How Do You Do That?

How? My answer is normally, “One step at a time”. Here is another, “One Step at a Time” progression of a painting done plein air. Vicki, a painting buddy, and I painted last Monday at Two Ponds Wild Life Reserve. She took a boat load of photos so this entry is here because she took the time to run the camera and because of her willingness to share photos with me. (Vicki takes a bow!)

Drawing and wash with cadmium orange.

Drawing and wash with cadmium orange.

This drawing serves as an under painting and also it gives me an idea of my light and shadow pattern. I draw with a #2 flat, usually the most worn out old brush I have.
Placing some darks

Placing some darks

Just placing some darks in step two and pulling the dark light pattern together. The dark light pattern is very important to me when I’m designing the various elements on my picture plane. These patterns are known as NOTAN. It’s a Japanese word referring to abstract patterns of dark and light. If you have the time, google the word. You’ll find some excellent material on the subject. I’ve also taken the time to flesh out the trees a little bit to give them some shape and volume.

A little more of the same ole same ole. Squint down a little bit to see this light and dark pattern. It doesn’t matter too much what your subject is, if these patterns are balanced and pleasing to look at your painting will have a much better chance of succeeding. Having your darks placed on the picture plane where they touch or almost touch will help your viewer travel around your picture more efficiently.

I suppose we could argue either way as to whether the shadows crossing the road are part of the light pattern or part of the dark. For my money they are part of my dark. Squint again and notice the patterns that have emerged and play the lighter values against the darker. I’m thinking this design is pretty much on.

I finished the foreground and brushed in some of the sky. I hadn’t planned it but I noticed the shape of the area where the cloud is going to be mimics the light pattern coming across the road. I liked it and decided I’d take the freebee. This photo is a value or two lighter than the previous. I didn’t rework anything. It’s just a matter of how much light was available when Vicki took the picture. Sometimes we had lots of sun shine, some times not.

Step six below gets my canvas covered and I feel like maybe this one is going to survive. The painting is just about finished and I’m beginning to think about the “So What” of it.

Another of my artist friends (Mike U.) was critiquing a painting of mine a while back and had all this wonderful stuff to say about it. “This is wonderful”, he said.Β  “Oh and look at the shadows under those trees.” “Eldon this is a really nice piece……….but so what?” My jaw is still sore. What he was getting at though was I needed to think a little bit more about what it takes to take a “really nice piece” beyond really nice to something exceptional. Thanks Mike for the insight and advice, I haven’t finished a painting since that I don’t consider how I might do that.

Finish. A few details and some guy in a red shirt.

This is Vicki’s painting. Aint she awesome? This is her 3rd plein air oil and has finished two more since. She’s shooting for 100. You go girl!!


8 Responses to “How Do You Do That?”

  1. Vicki Barton Says:

    Eldon, The step by step helps so much! Your contours of the road and leaving the light spaces are a great hint. You might warn beginners about the sheer panic that sets in when large clouds come over and obliterate the light patterns. Your underpainting techniques have those protected! Thank you for sharing your vision. Vicki

  2. Hi Eldon…This was very informative…and very well done! I love this piece but especially like your color and value patterns! I just got back from Estes myself….camping in the RMNP…Endo Valley is gorgeous…an artist friend Jeff Legg, told me about it…I will definitely go back there…maybe even join the paint out….been meaning too!

  3. Since I’ve been following your blog — what I consider to be one
    of the up sides of a broken ankle that made moving difficult,
    and the computer very attractive — I’ve never seen a “so what?”
    painting. My reaction has always been — Wow!

    I’ve nominated you for a Brilliante Weblog award. See my
    September 10 blog for the rules. You are an awesome painter.


  4. Vicki, seems you’ve done that for me. πŸ™‚ It can scare the heck out of you at times. But you are right. that initial wash/drawing puts it all where it’s supposed to be and if you’re lucky it doesn’t disappear on you. Thanks for the comment. We need to get out again soon and smoosh our paint around a bit.

  5. Theresa, I’m glad your trip was a safe one. Sounds like you have Endo Valley fever. I’ve had it since the first time I went into the park. The paintings I’ve done there number at least into the dozens. My favorite spot to paint is that stand of pines just across the road from that first parking area. It would be cool if you came next year to paint with us. Just say the word and I’ll forward you a link to information.

  6. Thanks Barbara, what an honor! I’ll look at Sept. 10 to see what you posted.
    πŸ™‚ There are plenty of “so what ” paintings. They are what keep me working to do better stuff. I’m always thinking that right around the corner is the best piece I’ve ever done. I am happy that you have liked what you’ve seen because you aint no slouch either.

  7. Hi Eldon,
    For some reason September 10 got blocked from comment. Very
    odd. But you are wrong, you don’t do “so what?” paintings.
    I’m a bit leery of art critiques. We leave ourselves wide open
    for meaningless put downs when we accept another’s so called
    expert opinion. I never let anyone talk to me about my work
    unless they are a completely trusted ally –in which case they’ll
    give suggestions for improvements, without the attacks. Who needs
    that? What we’re doing as artists is a brave act. But art clubs foster
    this “right to give advice” mentality which is terrible in the rest of
    life, so why should be allowed in the vulnerable area of creative

    In short I defend your genius.


  8. Thank you Barbara. πŸ™‚

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