30 Days of Value Thumbnails – Day 18 (going outdoors)

mini painting color study peaceful neighborhood May 16 2019
Mini color study, “Tranquil Afternoon”, 3×4 oil on paper

Now that summer weather is here, I figured it was high time to work on some summer greens. Part of that is doing a photo shoot to get some summertime reference photos to work from. One evening earlier this week provided the perfect opportunity for photos — not just green trees and grasses, but also beautiful clouds in the sky with late-day sun. I’m so excited to start working from my new shots!

The other part is getting outdoors to study from life. The first part of my plein air plan is doing a few value thumbnails outside rather than from my photos. It overwhelms me to set up with my easel outdoors, and these thumbnails are an awesome way to build some practice simplifying a scene and breaking it down into main value shapes.

So while I created the thumbnail for this mini color study outdoors, I actually painted it in my studio. But the cool thing is that this scene is just looking down my street, so while I painted I could peek outside for some quick color checks for a bit of guidance.

On a whim, I toned this paper with some transparent earth red. The last several have been on a white, untoned surface. I think it gave the study a warm quality, but that’s not exactly what I was going for in this case because the sun was really high in the sky and the light had a more neutral quality. I tried using this more neutral light throughout the study, and the warm tone of the paper made that challenging. It would be cool to try with a lemon yellow tone to see if the cooler quality of that color helps.

Value thumbnail of simple shapes
Black and white value check of my color study