradations.
I'm a tonalist.
Tonalist at heart.
Whistler, George Innes was a fantastic tonalist landscape painter.
Da Vinci would be the first tonalist, his sfumato design of tones, those smoky
tones, lost and found kind of thing.
But anyway, I'm always looking for how things change.
So I'm going to let this get brighter and greener as it moves out.
And then finally, I might make it darker and greener.
And notice how these kinetic strokes can - cause all the
bristles I'm using hog's hair now.
I have a few fake sables, couple of them for details if I ever get that far,
I always have a few of those, but the hog's hair are really stiff brushes.
And so if I do this carefully with thick paint, you'll feel a little bit
of the brushes, but if I do this, the bristles kind of scratch in, like the
cats on your couch fabric kind of thing.
And you'll see that texture and that works pretty well for, and you could
even make sure it strokes like this.
It works pretty well for the grass texture.
Be faithful to the direction of the grass and make them smaller and smarter strokes.
I'm not going to do that.
I'm gonna let it stay abstracted.
So notice now this, this is about 12 inches of canvas, but this
is, you know, 300 yards of space.
So what are we going to do to make sure that they feel that the grass
that I'm painting here is very, very close to us, only maybe 10 feet away.
And the grass that I'm painting here is, you know, a quarter of a mile away.
Well, I'll have to come up with some strategy right now.
It looks like a backyard at best.
And that's mainly because of the overlap here where it's maybe 50 feet or whatever.
So that'll be something I have to deal with.
I don't need to deal with it now because I might decide that this green is
completely wrong green for the full area.
And so why fuss around with it?
I put two different pink's there and even that is time and emotion
spent that you might not want to be spending, you know, I'm gonna, if
I put that little extra effort into it, I'm going to get attached to it.
And I may not be able to see it with a clear eye and say,
no, that's really got to go.
I might say oh boy, I sure painted a great little hemline there or
great little turn into the fold.
A really fun kinetic, nice brushwork there, and then get attached to it
because technically I have impressed myself, but the painting itself
is completely unimpressed and is screaming for you to fix it, you
just can't bring yourself to do it.
Yeah that one eyeball is the best eyeball I ever painted.
I'm going to change the whole face to try and keep that eyeball right.
We do that stuff all the time.
Okay now watch what happens
I put this big, relatively large amount for this little
palette, big chunk of blue there.
And now I'm trying to get that blue light enough.
And notice how quickly my very white paint gets sucked down into the mid range.
Now notice when I do that,
even though that's in the mid range it's still a pretty gray blue.
So as soon as I add white, it's getting lighter, but it's also getting grayer.
And so if I really wanted the rich blue, I might have to
go darker, but if I go darker
- I go darker so I can get more intense - if I go darker, well that's
way better, but now that's going to be very close to the value of this.
So what do I do?
Do I make this really light so that the dark shadow pops off and the
middle value tree bark pops off?
Or do I make this darker so this is nice and intense against this grayer brown.
And then I pushed some dark shadows even darker.
And then maybe I push the bark much lighter.
That would be something to work out here.
We're not going to do that.
We don't have time.
But what I would do is I'd say, well in my little pen and ink sketch, I wasn't sure.
And if I'm just going to paint wet over dry, I'll just try one.
And when it dries, I can change it to the other.
And repaint it four or five times until I get what I want.
And it'll just maybe be richer because all of those colors will feed into the finish.
But if I need to get it right to little alla prima painting, the light's fading,
I only have this one shot with the model, whatever it is, I'll come over here and
do a little study and test stood out.
So for me, I'm going to go ahead and let that blue gray out.
And this blue is a particularly red blue.
I'm going to make a little more turquoise than it really is.
In fact, what I may end up doing is pushing it towards, I'm looking over at
my other two photos, if you look at those, you can see how it's grayed out and pale.
Maybe I should do that, boy, yeah, I think I'll do that.
And so you look for three or four options and try it and also, you know, what If
I try that, if I make it a real pale blue, really, really light so this pops
out, it's going to be really gray, but that really light blue I can scrub in
lightly cause I'm on a light surface.
