The First Mile of the Journey

A mile doesn’t seem like much when it comes to traveling these days, I suppose. We live in a time where we can board a flight and travel thousands of miles in a few hours time. Recently Perserverance, a NASA “rover”, landed on Mars – a journey of over a staggering 129 million miles from earth.

But distance has a connection with time, and life isn’t always about “hurry up and get there.” Sometimes we might want to travel slowly, see the sights, and yes, even stop now and then to smell the flowers.

In a similar manner, reading one chapter of a book might not seem too significant. There are more chapters ahead, much more to read. Still, even reading a single chapter can be an accomplishment, especially when it’s part of a larger plan.

Just as we can travel quickly — or choose a more measured pace — we can learn the art of “speed-reading” and rush through words and sentences and even whole paragraphs or pages at a glance. But why? To gain maximum benefit from what we read, maybe it’s good to slow down a little.

The slow and steady approach is the one I’m taking as I make my way through my 100-day “creative journey”. I’m ambling along through Mood and Atmosphere by Carolyn Lewis, and I’ve now come to the end of the first chapter. This would be a good time, I thought, to assess my progress, to think about what I’ve learned, and to make any “course corrections” or changes that might be needed.

I’m mentioned Carolyn Lewis and this particular book several times and have provided a link for those who might want to take a closer look at Painting Mood and Atmosphere in OilsThis, you’ll note, is a “Land and Light Workshop” book, published by Artist Network. It is available for purchase there as a video download.

The video does not cover all that Lewis includes in the book, of course. Here is a description:

Follow a landscape painting from start to finish, from priming the canvas and roughing in placement guidelines, to refining color notes and adding final details. Carolyn’s subject–a breathtaking sunset across a lake–is simple enough that you can paint along while learning a wealth of key insights on bringing your landscapes to life.

If you’re an Artist Network member, you already have access to this video as part of your membership.

As expected, this first part of the journey is mostly preparatory. Before beginning any endeavor, there are certain basics we need to know and understand. Having intellectual knowledge is good, but it only becomes useful when we transfer it to hands-on experience, and this is how I’ve been spending these first few weeks.

  • I reviewed all my materials. That included ordering a few new paints, taking a good look at my brushes — and cleaning them thoroughly — and checking other supplies I might need.
  • I learned more about toning canvases. I’m an advocate for toning, and I like both the warmer, earth-toned canvases and cool gray-toned canvases.
  • I learned to follow the same basic procedure for oil painting as I use for graphite landscape drawing. Having a basic procedure to follow is helpful, indeed. It allows me to get right to work on a painting without wondering about where or how to begin.
  • I practiced brush strokes and palette knife painting.
  • I learned about creating different edges in oil painting.
  • I worked with principles of color theory — how to mix colors, how to create grays, and how to incorporate various color schemes in my landscape painting.
  • I found out a lot about light and light temperature.
  • I studied values — again — and made a 10-step value scale.

So far, I’m pleased with my progress. I’ve done a lot of “quick studies” — alla prima paintings completed in 30 minutes or less — and I’ve surprised myself here and there. I’ve had a few disappointing paintings, but there are always bumps in the road whenever we travel.

The question today… well, there are two questions, I suppose.

The first is this: Am I ready to move on? My answer is “Yes”. I haven’t mastered any of the lessons, but I have gained a much better understanding of the principles covered in the first chapter. I’m still excited by this 100-day adventure, and I’m looking forward to the next chapter in my studies.

The second question: Do I need to make any changes? Here again, the answer is “Yes.” I’ll be adding an additional step to my painting process by creating thumbnail sketches as value studies. I underlined this text:

“Always do a value sketch or thumbnail sketch before you start painting.”

So, going forward, I’ll be thinking more about values — and, no doubt, writing more posts on the topic. I learn by sharing. Sitting here and blogging about art helps me sort through information, look at my thoughts, and start putting them all in the right places.

I’m glad to have each of you reading along, following my art journey, and giving me advice and encouragement. Thanks for traveling with me!





    1. Thank you so much for the kind words. It’s definitely been an interesting journey, one I never thought I would be taking LOL. I’m glad I made the decision to learn to draw. It’s led me to so many interesting places and to so many awesome people. Thank you so much again for following along.

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