Thursday, August 20, 2020

Lake Swan - Fix It Friday #25!

Lake Swan, 8 x 10, oil on panel, L. Daniel © 2020

Can you believe I have been at this for 25 straight weeks? I can't! This series has been a great way to stay in touch while I've been working on larger paintings for my upcoming show in the fall. It has also provided a weekly marker to get me through the Ground Hog Days of quarantining! Fridays = Fix it. TGIF! 

BUT, as fun as it has been, I will be taking a little hiatus from the weekly post...

It's time to change it up. Summer is almost over and my show opens October 24th at the Davis Gallery here in Austin. The next two months will be busy with finishing works for the show, getting them framed, and marketing them! (You will soon start hearing from me about that!) I also have visits with my kids and grandkids planned. So... with great appreciation to all who have followed along with me and sent your encouragements... a heart-felt THANK YOU!!!

Here is Lake Swan, on Fix it Friday #25!!!
 
BEFORE

AFTER

CHANGES

Problem - The lighting in the scene was inconsistent with the lighting on the swan. (Everything in the scene needed more contrast and brightness to be agreement with the swan about the light.)
Fix - Added streak of blue to sky (it transformed yellow haze into a brilliant day).
Fix - Made water more reflective of the blue sky.
Fix - Popped the light on the loose reeds. Sparkle.
Fix - Added highlights on the distant shore. (That is Westlake Beach in the distance, local friends! You know who you are.) ;)

Problem - The water lacked structure so the surface didn't look flat.
Fix - Defined all reflections.
Fix - Reordered the water patterns to recede, making them larger in front, smaller and condensed in distance.

OBSERVATIONS

Throughout a painting session, it's always good to keep remembering where the light is coming from. It's also helpful to make sure the entire painting agrees about where, and how, that light is shining! :) 

I love the swans on Lake Austin. They have babies every year and swim around as a family. Although they never sit still enough or close enough, I constantly try to get pictures. And did you know this? Swans mate for life. LOVE that. 

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Field of Cactus - Fix It Friday #24

Field of Cactus, 12 x 12, oil on panel, L. Daniel © 2020

Texas cactus! It's beautiful, especially when it blooms and... it's very invasive. Once it gets started, it just duplicates itself over and over. If an "ear" falls off, stick it in the ground and it will happily survive, grow, and spread!! All that to say, my fix today is all about better depicting ranch land full of propagated cactus. 

BEFORE

AFTER

CHANGES

Problem - Layers of cactus were not "laying down" on the picture plane.
Fix - Created a definitive scale shift from front to back, making layers incrementally smaller as they move into the distance. 
Fix - Muted layers incrementally as they recede.

Problem - Field just didn't have enough cactus!! 
Fix - Added another layer of cactus at the fence line.

Problem - Overcast sky was lack-luster in color and interest.
Fix - Intensified the purplish color that was there and popped the bit of light. 

OBSERVATIONS

Working with elements in the landscape to push them into the distance is a great challenge. Today's fix was a wonderful exercise in doing just that... scale shift, atmospheric perspective, overlapping, and layering were all used here. 

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Vineyard View - Fix It Friday #23


Vineyard View, 9 x 12, oil on panel, L. Daniel © 2020

Today's fix is from a Napa Valley trip I took a few years ago...
The day I chose this location to do some plein air painting, the sky was full of gorgeous clouds. When I came back the next morning, it was foggy but I blocked in my painting leaving LOTS of room for that glorious sky. I just knew it was coming. It never did. The fog never wore off. Best laid plans gone awry, and the painting stayed misty. Until now...

BEFORE

AFTER

CHANGES

Problem - Canvas looked "cut in half" at the horizontal center line.
Fix - Raised up the mountain tops slightly past center and added activity above the center line.

Problem - So much canvas devoted to the sky, but nothing going on.
Fix - Added a sky feature - clouds! 

Problem - Foreground field was disconnected from distant field layers. 
Fix - Darkened the foreground to a value more similar to the field beyond, and added "field markings" to make it feel like a continuation of tilled land.

