9 mini landscape paintings project featured collage

Wrap-up of the 9 mini landscape paintings project

9 mini landscape paintings project - compilation
Completed mini landscape paintings, each 3 x 4 on oil paper

My goal with this 9 mini landscape paintings project was to get over feeling rusty with painting and have fun getting back into landscape painting. To do this, I would go through my painting process from start to finish (except for varnishing) 9 times within 3 weeks. The deadline was simply so I didn’t let the project linger without making progress.

I’m very happy that I did reach my goal! Doing regular, small work and going through my painting process worksheet several times got me over the fear of starting and helped generate enthusiasm for exploring more ideas. More ideas than I can possibly get to, lol.

My worksheets came in very handy for helping my mind focus on making decisions rather than sitting there figuring out how to get started. This is huge for me — I overthink the beginning stage and am paralyzed by options. The worksheet methodically led me through the steps so my mind felt more free and less worried about missing pieces. One of the points I’d like to reach is for some of the painting process to feel routine, where things come easily and naturally so every little bit isn’t hard effort.

This project helped me reconnect with the joy I feel when painting. And even the enjoyment I get out of planning. I don’t enjoy my time at the easel when I jump in willy nilly.

I did a lot of color palette exploration, and to my surprise found that even though I was using different color strategies (tube colors, schemes, mixing approaches), they ended up looking remarkably similar. That was something I was not expecting!

Some things that came out of this project that I’d like to explore more:

  • using analogous color schemes (I liked this much more than I thought I would)
  • using my concept to push the colors beyond the reference
  • using a mother color to bathe the landscape in one harmonized color
  • comparing the experience of alla prima and indirect painting methods
  • painting on smooth oil-primed panels (as contrasted with linen and canvas)
  • adding more texture and layering

Other things to explore

Since I’ve been all excited about painting the last few weeks, I bought my first bottle of varnish (Gamvar gloss) and tested that out on a couple of old paintings. For the most part I love the look of it! A few spots didn’t turn out as nicely, and I think that’s because of differences in surface quality of the unvarnished pieces. So I also learned about how to oil out a painting to make the surface quality more consistent. I used straight linseed oil on a different painting (not a varnished one) that had a lot of dull spots, so once that’s had time to dry I can try varnishing it to see how it turns out.

I also did a tiny bit of experimenting with glazing over an old study and a toned panel. I only used linseed oil to thin the paint, not a glazing medium. The toned panel was a cheap, acrylic primed panel, and the thinned oil paint did not want to go on nicely — it beaded up because the surface was too smooth. But the little bit of experimenting I did was pretty cool because it helped me see the possibilities with shifting the temperature of a finished painting. I’m curious to see just how much can be done with the materials I have before purchasing glazing mediums… I also have a small tub of cold wax medium that I’ve never even tried so I’m looking forward to playing with that as well.

What’s next

I’m not quite sure what my next project will be. I have a huge list of things I want to try, and lately have been thinking about painting animals. This is something I haven’t done much of, mostly they’ve been mixed media illustrations. Creating some animal portraits in oil is on my short list, so maybe it will be that!

9 mini landscape paintings 9 - featured

9 mini landscape paintings project, number 9

9 mini landscape paintings 9
“Light and Shadow”, 3 x 4, oil on oil paper

For the final entry in my 9 mini landscapes painting project, I chose a photo from my collection that was not very interesting as a composition. But I liked enough of the elements to do some redesigning in order to turn it into something I liked better.

As I studied the reference photo, one of the things that stood out to me was the contrast between the large tree in the foreground that was almost entirely in shadow, and the middle ground trees that were struck by the low evening light. So that’s what I chose as the concept: the main star of the scene being in shadow, with the supporting players actually being the more interesting elements in light.

The composition is based on the L design stem. I originally had things moved away from the center lines, but they migrated during the painting process — it’s funny how that happens so easily!

