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What should I do during a dry spell?

“Summer Light”
15×11 Plein Air Watercolor

What Should I Do During a Dry Spell?

Since I haven’t posted for a while (I’ve been painting a lot and will do better), I’ll try to make up for it by giving you my thoughts about some things which I think are important.

What is a “dry spell?” I’m referring to what can be several different things here. One dry spell could be burnout or “painter’s block” when nothing inspires you to paint. Another, for plein air painters, could be that it’s too darn hot to go out and paint and everything is either green on green on more green, OR all brown and burned up! No color – that’s not inspiring. Another dry spell could be that you’re not selling and you don’t need any more paintings piling up if you aren’t selling what you have.

Let’s take a positive approach to combat this dry spell and do something to improve your painting! The first thing I think of is to get out of your comfort zone by trying something new. I’m not an “experimental” person myself and don’t do things too much out of the ordinary, but one thing that comes to mind that REALLY improves your skills is to use a limited palette on a whole painting. Choose one red, one yellow and one blue (plus white if you are doing an oil) and mix every color in the painting out of those three. You might have disastrous results at first because a.) you need more practice in mixing some of the colors or b.) you might need to change one of your primaries because it might not mix as well as another one does and could give you some ugly colors. You have to find this out! “Summer Light” above (click on the painting to enlarge)  was painted using one red, one yellow and one blue. It’s FUN, it’s CHALLENGING, and it’s REWARDING when you accomplish something like this. Now I’m starting to add a few of my “favorites” that are not primaries at the VERY END IF NEEDED. The color unity is already in the painting from using three colors. I sometimes add my favorites, burnt sienna and viridian green (neither one being a primary) to get a little more variety in my greens, for instance.

Another thing I’d recommend is trying to perfect your “working method.” What works and what doesn’t work best? Now you have time to experiment and find out the best way YOU work. Example: Right now in plein air oils I’m experimenting with doing a really wild and colorful underpainting. My theory is that these colors will show through a bit and always influence whatever is put over them. In my next blog post (soon) I’ll show one of these. To further challenge myself, I’m using a limited palette also on these paintings.

Using a limited palette is much easier outdoors – paint tubes add weight, and sometimes you have to “pare down” when walking any distance. Also, you can mix any color from the three primaries that you need.

I hope this has given you some ideas. I’ve been working on this underpainting thing day after day after day. It’s called practice!

When the economy is down and galleries aren’t selling well a goal could be to get better at what you’re doing and start stockpiling some awesome work for when things do start selling!

Hope you’ve enjoyed this post and I’m sorry I got so wordy! One last thing, this isn’t an aspen painting, but I’m very happy to have gotten my third painting accepted into the American Impressionist Society Juried Exhibit! “Leaving Moab” is below:

Bye until next time! Be sure to check my web site for new paintings I’ve added: http://www.cecyturner.com

Even More Ways to Lead the Eye Around in an Aspen Painting

“Ushering In Winter”
20 x 16″ Oil

In this painting, I very obviously used logs to lead the eye into the painting (lower left side and also lower left at the bottom) then up to the main aspen tree. However, I didn’t stop there – the logs lead the eye from the main aspen tree all the way back into the painting in kind of a zig-zag pattern.

The logs didn’t just “happen” – I planned them out carefully in my preliminary sketch, arranging and rearranging them so that they: 1. looked natural, like Mother Nature had just placed them there and 2. didn’t look scattered, evenly spaced, with no linkage to lead you anywhere. With all of this careful planning, I still had to take a couple of logs out because it was looking too crowded.

Sometimes simplifying is the best thing an artist can do!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post. Be sure to double-click on the image to enlarge. And stay tuned for my next post!

You may see lots of aspen paintings in all seasons on my web site, www.cecyturner.com, under Landscapes and also under Plein Air Paintings. Enjoy!

 

How Do I Use a Limited Palette on a Plein Air Aspen Painting?

Step 1: Drawing

I draw the composition as simply as I can to save time in the light that is always changing. I like to draw with orange; the drawing may be any color, thinned with mineral spirits (I use Gamsol made by Gamblin). I quickly block in some of the shadow color of the trunks and some darker color on the logs.