Problem - Background mountain range was disconnected from previous field layers. 
Fix - Added just a "suggestion" of fields continuing into distant valleys, in order to make the valley feel expansive and cohesive.

OBSERVATIONS

Thank goodness I took some pictures of that first day with all the clouds! And thank goodness I still had them in my files! It took me awhile to revisit this one, but I'm so glad I did! It now looks like, feels like, smells like the lush valley vista that I was so compelled to paint on that California hillside!!

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Stormy Fields - Fix It Friday #22


Stormy Fields, 12 x 16, oil on panel, L. Daniel © 2020

Today I am revisiting a plein air piece from a dark and turbulent day in 2016. A storm was coming and the sky kept changing with each passing moment. My painting ended up with a sunless sky and a well-lit foreground. Well, which was it? Those fast and furious efforts of mine depicted a contradictory tale. Hmmm...

BEFORE

AFTER

CHANGES

Problem - Sky plane and ground plane disagreed about the light.
Fix - Muted ground plane and added more "lowlights".
Fix - Lightened the sky plane with soft light in clouds.

Problem - Clouds were flat (they were not rain-laden).
Fix - Gave clouds volume by adding a "light side" to the shapes.
Fix - Reinforced the shadow sides of the clouds (to indicate heaviness and the density of moisture-about-to-burst.)
Fix - Developed cloud layers and filled the whole sky to emphasize their size.

OBSERVATIONS

A general "rule" about darks and lights in the landscape is that usually the sky is the lightest plane because that is where the sun lives. Since the ground plane simply reflects the sun's light, it is usually darker than the sky. My original painting had that relationship reversed: the sky was much darker than the ground. (Sometimes a stormy sky can be darker, but this one just wasn't working.)

Also true: Color often appears intensified on a muted, dark day. I did love that intensity, but I totally overdid it with the grasses in my original attempt. As I made other adjustments to make the scene "read" correctly, those needed to be altered too. It was a bit of a toggle...

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Flying High - Fix It Friday #21

Flying High, 16 x 12, oil on panel, L. Daniel © 2020

TGIF!! Or, should I say, TGIF-I-F!!! I do love fix it Friday.
This is a painting from last fall that kept catching my attention. I liked it, but something was off and I didn't know what it was. That "nudge" became crystal clear after my last post about finding depth in a painting. (Be careful what you preach... it may come back to haunt you!) ;)

Here's why...

BEFORE

AFTER

CHANGES
Problem - The sky plane was... flat! The cloud layers all had the same treatment of light, shadow, shape, and color. 
Fix - Created scale shift between foreground clouds (made bigger) and background clouds (made smaller). 
Fix - Removed contrast from background clouds (made them more muted, less highlights).
Fix - Added contrast to foreground clouds (gave more color, stronger highlights).
Fix - Increased gradation of blue sky from muted at the horizon to more intense at top.

Problem - Ground plane was also a bit flat.
Fix - Added marsh creek into layers to create a sense of space and depth. (It breaks up the marsh grass and reflects the sky.)

OBSERVATIONS
I remember this day, I was in the moment, responding and having fun. It is so easy to forget principles when we are in the thick of things. And, sometimes it takes awhile for awareness to catch up. Now, I can relax into the scene when I look at it! Ah...

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Creating Depth in a Painting - 5 TIPS!

Morning Reflections, 9 x 12, oil on panel, L. Daniel © 2010

Dear Blog Friends,
I was recently invited to write a guest post for "Realism Today", an online newsletter for artists. It went live this week, and here it is in its entirety. It's long, but it has lots of good info! (Click the title to see it in its original context.) Enjoy! 
___________________


Guest post for Realism Today by Laurel Daniel

One of the most common challenges for beginning painters is learning to establish the feeling of distance in a landscape. It is a hurdle I remember well from my own early efforts… scenes looking flat, backgrounds jumping forward, and no sense of visual space to travel into. With much study and years of practice, I have discovered a number of ways to create that illusion of depth I so badly wanted back then. Below are five tips that have helped me in my journey, with examples for each. They can be considered individually, but I think you will find their actual use is very interconnected. Hopefully, the ideas will help you “see” your subject matter better.