9 mini landscape paintings 9 - planning
Value thumbnail, Notan, and color strategy based on reference photo in upper left

My color strategy was based on a palette of colors that would be somewhat limited, with a full range of colors possible, and earth tones for quick neutralizing of colors. I wanted to start with a warmer and cooler pile of nondescript neutrals and bend them toward greens, mauves, and yellows. The colors I selected were:

  • cadmium yellow light
  • cadmium red medium
  • ultramarine violet
  • prussian blue
  • yellow ochre
  • burnt sienna
  • burnt umber
  • ivory black
  • Utrecht white

This approach helped me get the intensity in the right ball park but the colors still required constant reining in because they really wanted to go high chroma. I also established that the dominant color temperature was to be cool, which I think I achieved. But it’s not necessarily the color harmony I had imagined. After playing with the image in Photoshop by adding a yellow filter to it, I’m seeing that what I really wanted was more of a golden cast over it to suggest the warmth of evening light. That’s definitely something I’d like to experiment with by adding a yellow to every mix to unify (a mother color approach).

I went back to doing a monochromatic block in using burnt umber. The surface had been toned with a mix of yellow ochre and ivory black, but that color didn’t seem to have much effect on my color mixes.

While I don’t love the colors in this one, I do like that a sense of light has been captured!

9 mini landscape paintings 8 - featured

9 mini landscape paintings project, number 8

9 mini landscape paintings 8
“Winding Down”, 3 x 4, oil on oil paper

When I look at the reference photo for this mini landscape painting, I’m reminded of the pleasant summer evening, when there were pretty clouds in the sky and the sun was just starting its descent. It was a very relaxing and peaceful experience to be in a local park that evening, so my concept is based on that idea of winding down from the day of working and just enjoying this beautiful time of day.

I had in mind a steelyard type of compositional design stem, but by the time I finished the small tree on the left didn’t really have enough oomph to pull that off. I think now it’s more like a pyramid composition.

The color strategy on this one was interesting, and more complex than the others in this project have been. The color scheme is a double complementary (tetrad) of yellow-green, red-violet, blue-green, and red-orange. I wanted more intense color, but still plenty of ammo for neutralizing so they weren’t full intensity. The tube colors I used were cadmium yellow (Holbein), prussian blue, and cadmium red deep.

From these three primaries, I mixed the actual colors for my scheme and tested out how they’d work. I didn’t really give myself enough time to fully experience this palette before wrapping up for dinner. It was harder for me to control the intensity with these mixes than many of the other strategies I’ve been using, mostly because I felt rushed.

I was trying to emphasize a red-orange, low-sun light shining across the scene, but I don’t think I captured it quite the way I had in mind. I’d like to do some studying of this location in person, taking color notes instead of relying on the camera and my memory. Not in order to copy exactly what I saw, but to deepen my understanding of what happens to colors in different light conditions to make better choices at the easel.

9 mini landscape paintings 8 - planning
Value thumbnail, Notan, and color strategy based on reference photo in upper left
9 mini landscape paintings 8 - grey
Completed painting converted to grey

I didn’t do a monochromatic block in for this one, but the surface had been toned with mid-value burnt sienna. There are tiny bits of that color peeking out around the green which I like. The trees are way too smooth and solid. I think they have a sense of form and dimension, but not enough variation and air between the leaves.

9 mini landscape paintings project, number 7

9 mini landscape paintings 7
“Most Tranquil Moment of the Day”, 3 x 4, oil on oil paper

This is a scene I painted before but with a different color palette and higher-intensity colors. My concept for this one is based on the idea of a tranquil country road, and when I took the photo it felt like a secret, stolen moment because of how quiet it was here.

The composition I chose is mostly based on the O design stem, with a bit of radiating lines. My color strategy was based on capturing the orangey hues of the setting sun with a limited palette of yellow ochre light, cadmium red light, ivory black, and white (in this case I used Utrecht White, a blend of titanium and zinc). Basically it’s the Zorn palette, but with the light version of yellow ochre.

