Another Way to Lead the Eye Around an Aspen Painting

Nature's Reward

“Nature’s Reward”  22×15 watercolor

I haven’t posted anything about leading the eye around an aspen painting since 2014, so I thought it was about time to address another idea. At that time, I talked about leading the eye around with the foliage, logs, and some other things, but this time I wanted to talk about rocks. This watercolor is a good example. I did not actually see this scene – I first saw only the rocks leading up a hill. I liked the design of them – they zigzagged up the hill and, for the most part, were different sizes (interesting). So, I took the rock idea and added the aspens from another photo I had taken.  I also added the suggestion of a path leading through the rocks up to the aspens – so there is another lead in to get you up to the aspens! Notice the one third – two thirds format – one third aspens and background and two thirds foreground/rocks. This makes the lead in more dramatic and also creates more interest by not having equal sizes.

Click on the image to enlarge and notice all the texture in the rocks. Next post will explore ways to do this!
Click on the image to enlarge and notice all the texture in the rocks. Next post will explore ways to do this!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and that it has made you think of some things you hadn’t thought about. Stay tuned for the next one. You may see “Nature’s Reward” under Landscapes on my web site, www.cecyturner.com. I just completed it this month on a trip to Estes Park, Colorado. Thanks for taking a look!

How Do I Depict a Strong Late Afternoon Light in an Aspen Oil?

"Follow the Sun"

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Follow the Sun”  20×16 Oil

In “Follow the Sun,” I actually changed the time of day by the colors I chose, but how did I emphasize this to the fullest to depict late afternoon? First of all, late afternoon light is very warm and golden. I know this because it’s my favorite lighting (also because I don’t make it up and out to see a lot of sunrises). Therefore, by choosing a golden/orange and complimentary blue palette to “set off” my lighting, even repeating the color in the stream and snow in light, I was able to show what time of day I wanted.

Caution: when adding other colors in with the greens (in this case, some violets and burnt sienna), consider what is going to mix with what. If you are adding violets, do NOT let them mix "with" the greens - you will get mud. Instead, place the violets BESIDE your green and let it touch, not mix. In the case of Burnt Sienna, it's okay to let it mix with the greens because it's not opposite on the color wheel (it's considered an orange and is close to the green part of the color wheel) and will not turn most greens gray or "mud."
To further emphasize the orange light, I warmed up the sliver of light hitting the main aspen with Brilliant Yellow Light and also put most of the other aspens in a blue/gray shadow. This pulled the main aspen forward and using so much of the complimentary blue color made it stand out even more. The blue shadow on the snow gets even darker as it approaches the foreground, emphasizing the middle ground even more. Notice how the background pine trees get warmer and turn a lighter, more orange -green, nearest where the sun is setting. The water reflects more of the orange light nearer the sun. All of these factors tell the viewer where the sun is strongest.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post! Be sure to click on the painting to enlarge it. See my web site for “Follow the Sun,” plus some other new ones I’ve added! www.cecyturner.com

How do I see and correct mistakes at the end of an aspen painting?

autumns-entrance-step-1

Since it’s almost Christmas and I haven’t posted on my blog in a while (sorry, it’s been a crazy fall), I thought I’d do a step-by-step that I painted plein air in Endo Valley, Rocky Mountain National Park, in September. If you’re wondering why I post so many fall aspen paintings, it’s because the fall is my favorite time to paint them!

This is a photo of my outdoor palette, an 11×14 Open M Box that I’ve had for years and years, mounted on my tripod.