And if I needed to change that to a darker, more intense blue, that'd
be an easier fix than the reverse.
Cause as I was saying here before I interrupted myself, if I add white
into the blue it gets sucked down into the blueness and loses its whiteness.
And so what I really do is take the white and come over here and slowly blended
into the edge of that pot of color.
So it's not overwhelmed by the color.
So, if I wanted to make this whiter, I wouldn't stick white on top of that.
I'd stick white over here and make a lighter pink off to the side.
I call that octopusing.
When you have an octopus, you have a body of color, and then you can
create endless tentacles of variation.
And we'll do that when we start rendering areas.
And that's the advantage of having a nice big palette is I could use all of this,
even without the colors, take the colors,.
I can use all that just for the tree colors that I want to mix.
I'm going to end up with six or seven or eight browns probably,
variations of brown to paint that tree.
And you need space for that.
So when you're stuck in a workshop where you bring in your palette and
there's limitations of the camera and stuff, you have to have a small palette.
So what I have to do is I have to tear this off and throw it away and all these
mixed colors that I might want to use are now gone or tattered around the room.
And I got to start again.
So you're much better off in your studio.
Get a nice big tabletop, at least get a drawing board, a 19 by 24,
kind of - at least make it that big.
And if you can make it bigger, two by three feet, three by
four feet, that's the best yet.
So I'm going to lighten that up and I'm going to green it up a little bit so
that it goes into this blue green world.
So it's keying to the green of the grass.
And I want to make sure that it's far different green
than the green of the grass.
So there's no mistake.
Because the green of the grass is relatively close to me even
back here, compared to the miles away that our sky is.
And I'll just leave that in there and let that do whatever it does.
It might be a mess I got to clean up, but it could create a nice
gradation variation to my color.
And if not, I might come in with an extra amount of white and fix it.
Let's say I don't like it.
And so I'm going to push that off.
But the correction of that gave me a little bit of variation.
You get these little slivers, whisps
of richer blue.
And I like seeing those variations.
They're not destroying the silhouette, being so varied that it
becomes a texture that's troubling, but just nice, fresh surprises.
And I'm going to put this right underneath whatever branch work I do.
And that's going to be very different than if I did the reverse.
If I did the branches and then painted between the branches
with the little brush, you can get a very different effect.
It could be thick on the sky way back in and thin paint on the brush way close.
And it'd be very interesting and gives it a different feel.
So how that paint goes down could become a real issue of how well the
paint works on that close up level.
Now I'm going to scrub in and try and kill that drawing underneath.
That won't be completely successful, but I'll be partially successful.
And notice now it's polluting, it's browning out my paint a
little bit and that's okay.
I want this to be slightly polluted sky.
The - not like there's a city with small kind of pollution, but I want the earthy
vegetation to kind of seep into that.
So everything feels slightly blended and greatly harmonized together.
And keeping this thin, I keep dipping into my solvent, thinning this out.
That way I don't use up more space for the blue, but also this'll stay thinner.
And when I get to this misty tree line, it'll be easy to cover over
the top of that if it's not dripping.
When you have leaf patterns or branches and you see some of the sky sneaking
through the crisscrossing, overlapping pattern of the tree or the branches.
The blue sky coming through are called sky holes.
And so those sky holes, we'll have a few sky holes in this tree line.
So I'll overlap the silhouette.
And then I'm going to let this go
a little bluer and darker just to create a variation here.
And I might decide, nah, I don't like that, but it's just a, almost a
notation to myself that we want that blue to evolve through the sky or not.
And maybe yes, maybe I nail it just right the first time, maybe
an emphatic no, and I change it, but it gives me a possibility.
It can also create a problem.
I got to cover it and make it match the color I had before.
And that becomes a challenge of remixing or overcompensating for
the polluting color underneath.
In general if you want to change something, put twice as much pigment,
the new pigment on your brush, as the old pigment is on the surface.
So if I want to change that I'm going to get a lot of paint on
my brush so I can cover the other color and not get blended into it.
If I don't do that, I'll just scrub into what's already there and that
old paint will still come through.
It'll just be slightly changed.