I love the olive green mixes in this palette, and the way the black can read as a blue in this context. The earthy mauves are great, too. In general I enjoyed the experience of not having to fight to lower the intensity of the colors, which is harder with the high-intensity tube colors.

9 mini landscape paintings 7 - planning
Value thumbnail, Notan, and color strategy based on reference photo in upper left

This paper was toned with a yellow ochre and ivory black mixture to a dull mid-value yellow. The block in was done with a mixture of all of the colors in the palette and made a nice warm, low-intensity brown.

Just when I was wrapping up this little painting, I noticed that the road in the distance had ended up dead center. Which is pretty obvious in the block in! It wasn’t hard to move over a bit, but it certainly would have been smarter to address it at the block in stage.

One of my favorite parts of this one is the sky: initially I painted it in a solid light-yellow color. But it just didn’t look right to me. Then I added a bit of more neutralized yellow on the left side. It didn’t look grey at all until I put it on the painting next to the light yellow, when it transformed into a cool color that almost reads as blue. It added just the right amount of subtle temperature contrast while being the same value to make the sky feel complete to me.

One thing I could have done better was to try mixing some red into the yellow-green to heighten the feeling of the time of day.

Something I’ve been experimenting with is to assign specific value numbers to each of the values in my thumbnails, and then mixing up some initial colors that fit in those values. Since I’m doing test swatches anyway, small amounts are being mixed ahead of painting, and this process has helped me stay more organized. So far I’m liking this methodical process, and I think the key to why it’s working for me now and hasn’t worked in the past is that my initial mixes are quite small. That way I can keep adjusting them for variation as I paint, but I’m not starting every mix from ground zero.

I’m very curious to see what kind of palette I go with for the next one, because every day I’m finding new inspiration for combinations to try…

9 mini landscape paintings 6 - featured

9 mini landscape paintings project, number 6

9 mini landscape paintings 5
“Lucky Few”, 2 1/2 x 4, oil on oil paper

I tried out all kinds of new things with today’s painting for my 9 mini landscape paintings project! A wide format, split complementary palette, a sunset…

This one was inspired by an impromptu photo excursion on a recent Sunday evening. I wanted to catch the low light over the lake and made it just in time to snap a few sunset shots. There were a few other people enjoying the peacefulness of this hidden little fishing spot on the lake. I felt like we were all sneaking in the final glimpse of the setting sun and savoring some quiet time before Monday morning brought a new week of responsibilities.

With the backlighting in this scene, my composition is based on the silhouette design stem. I wish I had taken the time to pay more attention and make notes on what was happening in the shadows of the trees because that didn’t get picked up by the camera. Good thing to keep in mind for next time: take fewer photos and spend time taking notes!

9 mini landscape paintings 5 - planning
Value thumbnail, Notan, and color strategy based on reference photo in upper left

I chose a split complementary color scheme of yellow-orange, blue, and violet. My palette consisted of cadmium yellow (Holbein’s is a pretty good match for yellow-orange), ultramarine violet, cadmium red deep, cobalt blue pale, and ivory black. I mixed ultramarine violet (a blue violet) with the red to get a more true violet. The intensity of the blue and violet were lowered with ivory black + white, and the yellow-orange was lowered with violet + white.

After watching a demo of another artist who uses only linseed oil as her medium, I had the idea to try making the oil paper I’m using slicker to ease moving the paint around. So I brushed linseed oil all over the oil paper before beginning to paint, and used it to loosen the paint as well. This paper was toned with a mid-value yellow ochre/ivory black mix. After sketching in the main shapes with my brush, I went straight for the average color and value of each shape instead of doing a monochromatic block in.

9 mini landscape paintings 5 - grey
Completed painting converted to grey

I’m glad to have a better understanding of how to make color schemes work, thanks to some lessons from Dianne Mize. Before, I was super confused about how to make the colors work together harmoniously. Now I see that it’s about controlling the intensity, and not about making it super obvious what the hues are.