3333333333333333333333333333333333333 — see NOTES below.
Today I’m sharing another quick oil painting study, once again following Camille Pissarro’s advice to do everything all at once, and to “paint generously and unhesitatingly” so as to not lose the first impression one has of the scene.
This study was also intended as a sort of “counterpart” to the previous “Tennessee Road” oil painting. Yesterday I worked with the warm colors of the wheel — although I muted them for my palette. Today I began with the intention of using cooler hues — blues, greens, a cool black. Sometimes, though, little oopsies happen when I’m at my easel, and that was definitely how my morning went.
This “quick study” is not complete. Even though I planned to complete it “all at once” as Pissarro advises, that didn’t happen. Here is “November Sky” as it presently appears:
You can see the general idea of what I was trying to do. We’re standing near the crest of a hill, looking out into the distance, and meanwhile clouds are gathering above us. That dark cloud toward the right of center was meant to be my “focal point”. The trees, by the way, were meant to be more bare limbs, but that didn’t happen, and I ended up just having a bit of fun with Payne’s gray.
I started off by sketching the various areas on a sheet from a canvas pad. Not my favorite painting surface. I did tape the sheet to an old canvas panel to make it a bit more “user-friendly” for me. It helped.
Initially, I was quite pleased with the skies — painted using mixes of cerulean blue, Payne’s gray, titanium white, and cobalt blue. Now, had I not been following Pissarro’s advice and doing everything all at once, I would have spent more time on
NOTES: Those are not my “oopsies”. Flower Child decided to check out the keyboard. That’s her way of saying “Hello” and contributing to the blog. Since today seems to be a day filled with “oopsies” I decided her comments deserved to be published.
Now, as I was saying, had I not been following Pissarro’s advice, I would have stopped after laying in the basic “background colors” of the sky. Then I would have returned to the painting later to create more distinct clouds with lots of lights and shadows. The point was, however, to complete this as a quick study, nothing more, so I settled for somewhat hazy skies and moved on to the foreground.
What you’re looking at in this blog post is a very low-quality photo. Another “oopsie” in my life at the moment is the camera on my smartphone. It only works if it’s on the 0.5x setting. I’ve been wrestling with this problem for a while — attempting to use any other setting simply causes the phone to shut off and restart itself. Later today I might drop by the phone shop to see if there’s anything that can be done, other than purchasing a new phone. I bought this one only a few months ago.
With the poor photo that I’ve enlarged here, the detail of the brush strokes is lost. I carefully used a thick bristle brush to provide texture for the grassy hill. It was looking fairly good, to tell the truth. But then… oopsie! This one was my fault. I realized I should have painted the midground “distance” area first. I managed to add that area to the painting, tweaked the foreground a bit, and reminded myself that this was only a “quick study”.
A few things were different from usual in my studio this morning. First, I was sharing the space with my husband. He was in the sewing area working with fabric as part of a woodworking project he’s completing for a grand-daughter. Second, when I got ready to go to my easel, instead of going upstairs for my usual “studio attire”, I grabbed an old shirt my husband had discarded. It’s a long-sleeved flannel, easy to slip on and off, and it was right there close at hand. Why make an unnecessary trip upstairs? As soon as I slipped the shirt on, I knew I had to make a bit of an adjustment. The sleeves were much too long, of course. I stepped over to my husband, held out my arms, and asked him to grab the fabric scissors and cut the sleeves off. He did, but not quite enough as it turned out.
As you probably already know, I’m quite clumsy, and sure enough, I managed to “oopsie” my painting with streaks of color from the still-too-long sleeves of my shirt. It was mostly in the area on the right where I later painted a tree. I wasn’t upset. Really, all I could do was laugh at myself a bit, and then do what I could to “tweak” the painting to “fix” the problems.
By that point, I was no longer concerned in the least with how my quick study would turn out. Obviously it was not going to become any work of art. My only concern was getting it to a somewhat “finished” state — finished enough that I could set it aside and call it done.
So, I grabbed a small brush, added a bit of medium to my Payne’s gray, and attempted to paint the trees. I should have chosen a different brush. I wasn’t getting the thin, fine lines I wanted, but who cares? I didn’t. I just kept at it, “generously and unhesitatingly” as Pissarro suggests, and then I grabbed another brush, more Payne’s gray, and started dabbing on clusters of leaves. My trees are all misshapen. In the end, I wasn’t sure where the light in the scene was coming from, but I didn’t worry about that either. All I did was add a few “final strokes” and set it aside.
For today, I’m calling this done, but tomorrow — or the next day — I want to come back to it. I want to dabble a bit with colors, try to at least figure out my light source, and see what more I can do to this. As with other paintings and studies that haven’t turned out quite the way I’d hoped, this has provided a good art lesson for me: Remember to always be myself, to trust my own instincts, and to follow my own process in art.
In other words, while I love Camille Pissarro’s impressionist landscapes, I don’t want to paint by his method. Working all at once, quickly capturing immediate impressions of a scene isn’t the best way for me to approach landscape oil painting. This is one of the reasons why I’m reluctant to attempt plein air painting.
My approach is slower, more methodical. I need time to step away from my easel to see the big picture of what I’m creating. Working too quickly and working on everything all at once leaves me feeling scattered and unsure of where I’m going.
Sometimes it works. I was happy with yesterday’s “alla prima” painting, but today it wasn’t working for me. It opened me up to too many oopsies and too much uncertainty. I didn’t feel like me. I didn’t even smell like me — which confused Flower Child greatly. She didn’t seem to understand why she was sniffing me and smelling Grandpa instead.
That sort of “this isn’t who I am” feeling set the tone for my morning in the studio, and that clearly reflected in the scene I painted. It does, indeed, serve as a counterpart to yesterday’s landscape. Where that painting truly showed who I am as an artist and how I see myself moving ahead, today’s study showed what happens when I try to be someone I’m not. When I do that, the result is a landscape filled with confusion, bare trees with clusters of gray leaves, lights and shadows going in different directions, and hazy clouds in an unfinished sky.
There are good areas in this study. Were you to see the actual painting, you’d probably remark on the shadowed areas in the foreground — not clearly visible in the photograph — and you’d likely comment on all the grassy brushstrokes.
Between the good, the bad, and all of today’s oopsies, my studio time this morning has been valuable indeed. Learning who we are as artists is important, but maybe it’s just as important to understand who we are not, and mostly to see that in the final analysis, we can only be who we are. Anything else is just a big oopsie when it comes to creating art.