Lost edges study in melding dark values

lost edge study in melding dark values landscape Feb-15-2019
Brushwork mayhem!

After doing studies focused on light values and then middle values, the next topic is dark values. For my subject I chose a photo I took of a river edge surrounded by red rocks and green shrubs at Zion National Park. Zion is incredibly inspiring and it was during that trip that I thought I might actually enjoy plein air painting.

Photo from our trip to Zion National Park

As Dianne says in her lessons, studies are freedom to explore, to make discoveries — not about making finished paintings. I like to keep that in mind when studies aren’t going the way I’d like, as was the case with this one! Some things I explored and discovered:

  • Roughing in a notan without establishing key relationship points causes me a lot of frustration. I spend a fair amount of time fighting against poorly-located elements and get distracted from the real point: lost edges in the dark values. A notan thumbnail would probably be a good exercise before starting on the panel.
  • In creating the darkest dark accents at the end, I went overboard and created visual disruption in the lower right. 
  • The brushes I chose didn’t give me the nuances of softened edges between different hues in the dark value areas. Or I just don’t know how to use them in that way yet. (Time for one of my favorite things: brush shopping!)
  • In the light areas and shallow shadow areas, I explored the feeling of placing strong brush marks rather than blending them away. I like that affect, but there’s a lack of unity with other areas. I also made strokes that follow the shape of the rocks, which I really like.
  • I pushed the intensity a fair amount which contributes to a hectic-feeling study. I have such a hard time reading color and value on my neutral grey palette. I love the theory of a neutral grey palette, but in practice I struggle with it. For my next study I want to use a white paper palette and see if it feels better. 
  • I stayed with a relatively large brush the whole time and discovered that experience feels quite different from switching to a small brush for finer details toward the end.
While this study veered somewhat from my original goal of exploring lost edges in dark values, it actually reminds me of the spirit of plein air pochade sketches I like so much.