This shows my palette and finished block-in.

On this painting, I only used (from left to right) Quinacridone Red, orange mixed from my red and yellow, cadmium yellow, cadmium lemon, viridian green (far right corner), ultramarine blue, and cerulean blue. The mixture to the left of cerulean is a violet mixed from ultramarine and red, with a little yellow to gray it. My titanium white is bottom middle.

Photo of the scene

This is a photo of the scene – I didn’t paint it this way (after I took the photo I decided to change my perspective a little and add what was on the right of the main tree, moving it to the left in my painting). I was shooting directly into the sun, so couldn’t get a very good photo, but that’s okay – the photo is just to remind me of a few things if I need it; not to paint by.

Finished painting, “Making a Comeback” 12 x 9″

I didn’t really make any changes to the block-in – just added more paint, detail and a little refining.

Using a limited palette is much easier outdoors – paint tubes add weight, and sometimes you have to “pare down” when walking any distance. Also, you can mix any color from the three primaries that you need. I use two yellows when painting fall aspens because my favorite, the lemon, is not warm enough by itself. Also, you could substitute Alizarin Crimson easily for the red. Try it! I sometimes see the need to add my Burnt Sienna to the palette (I love it), but I didn’t this time.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post, and I’m making a new year’s resolution to post on my blog more often. I hope all of you have a Merry Christmas, and very Happy New Year! Don’t forget to click on the images to enlarge them, and I’ll be in touch next year!

Cecy

More on unifying aspen trees with other parts of the painting

“In Time for Fall” 11×14 Oil

In this aspen painting, I added my own daughter! She was wearing a black and white dress when she was modeling for me, but I decided to change it because I thought the blue-violet would go better with the yellow-greens of the foliage. To unify her into the painting, I repeated her dress color into the ground in the form of suggested flowers. Also, in the beginning underpainting, I blocked in the most distant trees with violet, which shows through a little and also repeats the blue-violet.

Click on the image to enlarge and notice the soft edges on Kim’s hair and dress where she practically blends into the background. This unifies her with the background and doesn’t give the feeling of her just being stuck on there, like I had cut her out with scissors.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and that it has given you food for thought! My next post will have a step-by-step aspen painting done en plein air, so stay tuned.

Don’t forget about my three upcoming landscape workshops. The first one is coming up November 8-9th in Rockwall, Texas. See more details on my web site, www.cecyturner.com, under Exhibits, Events and Classes. Besides working on how to “bend a color” to unify paintings, we will also work on “What does the painting need?” How to step back and analyze what will make a successful painting after you have been true to the photo you are painting from. Of course, we will be painting aspen trees one of the two days!

Also, if you are in the Dallas area, don’t miss my oil demonstration for the Richardson Civic Art Society on October 17th at the Richardson Public Library. See details on my web site under Exhibits, Events and Classes. I will be demonstrating an aspen painting in oil.

How do I unify aspen trees with other subjects in the painting?

“Cold Feet” 20×30 Oil

“Cold Feet” is a good example of unifying the deer with the surrounding aspen trees. In the first place, I used a very limited palette (mainly red, yellow and blue, the primary colors) for the whole painting, so it was unified that way from the beginning. Also, I used the same colors I painted the deer with on most of the aspen trees and also repeated some in the background. Even the highlights on the deer and one the aspen trees are mixed out of the same white and yellows.

A  way to unify the snow with the rest of the painting is to first tone the canvas with the deer colors (wipe excess off with paper towel or rag so it’s a thin tone) and let a little of this tone show through the snow in spots. Click on “Cold Feet” to enlarge it and see the tone showing through the snow better.

This is what we will work on in my three upcoming oil workshops in November and December of this year and January, 2018.  I’ll demonstrate what I call “bending a color” to unify paintings. If a painting is unified, it all “goes together” in a pleasing manner to the viewer, and the viewer probably will not even realize why he or she is so attracted to the painting. See list of workshops and locations on my web site, www.cecyturner.com under “Exhibits, Events and Classes.”

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post!

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!