My focus with this painting was value, and I chose this reference photo from a set that Matt Smith provided with his online mentorship program. I thought it was a good example of strong contrast, with the dark trees sandwiched between the light foreground and background. I like the way the dark shapes dance across the canvas from one side to the other.
I planned out the painting a couple of days ago by doing a series of notans and a value sketch, and used that plan as a place to start.
One of the things Matt reinforces in his class is to not let yourself be a slave to the reference. I like that he repeats it often because I struggle to avoid it even though I really want to be designing a composition that works well as a painting — not copying what’s in the reference. I think this will come easier in time with more experience painting outdoors, but the biggest challenge I have with it right now is that I feel like when I attempt to make changes I won’t be able to convincingly paint the adjustments.
With this painting, I felt myself inch a little closer toward making those changes as I see fit and not worrying so much whether it’s “accurate” (meaning looking like the reference).
There’s a bit of mimicking going on with some of the trees but overall I’m really happy with this one. The color palette worked well, too:
- cadmium yellow light
- alizarin permanent
- sap green
- ultramarine blue
It’s a pretty standard limited palette, although I debated setting up some different options like quinacridone violet, green gold, prussian blue or burnt sienna. The last painting was more saturated than I wanted, so for this one I organized my palette around two sets of complements (mixing an orange from the yellow and alizarin) to help remind me to grey down the colors.