How many time have you heard that “things will get worse before they get better”…? Many times it’s quite true, especially when we’re in the process of learning new — or different — ways of doing things.
That’s exactly where I am with my art right now. I’m having fun trying different media, but I’m also doing a lot of serious study to improve my landscape oil paintings. You’ve been following along as I’ve learned about color theories, light temperatures, high-key and low-key values, and so much more!
It’s a lot to grasp hold of. Fellow blogger Glenn Davis from Rough Times recently pointed out that a problem with teaching ourselves is that we want to know it all — all at once. So true, my friend.
On the morning when Glenn shared that thought with me, I was in the midst of a very serious study lesson. I’d spent at least an hour going through notes on pigments, color families, temperature, and chroma. I’d spent more time sorting through my oil paints, categorizing them as warm or cool — or, actually “Warm Warms” or “Warm Cools” or “Cool Cools” or “Cool Warms”. I was definitely feeling inundated by information.
I used a bit of my knowledge for my daily “color theory quick study” — which you’ll be seeing soon — and after a quick break I returned to the easel to continue my study of focal points. As I looked at the reference photo I was going to use, questions hit me — hard.
Oh, my goodness! First, where exactly is my focal point? How can I develop this point compositionally? What is the light temperature? Is the palette primarily warm or cool? Wait… is that determined by the light temperature? Can I have warm light but use cool colors? Yep, my mind was spinning out of control.
And what about values? Would my painting be high-key? Low-key? No-key? Oh, yes, indeed, my brain was doing so many flips and flops and crazy somersaults that I probably wouldn’t have known my own name if you’d asked me right then and there.
I took a second break. I needed it! When I returned, I made a few very basic decisions. The painting would be low-key — using darker values — and I’d use a warmer palette. I wanted the warmth of the scene to predominate.
As I’m learning all of this “scientitic” information, I’m also trying various new methods of painting, using different brushes and different brushstrokes. Again, there is a lot I’m learning — all at once. And because I’m learning so many new things and trying so many different approaches, I’m coming to that point where I can say without doubt that, yep, things are probably going to get a whole lot worse before they get better.
Here’s today’s study:
After painting this, it was time for a quick reassessment. Question number one — how did that focal point turn out? Oops! What focal point? In all my concerns about light temperature and colors and values, I neglected the single most important thing in this piece. I was supposed to concentrate on the focal point. It was intended to be an area directly to the right of the tree’s trunk. Originally I had a lighter value there, but it somehow got blended away as I tweaked the foreground.
As for the other questions, yes, I think I achieved my intent of creating a relatively “low-key” painting. I think, too, that I was successful in making the warmer colors predominant.
One issue was compositional — I wasn’t happy with the overall shape of that tree. I have problems going either “too thick” or “too thin” with foliage. I’m working on it.
Technically it was a challenge to properly place the “warm light” on the tree and in other areas. I’ll keep working on that, too.
As I continue working on all of these different principles of art, studies of composition, and technical exercises, I expect to see eventual progress. But be forewarned, folks. Things are probably going to get worse before they get better.