Sienna Ridge

Practice. Exercises. Studies.

These are all words and concepts I’m familiar with as a pianist, and I’ve found they have meaning for artists, as well. I have to admit that I was really naïve about art before I began this journey. My initial thought, of course, was that either you were born with artistic talent or you weren’t — and in my case, I wasn’t. That was that, and I never expected to become an artist.

A few years ago, though, I discovered that art is much more than a talent that some people possess. It is a skill that can be learned. Anyone can learn to draw. I am proof of that.

But, again, my thinking was very short-sighted. I innocently believed that all an artist needed to know was how to draw. The rest, I assumed, took care of itself. I simply never realized how much more there is to art.

Today my art instruction is filled with new terms such as aerial perspective, halation, and speedy recessions. My studies aren’t merely about putting lines on the paper but learning about light, understanding the various planes in the landscape, and coming to grips with the fact that a single painting can have multiple vanishing points, and that even the clouds are subject to the laws of linear perspective.

Intellectually I understand the terms reasonably well, but with art, it’s not enough to know the principles. Once learned, those principles must be applied, and that’s not as simple as it sounds. It involves diligent study, many different exercises, and lots of patient practice.

Today’s exercise focused on aerial perspective — the concept of creating a feeling of depth within a painting. The instructions were easy enough: Use Burnt Sienna and create a series of hills — near, farther, and farthest away from the viewpoint — showing the distance through color.

Sienna Ridge

After finishing this exercise, I gave it the name “Sienna Ridge”, and truthfully, I’m not satisfied with what I’ve done. I did manage to create depth, and in the process I made use of another principle of art: As items recede into the distance, they lose much of their form. As you can see — I hope — the far hills are only a vague outline.

Other than those far-distant hillsides, though, I don’t like what I see. In fact, a lot of what I see confuses me. As you can surely tell, I had problems with lights and shadows. Can you guess where the sun is? No, probably not. It’s supposed to be coming from the right, thereby casting the left side of the hills into shadow. I managed to get a darker shade on a few of the hills, but my attempts to show areas of sunlight — well, it’s a mess. What more can I say?

I guess what I can say is “If at first I don’t succeed, I’ll just try again until I do.” And that’s what I will do. I’m fascinated by the idea of using light and shadow to create forms within the landscape — both near and far. In graphite, I can usually achieve the effects I’m seeking, but I haven’t yet developed the ability to effectively translate those drawing skills to oil painting.

So, back to the easel. Back to my brushes, my canvases, and my Burnt Sienna. Back to “Sienna Ridge” I go.


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