Category Archives: Landscape

This includes value studies usually – but not always – done in preparation for an oil painting, as well as the oil paintings usually – but not always – executed in the studio.

Circle, De Lovie, Poperinghe

Arched garden walkway De Lovie. Watercolour on hot pressed paper. Alizarine Crimson and Forest Green. 9" x 12' or 23 x 30 cm.

Arched garden walkway De Lovie. Watercolour on hot pressed paper. Alizarine Crimson and Forest Green. 9″ x 12′ or 23 x 30 cm.

About a month ago, out near Westvleteren, we stumbled across a large domain called De Lovie (nice name, eh?). The whole area is run by a non-profit organization dedicated to helping children, youths and adults who have mental handicaps. But besides the buildings dedicated to such assistance, a large part of the domain actually contains a beautiful heritage castle, its memorial chapel and landscaping including a lake and English garden. John snapped a photo of the main promenade to the castle with its dappling light. The haloed effect in such a simple, one point perspective piqued my interest, so I decided to try to render it within the circle motif.

The main challenge really was how to render the highlights. In watercolour, this actually doesn’t mean rendering the highlights but rather allowing the white of the paper to (strategically) shine through. In the past I’ve experimented with latex masking fluid, but for anyone who has actually tried it, you realise very quickly how difficult it is to control. Large areas are possible – at the cost of your increasingly clogged and ultimately useless paint brush. Fine details however are not. But recently I discovered a product that dispenses the masking fluid through a very fine, narrow tube, creating a very fine, thin line. Ha! So, after washing in the starting golden circle and laying in the composition, I used my new handy-dandy dispenser pen to block out various areas of highlights quickly and playfully. It was better than a brush but even so, still difficult to control. After everything dried I began to lay in my washes, wet-in-wet.

I had already decided to use just a two colour, complimentary palette, so washes of Forest Green were matched up against washes of Alizarine Crimson. I knew this approach would also allow for chromatic changes within the golden circle, but that would be out of my control. Nice! The washes went quickly and quite well, though I couldn’t really see what I had. After they had dried I rubbed off the latex. The results were stunning! – at least from a light point-of-view – even though it was also immediately clear that I still had a lot of form to recover/describe. Thus, a few hours of open brushwork gave me the basics, but it took another week of diligent searching/reclaimation to discribe the overall formal coherence.

I’m pretty pleased with the result. The latex itself creates hard edged highlights. So I really like how the strong highlights of the cross branches in the foreground stand out. Compositionally, they mitigate too, against the centrifugal pull of the circle and the walkway’s halo. The foliage, too, has nice hard edges. Still, I’d prefer that the dappled spots on the ground were a bit softer. Sigh. That gives me something to work on for next time. 😉

Along the Damse Vaart. Watercolour on hot-pressed paper. 6" x 12".

Circle, Along the Damse Vaart

Another watercolour, a medium which, by the way, is incredibly difficult to photograph. The colour of the spectrum of light influences the photograph. So if I try to create a photograph on a bright sunny day the subtle highlights become washed out. If I try to create a photograph on a cloudy day, there is an inevitable bluish tonality to the light. I can try to colour-correct for that using software but then colour is lost in the process. The highlights inevitably suffer. So suffice it to say that the image presented here is the best I can do to given my skills and conditions. Sigh, the warm yellow wash in the centre is underrepresented. OK.

Otherwise, I had a lot of fun doing this one. It is created on hot-pressed paper, whose flat texture allows for finer detail, especially with the (HB) graphite pencil. I continue to enjoy discovering the possibilities of working wet-in-wet, dry/saturated-in-wet, wet-on-dry or even dry/saturated-on-dry (not much of that last one here). I continue to explore a reduced, complimentary palette within a circular motif. I didn’t use any masking fluid on this one, however I did make use of paper towels to blot back areas of a dark wash, like in the soft dappled light on the tree or foreground on the left.

The Schipdonk Canal. Watercolour on cold pressed paper. 6" x 12"

The Circle Game or Homage to the Circle

I returned to Ruskin’s “The Elements of Drawing” this summer. (It’s always good to start anew and never assume that you know whatever you think you know – because most likely, you don’t) So as I was playing around with watercolours, Ruskin suggested creating shapes and filling them in, beginning with the most basic of shapes, the circle. I was creating these sun-like shapes on a landscape oriented pad, 6″ x 12″ and immediately wanted to superimpose a real landscape over it. So I did.

The Schipdonk Canal. Watercolour (Burnt Sienna and Thalo Blue) on cold pressed paper. 6" x 12"

The Schipdonk Canal. Watercolour (Burnt Sienna and Thalo Blue) on cold pressed paper. 6″ x 12″

The first in the series, was of a scene along the Schipdonk canal somewhere around Eeklo. Since I thought it turned out rather well, I thought, hmmmm…., this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship? I liked the serendipitous contribution of the sun-like circle, compositionally and chromatically, enhancing its one-point perspective. I also liked the idea of doing the landscape in a simplified colour scheme  of two complimentary colors. I began to imagine doing more, particularly of my favourite scenes around here.

