Step 1 - I gather reference materials – in this case I’m using my plein air study and a few photos I've taken. I plan on painting large – 30” x 40” but I hope to keep some of the liveliness and spontaneity that I like in the 8" x 10" study. I also lay out my paints - twice as many as I use outside. I never use black on my palette, I often use a mix of verdian green and alizarin crimson to create more colorful darks. By the way - I strongly recommend using a glass palette, but this was taken days after I broke mine!
Step 2 - I sketch in the general layout of the scene using thinned out oil paint. There's no need for a ton of detail, I just suggest placement and lines to remind myself how I wanted the viewer to move through the painting. I make sure the horizon line is not dead center (as that tends to chop a painting into two). I also make sure the focal point is placed correctly (according to the rule of thirds) for the eye to travel around the painting and back to my intended center of attention. In this piece my focal point will be the clump of trees in the mid-ground.
Step 3 - Using a large brush I block in the general values of the scene. I usually recommend putting in your darkest dark (and lightest light, but we already have that in the sky). I didn’t do that here – breaking my own rules!
Step 4 - I add in various values of green to compliment the warm color scheme I have planned. Using an underpainting of a complimentary color (opposite on the color spectrum) often adds more vibrancy to the finished piece. Now I also start adding in some distant trees. Repeating objects in the distance that are smaller, less detailed and lighter versions of the fore or midground is a great tool for helping create atmospheric perspective.
Step 5 - Next, I paint in the sky. I keep it fairly neutral as I want the main focus to be the field and trees rather than the sky. I do, however, suggest some gentle movement in the sky by using clouds. Here, the low clouds help to ‘anchor’ the sky to the rest of the painting.
I hope you're enjoying my demo so far (if so, please follow my blog and like me on Facebook - thanks!) In my next blog entry I’ll lead you through the rest of the steps to my finished piece…