Hills Above Crockett, oil on board, 9x12"

Hills Above Crockett, oil on board, 9x12"

This oil landscape painting started as a poorly drawn, wrongly colored plein air painting which I’ve reworked many times until I am now finally ready to call it done. The painting started on a hot September day when I dragged my painting gear up a trail and set up my easel amidst dried cow pies and weeds near the Bull Valley Staging Area above the hills of Crockett. You can see my learning process below.

First, here is the washed-out reference photo I had to work from back in the studio. It’s really not even an interesting scene and doesn’t at all capture the way the hills were glowing a brilliant end of summer California gold.

Reference Photo

Reference Photo

Mt. Tam was far in the distance, not gigantic as I drew it on my canvas below. I’ve since learned to measure and compare the size of things in the distance since I have a tendency to make them huge.

Hills #1 Painted on Site

Hills #1 Painted on Site

In the studio I tried adjusting the colors and contrast but only made it worse and where did those spring greens come from?

Hills #2 Tried to improve in the studio

Hills #2 Tried to improve in the studio

And then it got even worse:

Hills #3, "Fixed" (e.g. MUDDIED) in the studio

Hills #3, "Fixed" (e.g. MUDDIED) in the studio

Later I tried to fix the drawing and the composition and repainted the hills. Still wrong:

Hills #4, Fixed the drawing but colors got worse

Hills #4, Tried to fix the drawing, made the colors worse

I let it sit for a couple of weeks, hoping I was done, since I was sick of it. But yesterday I decided to tackle it again, to try to get it to at least get the colors to say “hot, dry day,” to tweak the drawing, and to leave a few decent brush strokes instead of a chalky overworked surface.

Hills Above Crockett, oil on board, 9x12"

Hills Above Crockett, oil on board, 9x12"

All the above led to this painting, also at the top of the post. Done, moving on.

Is my persistence pointless? I’m not sure. Is it better to repaint one painting repeatedly or to paint numerous paintings once? I guess as long as I’m learning, it’s all good either way…and this way I have fewer bad paintings to throw away or store.

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Category:
Art theory, Bay Area Parks, Landscape, Oil Painting, Outdoors/Landscape, Painting, Places, Plein Air
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Join the conversation! 9 Comments

  1. I have had this problem a lot. I sometimes think – depending on how much time you have – that starting again from scratch is usually the way to go. I have this one painting that was a very brooding cloud dusk picture and I screwed up the clouds – went way too heavy. And I have gone back to that painting time and time again and I can never fix it because I already killed it awhile ago! For me I decided to let it go.

    I don’t think yours is so bad tho – I can see what you mean about the greens and such though – but it’s really hard when you’re working with such a bland picture. I think I read somewhere in this case it’s best to stick to a very small palette and just lighten and darken the colors to have a bunch of shades of the same color. (sorry for the long comment!)

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  2. About oils I have no experience, but you succeeded in getting the hills to move more to the distance, and there is a lovely feeling of light back there and over the water. I do like the mist rising.

    annie

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  3. I am fascinated by the various incarnations of this painting, the appearance and disappearance of trees, and way the color varies. I don’t think the results are bad, just not especially fresh. Certainly the plus side of plein aire, the fresh first impression, has been lost. Still, as you say, you learned something from continuing to experiment. I also like the misty look of the hills.

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  4. Once again, you are generous in sharing your learning process with us. I like the final painting and am glad you persisted with it. I think you’re right….as long as your learning it has to be worthwhile. Thanks again for letting us into what goes on in the background of your paintings!

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  5. Amazing Landscape painting. Very nice art !

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  6. Well, I really have no experience with oils or acrylics or anything you could just paint over, but I like the idea of being able to cover up the mistakes and try again. First, because I hate looking at the bad ones; second, I do so many bad ones that I would have a difficult time with storage; and third, it’s cheaper!! I think you did great!

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  7. Absolutely not pointless, regardless of the outcome! It’s always good to wrestle with ones that you’re deeply unhappy with and see what you can learn from them…even if it’s learning that there were parts that didn’t need changing. (Been there a hundred times at least.) Good for you!

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  8. Very helpful post – exactly the kind of information I’ve been seeking! I’m a studio painter who will be painting plein air at at garden tour in a couple of weeks. Your “cheat sheet” from July ’09 is also just what I need. It is what led me to your blog (besides the fact that we share a first name!)

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    • Hi Jana, Thanks so much for your comment. As you know by now, I followed the link to your blog and was blown away by your wonderful work–especially those paintings of balls of yarn and your landscapes. I’m glad the cheat sheet was helpful, although I’ve continued to revise it. I’ll have to take a look at the old one and see if I need to update and post it again with what I’ve learned since then. You’re the third artist Jana I’ve met (one in person, two virtually). Cheers, Jana

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