Farm on the Damme Vaart. Watercolour (Alizarine Crimson and Thalo Green Light) on cold pressed paper. 6" x 12"

Farm on the Damme Vaart. Watercolour (Alizarine Crimson and Thalo Green Light) on cold pressed paper. 6″ x 12″

The second in the series then is of a farm along the Damse Vaart that I have painted in the past. I really like the sweet, afternoon light on the farm buildings in the middle ground but have struggled to make it an interesting composition. Would this circle approach help? I decided to try it with a green/red palette, The result was OK, but compositionally, still rather static, so I enhanced the golden circle with an external wash of purple. It felt pretty rad. 🙂

Bend in the Damme Vaart. Watercolour (Thalo Blue and Burnt Sienna) on cold pressed paper. 6" x 12"

Bend in the Damme Vaart. Watercolour (Thalo Blue and Burnt Sienna) on cold pressed paper. 6″ x 12″

Well, OK, what’s next? I have plenty of favourite spots around here, so I chose another one further along the Damse Vaart, this time at its bend (which I have also painted in the past). I ended up doing three different versions of it: the first in a ‘normal’ colour scheme’ (boring!); the second in Thalo Blue/Burnt Sienna but with a horizon line that was about a 1/2″ too high (ugh!, toss); and the last one (pictured here) with the Blue/Sienna colour scheme but a lowered horizon line ( it finally felt right chromatically and compositionally).

Luckily these small experiments are easy to do so there’s more to come. Stay tuned…

 

A Piece of Me #15 oil on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #15, oils

A Piece of Me #15 oil on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #15 oil on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

Underdrawing for A Piece of Me #15.

Underdrawing for A Piece of Me #15.

The original photographic image which was cut up into 64 sections for rendering separately contained a horizontal background swathe consisting of groups of small tourist figures receding into the far distance. So there ended up being five panels containing these figural groupings as well as the architectural backgrounds behind them. Because of the need to employ a sliding scale of finely tuned (gray) values to describe these distances, rendering these panels (in any medium) is proving to be one of the most challenging tasks of this whole project.

This panel then was no exception. I worked on it yesterday and a few hours today. In general, I’m happy now with the hues and the values that have been established. The distance reads well enough. There is a red/green complimentary colour contrast, too. I’m posting it now as a beta version. After it dries I intend to clean up some passages that became muddy. When that’s done (and I’m satisfied) I’ll update this page.

Another interesting challenge was my decision to change the hue for the guard-rail (that you see in front of the girl in the dark green sweater). In the original photograph it’s a bright viridian green, but since that guard-rail is the only element in the whole photograph requiring such a pigment – and because on this panel I wanted to create more distinction between the figure and the rail in front of her, I switched the hue to an olive-green. That means I’ll need to do some additional tweaking on two other guard-rail panels but that’s not a problem. Artistic license rules.

A Piece of Me #10 oil on panel over pre-sculpted relief. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #10, oils

Underdrawing over yellow ochre imprimatura for A Piece of Me #10.

Underdrawing over yellow ochre imprimatura for A Piece of Me #10.

A Piece of Me #10 oil on panel over pre-sculpted relief. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #10 oil on panel over pre-sculpted relief. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

This panel has been one of my favourites from the get-go. Back then I was pleasantly surprised by the serendipitous composition. Foreground, middle-ground and background all very well stated in a figurative sort of way. It felt like a comic strip panel from Archie and Jughead, evoking an untold story.

The call out for the panel then was oil over low sculpted relief. I prepared that relief with GOLDEN acrylic modelling paste, then primed it with a few layers of oil based (lead white) gesso and let that cure. (That curing turned out to be almost one year!). Not my  intention, just, what happened.

To begin I covered the whole panel with glaze, let it dry fifteen minutes and wiped it off. The surface was slightly tacky, receptive. Then I started painting, wet-in-wet. I began with the background primarily as gray values, progressing forward to the stronger, definitive, more colourful statements. Although I prefer to work with as limited a palette as possible, this particular panel required all the usual earth tones plus the main primary colours. I’ve included a photo of the palette below – just for fun. BTW: red and green are complimentary colors, which in their natural saturated state, are also of a similar value. So together they always create an interesting vibration in a painting. The two shirts of the two men then in this panel presents no exception.

The whole project took me about four to five hours to do. That’s longer than usual, but these panels with a more complex composition tend to require that. Nevertheless, I was happy to set my work aside and call it done when the dinner bell rang. Another curry for a hungry artist.

Palette for A Piece of Me #10

Palette for A Piece of Me #10

 

A Piece of Me #14, acrylic over acrylic sculpted gel on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #14, acrylic

A Piece of Me #14, underdrawing.