 

autumns-entrance-step-2

Step 1: After sketching out my composition on my gessoed panel, I begin blocking in the major shapes with oil paint thinned a little with Gamsol. The tree on the right has two branches that go strongly out to the right, and I mistakenly thought this would turn out all right in the end.

autumns-entrance-step-3

Step 2: I begin blocking in the shadow sides of the trees with a mixture of the primary colors, Rembrandt Red, Cadmium Lemon and Cobalt Blue, to get a gray color. I just keep mixing until I get what I want, still using thinned paint.

autumns-entrance-step-4

Step 3: I refine the trees a little, adding white on the light side of the trees, sometimes mixing a little yellow into it to kill the coolness of the white. I work on the aspen leaves with thicker paint, softening edges into the background a little. I start refining the black on the trunks and add more black markings on the trees. I still have the branch problem I need to fix, plus a rounded half semi-circle of foliage just below the lower branch on the right (bad shape). How do I fix these?

autumns-entrance-final-blogl

“Autumn’s Entrance”  9×12″ Plein Air Oil

Sometimes what attracted us to a scene just doesn’t work out in a painting – in this case, I loved the two strong branches on the right of the major tree. However, they were just too strong, so I had to detract from them by subduing them by adding more grays on them and making them less of a sharp right angle by redirecting them. I also detracted from my semi-circle foliage by cutting the background into it in a couple of places and also softening it into the background. I added some tiny yellow flowers in the foreground around the lead-in logs to repeat the yellows of the aspen leaves.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this step-by-step and are having a wonderful holiday season! Please email me with any questions about the painting. And remember…it’s always okay to edit what you see out there – especially if it doesn’t work in a painting!

 

More about handling summer greens in watercolor

Showing Off for Summer email

Showing Off for Summer”   11×15 Watercolor

In this watercolor, one of my plein air paintings I entered in Plein Air Rockies, I tried to vary the many greens in nature by 1. subtly adding other colors in with the greens and 2. varying the green mixtures as I was discussing in my last post by mixing some cooler blue-greens as well as warmer yellow-greens. (Click to enlarge the painting so you can better see the violets in the background as well as the variety in the warm and cool greens).

Caution: when adding other colors in with the greens (in this case, some violets and burnt sienna), consider what is going to mix with what. If you are adding violets, do NOT let them mix "with" the greens - you will get mud. Instead, place the violets BESIDE your green and let it touch, not mix. In the case of Burnt Sienna, it's okay to let it mix with the greens because it's not opposite on the color wheel (it's considered an orange and is close to the green part of the color wheel) and will not turn most greens gray or "mud."
Caution: when adding other colors in with the greens (in this case, some violets and burnt sienna), consider what is going to mix with what. If you are adding violets, do NOT let them mix “with” the greens – you will get mud. Instead, place the violets BESIDE your green and let it touch, not mix. In the case of Burnt Sienna, it’s okay to let it mix with the greens because it’s not opposite on the color wheel (it’s considered an orange and is close to the green part of the color wheel) and will not turn most greens gray or “mud.”

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post. Remember, practice, practice, practice and experiment. I keep scraps of watercolor paper close by to experiment with placing one color over another and also next to it and letting it “merge.”

Don’t forget the Southwestern Watercolor Society’s 53rd Annual Juried Membership Exhibition if you’re in or near the Dallas area. It’s August 31 – September 24 at the Eisemann Center in Richardson, Texas, and is always a good show to see. The juror is Stan Miller, AWS.

How Do I Handle Summer Greens in Aspen Foliage?

How Do I Handle Summer Greens in Aspen Foliage?

Plein Air Oil
“Summer’s Promise”                                                   Plein Air Oil

Since greens are “in” now, I thought I’d discuss a little about them, since everyone seems to have trouble with them. Aspen trees have cooler green foliage than most other trees, so I usually mix greens using a cool blue like cerulean blue with any yellow (usually a cool one) plus a TOUCH of cool red (this always grays the green just slightly to make the green more believable and natural). Notice the dark greens in the foliage “weave” through in a sideways S shape from the right of the largest aspen up to the top of the second largest aspen. This keeps the darks connected in a good shape and they don’t appear spotty. You can add other darks here and there, but always have a large, connected shape first. Click on the image to enlarge it.

When adding lighter green foliage in oil, be sure not to add too much white to it. You can afford to warm it up with more yellow at this point (I use cadmium lemon or Winsor Lemon) instead of adding too much white and making the paint chalky.
When adding lighter green foliage in oil, be sure not to add too much white to it. You can afford to warm it up with more yellow at this point (I use cadmium lemon or Winsor Lemon) because it is sunlit instead of adding too much white and making the paint chalky.

