Fire in the Forest

Color is always an important aspect of art — well, for most artists, that is. I recently saw a painting hanging on display that was nothing but solid black with a bit of dark red brushed over it. It wasn’t a painting I cared much for, but to each his or her own, right?

As I work toward becoming more painterly, more impressionistic, and more imaginative in my landscape art, I’ve been going over lots of information about color in oil painting — how to use it to add lights and shadows, how to use it to create mood and atmosphere, how to blend, how to soften, how to use color to create different effects.

I’ve done monochromatic paintings before, and I think it’s an excellent exercise to review single-color schemes from time to time. That was my assignment when I went to my easel on Friday morning.

Create a monochromatic landscape using a single color with only the addition of white, gray, and black. 

I loved this assignment and was excited to grab one of my toned canvases and get to work. But what color should I choose? I’ve been doing autumn scenes since September, and I want to keep doing them — but painting an autumn scene meant using orange.

Orange? Really?

Well, maybe I could have used browns instead, but I wanted to be adventurous. And so, orange it was. I mixed my own orange using medium yellow and vermillion. And off I went… right into the midst of a fiery forest.

Framed - Fire in the Forest


As I painted, I thought of the devastating fires raging in California. I thought of the billowing smoke. I thought of leaves withering and curling in the heat, and I thought of a pathway leading away from the destruction.

This is very different from my usual reflective landscapes. It wasn’t what I really started out to paint, but for me, impressionist painting means following what I feel, going wherever the painting takes me.

As a monochrome study, Fire in the Forest exceeded my expectations. It’s a little bit frightening, and maybe that’s why I like it. I definitely feel something when I view this painting.

I feel fear, I feel heat, I feel danger.

Orange definitely took me to places I hadn’t expected to go, but I’m glad I followed. I think. Maybe not. Maybe this painting led me somewhere I don’t want to be in the world of art.

But…more of those thoughts tomorrow. Until then, I’d love to know your feelings about my Fire in the Forest painting.


    1. We have a daughter in California, not affected by the fires at the moment but was forced to evacuate earlier. She had made some comments recently about the fires and her instinctive reaction now when she heard sirens. I think those comments influenced me, too, in painting this. It was all unintentional, but it just started coming out once I started working with the color orange.

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      1. I’m exploring a lot of new techniques, finding things that seem to be working for me to help me create the effects I want in my paintings. It’s always an interesting process. I get new ideas and information, spend time struggling with them, and then gradually things start coming together again. That’s always a fun part of the process. Soon I’ll be gathering up new ideas and struggling again LOL.

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  1. I would say don’t hold back from wherever your art takes you! Let it go wherever it goes, and follow it down those paths…. Being a conduit for ideas that want to express themselves through you doesn’t mean you have to identify with those ideas or feel, even , that they are self-expression. Creating expresses, but it isn’t always our identity that’s being expressed, and that’s kind of awesome .

    By the way , the painting to me (a native of Northern California ), the painting didn’t evoke fire but the tingling light of sunset, that mystery.

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    1. Thanks for sharing your interpretation of the painting, and thanks, too, for your thoughts on creative expression. It’s a new way of looking at and thinking about expression through art. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I like how art can take you places as Cathy said. For a few months this past year I got so engrossed in the Hawaii island volcano eruption that I followed the unfolding drama that was going on. I painted 5 volcano scenes and wrote about the powerful Kilauea’s volcano vent Pu’u O’o from its onset to demise and devastation of the communities it raged through. It was an unbelievable and emotional experience that I could portray only a small degree of what the island people went through and are still recovering from. See the paintings at
      I could relate to Judith’s painting as picking up on the California fires which many of us here in Hawaii had friends and family evacuating from.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sometimes a certain emotion seems to take hold of us in our art. With a daughter in California (who had to evacuate during a previous fire), thoughts of the current devastation were very much on my mind.


    1. Thanks, Evelyn. It’s always a good color exercise. I’m working right now on learning to get a wider range of values in my paintings, so doing a monochrome painting helped a lot with that.

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