A Piece of Me #14, underdrawing in india ink.

A Piece of Me #14, acrylic over acrylic sculpted gel on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #14, acrylic over acrylic sculpted gel on panel. 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

Whew! one of the most challenging panels yet! Why so?

To begin with the composition was very complicated – in the middle distance. There were three explicit figures plus a number of other shadows, all jumbled up together in the original photograph. I had to disentangle and determine the significant shapes and forms. Deciding what to keep and what to toss.

Secondly, the values in the middle distance in the original photograph were darker than I preferred so I had to figure out t how to to modulate them appropriately so that they will match the other panels in this row in the final assemblage.

Thirdly, the set-up for this particular panel called for acrylic sculpting gel as part of the work-up for the substrate. The painting was executed upon this relief. This posed an additional challenge due to the undulations in the painting surface of the painting knifeused for creating the relief. It made the surface coarser and more textured than I prefer. But since that’s part of the self-imposed rules for this particular game, off I went.

Technical write up of my use of acrylics for indirect painting in this project here.

A piece of me #16, egg tempera over collage. 21 x 13.3 cm or 8 1/4 x 5 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #16, egg tempera

A piece of me #16, egg tempera over collage. 21 x 13.3 cm or 8 1/4 x 5 1/4 in.

A piece of me #16, egg tempera over collage. 21 x 13.3 cm or 8 1/4 x 5 1/4 in.

This is one of the more interesting spontaneous compositions of the overall project. When I first saw it, I wasn’t sure what the long haired girl was doing. Then it hit me, of course, she’s taking a selfie! How 21st century.

The dice-roll treatment for this panel stipulated collage and egg tempera. These are two elements that are almost antithetical to one another. Collage is coarse and heavily textured. Egg tempera is quite refined, subtle and also accentuates any irregularities in the substrate. Thus I anticipated that this one would be challenging. But in fact, as I began laying in colors and calibrating value relationships, the coarseness of the collage didn’t create too many problems, au contraire, it actually enhanced the design (for the most part), which of course is what I had wanted (but couldn’t expect).

Another aspect of the composition is the way it reads as landscape. There are clear foreground, middle ground and background elements. That meant that I needed to modulate my values in such a way to enhance the “landscape” experience. So, given all the givens – of a very contemporary subject mattered panel –  I’m pleased with the way it turned out.

A technical write up of the lessons learned about egg tempera in this series of panels.

A Piece of Me #11, egg tempera on panel, 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #11, egg tempera

A Piece of Me #11, underdrawing in india ink

A Piece of Me #11, underdrawing in india ink

A Piece of Me #11, egg tempera on panel, 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

A Piece of Me #11, egg tempera on panel, 21 x 13.3 cm or 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 in.

This was one of the more, if not most, complex compositions so far. It was both a surprise and a challenge to do since it contained so many figures – and parts of figures. But because of my approach on this project I do not (for the most part) design the composition, rather, I design the approach (and even aspects of that are still luck of the draw). As it turns out, egg tempera on a flat substrate is perfect for such detail.

Interestingly enough though, the composition also contains the components of a traditional landscape. In this case, the edge of my shoulder appears in the foreground far right, along with the tip of a man’s hand in the far left. Then there’s the lady in the blue striped shirt, perhaps best considered still as foreground, though I was careful not to render her as fully saturated chromatically nor with a full value range. Then there’s the couple in the middle-ground, left. Finally, the array of receding figures. By my count about thirteen in all (!).

So I began with a fully developed black and white underdrawing in india ink, see right. This allowed me to proceed with the egg tempera level slowly and gently by laying in light washes to test for color relation and value development. I realized as I worked that it’s very similar to the process of colorizing old black and white photographs. Luckily, most of the clothing on the figures in the background was (cool) blue, which works well for reading distance, so I kept with that. But I also decided to keep a few of the warm background colors in some of the other figures too, although in extremely light washes. These washes helped to provide a chromatic unity to the warm flesh tones of the foreground.

Like the previous panel this, too, was delectable to colorize. I’m happy and hoping to wind up the egg tempera series soon. A technical write up of the lessons learned about egg tempera in this series of panels here.

Morning Light on the Verversdijk

Morning light on the Verversdijk. Created in the studio from an “en-plein-air” value study. September 2019.

Mixed technique on board. 30 x 40 c.m. or 11 7/8 x 15 3/4 in.

Technical write up here: https://atelierartisanal.com/2019/09/09/haunted-by-hopper/

Farm on the Damse Vaart

Recently I resuscitated a painting project from 2014. I was particularly pleased that I was able to convey in the studio something that I feel about landscape without needing to schlep everything out to the field to work en-plen-air. So this piece is based on a watercolor, supplemented by photographs.

Oil on board. 30 cm x 60 cm or 11.8 x 23.6 in.

The technical write up is here.