I If want to actually cover it, I've got to put a lot of paint
on my brush, so it covers it and not mixes like it's doing now.
So how much paint goes on that brush, what's the under paint color,
as opposed to the final color that you'll see, how much of the color
sneaks through the final painting.
Those are all decisions that will come and can only come with mileage, with practice.
So trying things out, you know, kind of getting yourself into trouble, not always
following exactly the same process for me
works nicely because I find discoveries and I learn control with my medium and it
gives me hopefully a slightly different look than the next person who's painting.
So we still don't know anything about this painting really, until we get
rid of that white canvas, I can't depend on any of these colors being
So I need to get rid of the white canvas.
So let me go ahead and get in the brown tree.
And then I'll come over with the shadow shapes to get the bark
texture and the turn of the form.
But this is such a dark shadow, and it's such a relatively gray color.
I can do the light first and then do the dark on it or vice versa.
I'll show you what I mean.
So I'm going to go right into this bit here and I want to blue it up.
I'm going to use that blue that's already in the painting
rather than a clean blue here.
That's a landscaper's trick.
Oftentimes a landscaper, whatever the blue sky is, they'll make a
pot of blue sky, that particular blue, and they'll put it down here.
They always put it down here.
No, you put it wherever you want.
And then if you need to gray out an orange to make it browner, make it
bluer, I don't go to some generic blue.
And some of these landscape painters have three or four blues.
I won't go to one of those blues.
I'll go to the specific blue that's already in the
painting because in landscape
you have a secondary light source that's very unique.
You have the spotlight like you do at a studio, that spotlight is
called the sun out in landscape.
And you have the reflected light, the sun lights, the green grass and
everything else and bounces light, and the shadows, that's your secondary light.
And then you have really a brand new direct light source.
That's not near as powerful as the sun, but it's called the sky
and this is a blue spotlight.
And so it's throwing color down on everything.
We don't see it because if it's facing the sunlight that sunlight's infinitely
more powerful and blasts into that yellow, white, or whatever color it is, but in
the shadows and specifically the shadows that turn up, you're catching the blue
light source, and that's going to make a particular value and a cooler color.
And so it has a big effect.
And in fact, some landscape painters, instead of doing three values, because you
have the light source, the indirect light source, and then the local colors hitting.
And so we reduce everything down to three values here and then
all the color, like this is one value here and here is one value.
They do three values and then all the appropriate colors.
There's a lot of landscaped painters that'll do four values so that they're
keenly aware of that skylight hitting the up facing planes in shadow.
So that's, there's nothing wrong with doing four values in that case.
So I'm not even sure what color I want to do here.
So I'm going to start there.
And as typical with me, I'm going to do a gradation.
I'll show you the gradation in a second.
And again, I'm going to thin this out quite a bit.
It'll - I'll have to fight that thinness somewhat, but we're
going to take a break pretty soon.
That works to my advantage.
It'll allow this turpentine to evaporate.
And let's see here.
Shift that just slightly cooler.
Now I, in the back of my mind, I have N.C.
Wyeth cause he has these gnarly trees, these east coast trees, when I first
saw his work and he you see it in Burne Hogarth's Tarzan comic strips too.
You'd see these trees that there were these twisted, gnarly kind of knuckles
and growth nodules on, kind of warts on the tree and you think those are made
up, that's a really cool invention.
And then you go to the east coast and drive down from New York to Virginia
or down in that area and you'll see those trees all along the countryside,
you know, the roadside and stuff.
And they're real tree over there, but being a west coast guy, I'd
never seen anything like that.
But anyway, he would do these gnarly trees as they all would,
all the students N.C.
Wyeth and all these guys, and he did his really beautiful
romantic Sargent light on them.
So they'd drop in and out of shadow dramatically and he'd do a series
like Robin Hood and Sherwood Forest.
It'd be all these trees and you have Robin Hood meeting, Maid Marian,
or something in front of a tree.
So I'm gonna do a gradation where I go from cooler so it's up in the sky world.
When things get up in the sky world in my world, they take on the color of the sky.
That's not necessarily true in the real world.
It's not true in this one at all, but it's going to be true in my world.
