Oil on 12×9 panel
First a disclaimer: There’s more Elio than Jana in this painting. I started this painting and really liked where it was going, with a decent composition and nice fressh, bright colors, but asked for help when my path wouldn’t stop looking like a waterfall. My wonderful teacher, Elio Camacho, has been hesitant to paint on my paintings but I encouraged him to do so since I was confused. Once he’d solved all my problems and added some beautiful touches, I stopped working on this one and started another so I could save this in order to remember the things he did.
Elio is such an amazing teacher. His shares his incredible enthusiasm for painting, his knowledge, experience and skill so generously. After the five-hour class ends, he starts a very large painting and paints until sunset. If we stick around, he will continue answering questions while he paints, which makes it very tempting to stay and paint or just hang out for another hour or two.
I thought I’d share a few of the things I learned in class today that I think are going to really help my painting (CLICK on “Continue Reading” below) to read what I learned about color, plein air composition, highlights, mediums, darks and sky-holes:
- Drawing and Composing: Don’t try to change nature too much. It’s OK to move a tree to the right, but it’s pretty hard to paint what you can’t see and still get the light right. That was my problem with the path. I had the drawing wrong and had compressed the scene in order to fit more of it than could fit into the picture. The path had no choice but to look wrong. (I forgot to use my little viewfinder to see what actually would fit into the scene.) Elio suggested that if I want to change the composition, that I paint studies of what I actually see while in the field, trying to capture things as they are, and then use those studies at home, along with photos, to compose a different scene.
- Painting Medium and Panels: Elio brought me one of his sanded, gessoed masonite panels to try, since the ones I’ve been using are too rough. I also tried his medium (he uses thirds of stand oil, turpentine and damar varnish). I bought a small bottle of Utrecht’s already mixed Oil Painting Medium which is almost the same except it uses linseed instead of stand oil. I LOVE the medium and the board was a pleasure to use–just enough tooth and slip. Working outdoors in fresh air, the dangers of turpentine are minimized. I’ve been experimenting with the less toxic Gamblin mediums in the studio and have found Galkyd mixed with a little of their odorless mineral spirits (Gamsol) to be OK too, though because of the alkyd content it seems to get sticky and dries pretty fast.
- Highlights and Darks: To make highlights really pop, put the complementary color of the area you’re highlighting in the white paint. To make black or dark areas, don’t use black, but instead mix dark, synthetic, transparent colors (e.g. phthalos, quinacridones, perm alizarin) and apply very thinly. Black paint, when used thickly will crack. Gamblin’s Chromatic Black is different, since it’s actually a pre-mixed combination of phthalos and quinacridones.
- Chroma vs Hue: To reduce the chroma (color intensity) of a color (tone it down) add a little black paint (he suggests Mars Black) and the color will be less saturated but will remain the same hue. If you try to do this with its complementary color (as is often suggested) that will also change the hue into more of an an earth color (which is a good technique for making earth colors rather than using tubes of them). Adding a little grey can also be used to tone down most colors (except reds, which turn pink).
- Sky-Holes (the bits of sky showing through tree foliage): Paint them last, and paint them one value level darker than the sky, since they will look too bright surrounded by the dark clumps of tree foliage. You can also wait to paint them when the paint on the tree is dry so they don’t pick up tree paint when you apply them.
I could keep going but instead I’m going to bed and dream about painting.