In the brief span of time between mini landscape painting number 1 and number 2, I reignited my interest in the tonalist style. I had wandered into it awhile back and then got seduced by the vibrant colors available to painters. The bright, saturated colors that many people use in their paintings is undoubtedly magnetic! But I typically find myself coming back to the neutrals — something tonalism celebrates and which feels like a more natural state for me.
One of the ways I explored tonalism with this mini painting was to use a limited palette inspired by a painting I saw in Mitch Albala’s article Landscape Color Strategies: Part 3 — The Harmony of Neutrals. It was done by Renato Muccillo, in a limited palette of titanium white, ivory black, transparent earth yellow, viridian green, and dioxazine purple. This seemed like such an expected palette that I had to test it out (seen in the swatches below). Although I added transparent earth red to the group.
But tonalism isn’t just about the colors used. The exploration of mood and emotion are key as well. I’m exploring the idea of solitude as a focus for my art, and am drawn to quiet, contemplative landscapes more so than vibrant and energetic ones.
My concept for this mini painting (inspired by a photo taken on a trail near Durham last March) was about a quiet, chilly afternoon and the calm, peaceful clearing at the edge of the woods. As we came out of the wooded trail, it was this really pretty, serene field, and this tree was there to greet us.
For my composition, I chose a thumbnail where the horizon was raised up above center. It’s a combination of cross, steelyard, and S-curve compositional armatures. I painted this scene before but since then I’ve learned some ways to adjust the location of elements to create a more interesting painting. Instead of painting the line of trees in the distance as all on the same plane, I moved some forward a bit to break up that line and give the viewer something to look at as they follow the suggested path to the distance.
Since values are something I’m continuously working on, I wanted to try an underpainting to establish the value structure as a roadmap for adding color. I used acrylics for this because with the oil paper you can’t really pull out color if you go too dark initially. And I always go too dark initially! I put down a wash of quinacridone/nickel azo gold and after it dried used a combination of burnt umber, white, and more of the nickel azo gold. I’m glad I did this step because I had to keep lightening the values to get them lined up with what I wanted to see.
This was a pretty neat palette to use, and I’d like to explore the greens possible with it more. I think it could generally help me paint more from inside than trying to imitate what I see — focusing more on relationships than color matching. Color relativity is super fascinating to me and I’m continuing to study that in different ways.