Lost edges study in gradating through edges

lost edge study in gradating through edges landscape Feb-20-2019
Looking too cartoony…is it the saturation? Brushwork? Composition?

Study topic

This is a study in lost edges achieved by gradating through edges. In the reference photo, there were lines of grasses/bushes and mountains in the background. Instead of painting them as I saw them, the lesson was on gradating that area from the ground to the sky.

Process notes

  • Started with notan thumbnail sketches from a reference photo to get familiar with the shapes and shadow areas. For this exercise we used two notan values: dark for the foreground shadow and lighter for the background shadow.
  • Mixed color piles on white palette paper for dark (shadow color), mid value, and light in three basic colors (green, red violet, and blue)
  • Sketched key shapes onto panel with diluted transparent earth red, making a notan on the panel
  • Painted shadow shapes size 4 flat bristle brush in single general color
  • Painted not-in-shadow shapes in single color
  • Painted gradation in background
  • Refined with color variations, details, defined edges using 2 long filbert

What I learned

This study looks very cartoony to me! I can’t exactly put my finger on the problem, but it seems to be related to the saturation, brushwork, and composition. The shapes strike me as too measured, and not very natural and spontaneous. It’s a little less obnoxious when I make some adjustments to it in Photoshop. Here I reduced the saturation, cooled the background gradient, and lightened the foreground water.

Even though the grass line in the background was a warm color, it would have worked better as aerial perspective to make it cooler. As I painted it, it looked like a California sunset.

This series on lost edges has given me a great tool for my tool box that I’ll be able to utilize in all kinds of ways moving forward. There are a few things that are standing out as obstacles for me right now that I could work on next:

  • Color. I’m very motivated to make my colors reflect what I see in nature. The problem is that I’m trying to do it from a combination of photography and what I read about color in nature. Not the most effective way to learn what the colors actually look like! It would be a huge benefit to do some plein air color studies (or in-car studies where weather conditions aren’t an issue).
  • Composition. I’m reading a couple of books on composition and would like to study master works, making thumbnail studies of them as well as my own thumbnail studies from life and photos for practice.
  • Value structure in landscape. I love studying values and contrast, and would like to improve my handling of them for landscapes. One idea I had for this is to paint monochromatic value studies from landscape photos and paint color studies next to them, ignoring the colors in the photos. Since trying to match the colors in the photos isn’t ultimately what I want anyway, it might help to just break from them completely. 
  • Painterly brushwork. There are some demos by other artists I’d like to try in order to learn more ways of putting paint on the canvas. Studying master works would be very useful here, too, because it would help me focus on just that one aspect of painting.