If you are painting in watercolor, the same advice holds and, of course, you would also use more water to lighten the sunlit parts of the foliage. My next blog will cover greens in watercolor.

I’m teaching a three-day intermediate oil workshop at Artists’ Showplace Gallery in Dallas, TX, on January 24-26, 2017, “Back to Basics – the roots of successful painting and how to infuse light into your landscapes.” We will cover lots of light and atmospheric effects to add to your work, which I think are very important aspects of having a painting “stand out from the crowd.” The cost is $285 for the three days and see my web site under “Exhibits and Events” for more information: www.cecyturner.com or go to Artists’ Showplace web site.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this blog post, and stay tuned for the next post about handling these darn summer greens in watercolor!

How Do I Handle Shadows on Snow from Backlit Aspens?

10x8" Oil on Linen Panel Plein Air
10×8″ Oil on Linen Panel
Plein Air

Adding shadows in snow can be a problem because many people tend to paint them too dark and there is too much of a contrast with the white snow. A lot of times in photographs shadows come out much too blue, dark and vivid. Mostly, this is the camera’s fault, so we really need to observe when we are out there (brrr…) and see how much light is really in the shadows.

Be sure to soften your shadows with your finger, a brush or a Q Tip if you're painting in oil, or with a brush and clean water if you're painting in watercolor. This will help them "fit in" better with the snow and they won't look like hard-edged snakes coming toward you!
Be sure to soften your shadows with your finger, a brush or a Q Tip if you’re painting in oil, or with a brush and clean water if you’re painting in watercolor. This will help them “fit in” better with the snow and they won’t look like hard-edged snakes coming toward you!

Also, remember to connect your shadows in backlit situations so they won’t appear like stripes on the snow. Don’t be afraid to mess them up a little, because they do have to go over bumps, rocks, depressions in the snow, etc.

“It’s Snow Time” was painted en plein air in Rocky Mountain National Park in March. It was one of the only sunny and non-windy days I tried to paint! Be sure to click on the painting to enlarge it a bit. This painting was juried into the Plein Air Artists Colorado Annual Exhibit at Mary Williams Fine Arts, Boulder, CO, September 1-30, if you’re in the area.

Thanks for looking at my blog and I hope you’ve enjoyed it. Tell a friend about it – they can email me to be alerted when I add a new post: cecy@cecyturner.com. Happy Painting!

What is another way to connect foliage on aspen trees?

"Golden Glow" Watercolor 17x11" image size
“Golden Glow”
Watercolor
17×11″ image size

In my previous post, I showed a C curve that connected the aspen foliage. In the above watercolor, I used a subtle S curve to connect the foliage immediately surrounding the main large tree ion the right. You can see it if you start at the leaves at the top middle of the painting, follow it down diagonally to the right to the “duller” foliage, back diagonally to the left, and down to the right, where it ends up in front of the main tree. This, in effect, is an S curve.

In connecting foliage into an organized and interesting pattern instead of "helter skelter" on the painting, the leaves don't have to always physically connect. The eye can connect them, even if there is a break in them.
In connecting foliage into an organized and interesting pattern instead of “helter skelter” on the painting, the leaves don’t have to always physically connect. The eye can connect them, even if there is a break in them.

Be sure to click on “Golden Glow” to enlarge it. I painted it as a demonstration for the Richardson Civic Art Society in Richardson, Texas, in January and then put finishing touches on it back in my studio. This painting will be included in the 31st Annual Texas and Neighbors Regional Art Exhibition at the Irving Arts Center, 3333 N. MacArthur, Irving, TX,  from April 16th – May 14th. Judge Soon Warren chose 80 out of 499 entries, so I’m very honored to have my painting included.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this post. Be sure to tell a friend to email me if they would like to receive notification of posts on An Aspen A Day.

cecy@cecyturner.com

How do I design and connect aspen tree foliage?

