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Rolling with It - Perspectives No. 410

Rolling with It

Perspectives No. 410

Foggy Pond, 9 x 12', Oil, © John Hulsey
Foggy Pond               9 x 12"               Oil               J. Hulsey

   Our painting and teaching practices have always been centered around working from life, as that is the best way, we believe, to learn how to see and describe the world. Photos are useful for details, of course, but the camera creates a mechanical wall between nature and live experience which distorts reality in specific and often artistically undesirable ways. The great advantage of photos is the ability to freeze a moment in time and use that luxury of time to learn about composition, drawing, color mixing and brushwork. Those fundamental tools often get trampled under the need to keep up with the swift changing of light in plein air or studio.

   When the need for social distancing erupted overnight, we were challenged to figure out how we could teach students remotely and interactively, using only photographic reference for our subjects and exercises. The reference photograph now became a very important player in what results our students might achieve. Part of the answer to this dilemma was resolved by using Photoshop to carefully repaint and readjust the reference photo. The goal is to recreate the image from the ground up to bring it back as closely as possible to the live vision which inspired the click of the shutter. This can sometimes require 20 layers in Photoshop! That digital image is what we then use to paint from in our online live classes. Of course it can never replace painting together in person from life, but can allow us to study techniques and processes.

   We also had to design a curriculum which would be learned in three 2.5 hour sessions. Foggy Pond is one of those classes designed to teach how to paint foggy atmospheric effects over a mirror of water—a double challenge. This requires knowledge of color mixes, paint application and brushwork.

Foggy Pond Color Chart

   To help with the color mixing, we created a suggested color mixing chart, showing the parent colors or primaries which make up each secondary or tertiary mix, along with the colorful grays needed for the painting. These charts are sent in advance of the class to each student, along with the digital photo of our subject.

Foggy Pond, Step 1, 9 x 12", Oil, © John Hulsey

 

   This picture was created using a “fat-over-lean” method, whereby the first layers of the block-in were transparent, or lean, washes of oil color. The first step is to tone down the bright white of the canvas by mixing the dominant color cast of the image, in this case, a golden yellow, and washing this lean color over the panel. This color wash then can become part of the overall tone of the painting and serves as a harmonizing factor for all the colors to follow. Ideally, some of this glowing transparent color will remain untouched in the final painting. This was followed by washing in the colors of the water and  background trees. To help placement of correct values, the darker shoreline tones are put in early on.

Foggy Pond, Step 2, 9 x 12", Oil, © John Hulsey

   In step two, the block-in is developed using thicker (fatter) paint as the size, shape and color relationships of the main color masses are established. Then attention was paid to blending the  palette of colors present in the water surface.

Foggy Pond, Step 3, 9 x 12", Oil, © John Hulsey

   Step three shows some of the refinements and brushwork used in the middle of the painting process. All background work had to be completed before the foreground trees could be painted over the top. It is helpful also, if these middle layers are relatively dry before the tree work goes on.

Foggy Pond, 9 x 12', Oil, © John Hulsey

   After carefully mixing a string of colorful grays from light to dark, warm to cool, the trees were painted in with sable rounds, and the blue heron added. Once the tree strokes start going on, the background magically recedes in space. Finally, I used a soft wide brush to blur some of the tree branches in the water, bringing our attention back up to the focal point—heron taking flight.

 




Copyright Hulsey Trusty Designs, L.L.C. (except where noted). All rights reserved.
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A Primer on Night Painting - Nocturnes

Nocturnes - A Primer on Night Painting

Filled with inspirational examples by the masters of nightime painting, this little book is sure to fire up your creative energies. Never tried painting at night? We show you how it's done with a step-by-step-oil demo and a tale of night painting in the wilds of Rocky Mountain National Park. The Primer on Night Painting - Nocturnes is a 7 x 7" PDF download with 40 pages of text and images. It includes a gallery of paintings by masters of the nocturne, information to inspire and encourage you in your plein air nocturne painting, an illustrated step-by-step demo and tips for working in pastel and oil. Also available in a softcover edition. Check out the tools and other products that we use in our own art and travels in The Artist's Road Store. We only offer things for sale that we enthusiastically believe in.

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About Us

Photograph of John Hulsey and Ann Trusty in Glacier National Park
We are artists, authors and teachers with over 40 years of experience in painting the world's beautiful places. We created The Artist's Road in order to share our knowledge and experiences with you, and create a community of like-minded individuals.  You can learn more about us and see our original paintings by clicking on the links below.
About Ann
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We are also regular contributors to the Plein Air blog at Artist Daily.

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