And then I'm going to end up dropping a lot of this upper stuff
into shadow for a couple reasons.
I don't have to paint it.
It'll be quicker and I'm on a deadline here.
You're my client in this case.
So I got to please my client and it will be more dramatic.
And if I decide I want to push that blue dark, I probably won't partly
time-wise, but partly I think I just wanted misty faded out, but if
I need to push that darker, I can go down and do a middle value blue
now, if this drops into shadow.
Right now it's just in a dark half tone and be just fine
in terms of value separation.
And also if I make the foreground more contrast.
It goes very dark to very light.
It's going to be very light here.
Then I'll go mid range, middle light to middle or whatever it is over here.
And that also will be a useful strategy for getting the depth.
Notice I did a lousy job of mixing it into brown.
It's really these strong greens, but when I scrub into it like this, I'm mixing it
down into the brown underneath, that tames it in browns and I'm laying it on a brown.
So it's going to mix on the canvas too.
And so that's another strategy.
You can mix on the palette to get just the color you want,
or you can mix on the canvas.
And oftentimes you'll mix on the canvas, whether you want to or not because
you're putting wet paint on wet paint.
And that's why I say, if you don't want to mix on the canvas,
really load up your brush.
Notice also when you paint a darker value into a lighter value or a
lighter value into a darker value it pollutes it a little bit, and
that can have a bad effect on you.
In this case, it didn't bother me, did fine, but it could
really screw that color up.
So again, I'd have to remix the color, clean my brush,
really load it up and to cover.
And I could even come in and try and rub back, do a rub out, rub back
where I'm going to put that branch.
In fact, there's a branch there so I'll do that for you.
And then, then I won't have to fight it quite so much.
And because this was a wise old man or a wise old woman, we'll make it
matriarchal, it's a wise old woman.
She is going to have a rich range of temperatures.
We humans, puny humans here have warm and cool, blue and red or
red and blue blood underneath.
Oxygenated blood and not, not having been hit by oxygen.
It changes the color.
And so that warm and cool.
And we have areas of flesh that has been protected from the sun and
is more pale if you're Caucasian.
And even if you're not to some degree, and then areas that have been left
open to the effects of the sun and have become warmer, more bronzy colors.
So you have a warm and cool shift with flesh and flesh is
particularly difficult to paint.
It's not just living leather.
It's very different because we have the local color that it's generally one color.
Then we have the light source that its own color.
The shadow reflected light source has its own color or colors.
That's on top.
So we have the surface itself has a color, and then we have
the effects of light and shadow.
And when you think of shadow as a colorist, think of
shadow as a shadow light.
So it's the color of the light plus the color of the object is the color you mix.
The color of the shadow light plus the color of the object is the color you mix.
That's on the surface.
Underneath the surface, you have the red blood coming up and the
blue blood and that's translucent.
It's sneaking through like a foggy window pane.
We're seeing through the surface object to what's underneath it.
And so we have things on the surface, things on top of the surface, and
things under the surface, all competing and affecting the condition and it
can be maddeningly complicated to do.
But the short answer is if you want that sense of complexity and I do it everywhere
to some degree and you want that sense of living flesh and not dead
leather, shift the temperature a lot.
And that's a hallmark of flesh.
So I'm using that same shift to temperature.
Look how green the shadows are here.
How red the shadows are there.
Look at how cool the half tone is here.
How warm the half tone is there.
That warm and cool, that red and blue is going to come through.
In different places and that's going to make it feel kind
of flesh light on some level.
And they're not going to say, oh, old woman tree is at
the eye, is that the mouth?
But they'll feel that there's a certain kinship here.
These two living, growing things, something that's growing up and
something that's sprouting on her own.
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Reference Images (57)
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1. Learning Recommendation24sNow playing...
1. Overview of Reference Material17m 9sNow playing...
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2. Preparing for the Composition26m 44s
3. Questions & Answers22m 41s
4. Getting Started & Materials Overview10m 13s
5. Drawing out the Composition15m 19s
6. Blocking in the Girl & Grass19m 40s
7. Blocking in the Sky10m 7s
8. Adding a Underpainting to the Tree10m 51s