"Fall at Its Best" Plein Air Watercolor 15x11"
“Fall at Its Best”
Plein Air Watercolor
15×11″

The foliage in “Fall at Its Best” might seem random or even “like it was” in nature…but it’s not. Rarely when I’m doing an aspen painting on location is the foliage in any kind of design that holds together. It’s usually “all over the place,” so I have to force it into some kind of design. We’ve discussed good shapes before, but how do we connect those shapes?

If you look closely at the foliage, you will see a curve to it that resembles a C curve that leads around and connects behind the trees. It's subtle, but it's there. This is one way to connect the foliage.
If you look closely at the foliage, you will see a curve to it that resembles a C curve that leads around and connects behind the trees. It’s subtle, but it’s there. This is one way to connect the foliage.

The C curve leads around from the middle section of the painting to the top. This is just one of many ways to do it. Stay tuned! And, don’t forget to click on the painting to enlarge. And…Have a Happy New Year! I hope you’ve enjoyed this post. See more aspen trees on my web site, www.cecyturner.com.

How do I add an animal into an aspen tree painting?

How Do I Add an Animal Into an Aspen Tree Painting?

"Safe Haven" Oil on Linen Canvas 16x20"
“Safe Haven”
Oil on Linen Canvas
16×20″

Adding an animal from another photograph into an aspen tree painting can be tricky because you want to be sure the animal is in proportion to what is around him. The ideal situation would be to have the photograph of the animal already positioned where you want him in the aspens, but this isn’t always possible!

Try to find another photo or photo of a painting in a magazine of an animal among the aspen trees to see the size of the animal in relation to the trees.
Try to find another photo or photo of a painting in a magazine of an animal among the aspen trees to see the size of the animal in relation to the trees.

Then, and this is the hard part, scale your animal photo up or down to a size you think would fit – I do this by drawing a “box” around the outer edges of the animal and then making the box smaller or larger IN PROPORTION TO THE ORIGINAL BOX and sketching the animal in the new box to try. Then, I cut out the animal with scissors and stick him among the trees to see if he looks the correct size. That is just what I did in “Safe Haven,” above. Be sure to click on the image to enlarge the painting. You can move the animal around to see where he looks the best and makes the most interesting composition.

“Painting is not easy – if it were, everyone would be doing it.”  (I forgot who said that, but I think it’s a very good quote). Sometimes we have to stretch, and stretching is good for us! Finding other artists’ work in art magazines is great to use as a jumping off point – for instance, the relative size of their animals in relation to trees around them.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post, and I will be posting more often now that I’m not out there painting aspens every day (for a while).

Save the date! November 14th from 5-8 p.m. is my Annual Open Studio. See my web site www.cecyturner.com under Exhibits for details!

How do I use aspen trees in the foreground to create depth in a mountain painting?

"Autumn Attire Near Fish Creek Road"  9x12 plein air oil
“Autumn Attire Near Fish Creek Road”
9×12 plein air oil

Cover the three large aspen shapes with your fingers and see what is lost in this painting! Without the large shapes in the foreground, you lose a lot of depth and interest in the painting. Also, the warm yellow helps to contrast against the cool gray greens of the distant pines on the mountain and the gray mountains. Click on it to enlarge and notice the soft edges on the yellow foliage. Tree foliage does not have hard edges, unless you want it very close-up and to show individual leaves. Even in this case, you would want to paint most of it softened and be selective about bringing out too many hard edges.

Now that you have large shapes in the foreground, how do I get back to the background?
Now that you have large shapes in the foreground, how do I get back to the background?

The zig-zag pattern of the yellow grasses and bushes helps get from the foreground to the background. Notice how the yellows in the distant part of the zig zag are not as intense as the foreground portion. The ground is also warmer in the foreground than in the distance. Think!

“Autumn Attire Near Fish Creek Road” was juried into the Plein Air Artists Colorado exhibition at Mary Williams Fine Arts in Boulder, CO. www.marywilliamsfinearts.com

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post, and feel free to tell your friends to email me if they would like notifications of new posts: cecy@cecyturner.com