1 - Atmospheric Perspective
Atmospheric perspective, or aerial perspective, is a technique that uses modification of tone to create a sense of depth. Simply described, natural conditions like fog and light have a softening effect on distant layers of the landscape. This impacts a painter’s color and value choices. I like to describe them in these two ways… 


A) As objects move further away from the viewer: values become less contrasty, colors get weaker and cooler, and details become less distinct. 
B) As objects come forward and closer to the viewer: values have more contrast, colors get stronger and warmer, and details become sharper. 

In “Foggy Coastline” below, you can see this concept at work. Notice how each mountain range becomes weaker and cooler as it recedes into the distance. Conversely, the closest mountain range and people have greater contrast and more detail. The warmest/strongest color is in the sandy foreground.

Laurel Daniel, "Foggy Coastline", 9x12, oil on panel, plein air, contact artist

2 - Scale Shift 
With the term scale shift, I am referring how our vantage point effects the appearance of size. Objects look smaller in size as they get farther away from us. Using this size shift helps us further enhance the feeling of depth in our paintings. When working with this concept, it's all about comparison in the big picture. Observe the relationships between “like” elements in foreground, middle ground, and background (compare grasses to grasses, clouds to clouds, etc), and incorporate the incremental differences as they actually occur in nature. 


In “Morning Reflections” below, we see this scale shift with the grasses in ground plane and the clouds in the sky… both elements are larger in the foreground and get smaller in the distance.

Laurel Daniel, Morning Reflections, 9x12, oil on panel, plein air, contact artist


3 - Spacial Increments
Similar to scale shift where objects get smaller in the distance, the spaces between those objects also decrease. This is especially true for evenly spaced elements, like telephone poles, train tracks or orderly planted fruit trees in an orchard. Being intentional with this incremental change will not only give the illusion of depth, it will also keep the ground plane from looking flat. 


In “Fruited Valley” below, notice how the spaces decrease between the vertical rows of grapevines as they go back, and between the horizontal rows of trees dividing the distant fields. 

Laurel Daniel, "Fruited Valley", 24x30, oil on canvas, studio, private collection

4 - Overlapping Elements
Whenever a painter can partially cover one object with another, it gives the appearance of depth. Why? Because we can instantly identify layers, and layers create space.

In “Palm Tree Promenade” below, we view the ocean cove, mountain, and sky through the overlapping palm trees. This relationship (combined with a significant scale shift from foreground to background) establishes a great sense of depth. 

Laurel Daniel, "Palm Tree Promenade", 8x8, oil on panel, plein air, private collection

5 - Practice, practice, practice!
Look for examples of these principles when selecting subject matter for paintings. I think you will find that searching with this in mind will also provide a jump-start with analyzing, composing and blocking in your chosen scene! If you can see it, you can paint it! Practice with a purpose. 

In “Half Light” below, all of the ideas are at work… see if you can find them: atmospheric perspective, scale shift, spacial increments, and overlapping elements. 

Laurel Daniel, "Half Light", 15x30, oil on canvas, studio, private collection

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Country Field - Fix It Friday #20... and PleinAir LIVE!

Country Field, 8 x 6, Oil on canvas, L. Daniel © 2020
SOLD

I posted this "Fix" last year, long before I thought of doing this series of "Fix It Friday" on a weekly basis. Since this has been a *busy week for me, I am posting it again. (I couldn't miss my 20th week in a row of Fix-It Friday!) And I think this painting's changes are worth revisiting...

(*See Out-takes from PleinAir Live at the end!)


BEFORE

AFTER

CHANGES
Problem - Main tree was too perfectly round and static.
Fix -  Gave the main tree a more interesting shape by cutting back into it with the sky and distant tree line. 

Problem - Distant trees were not receding or separating enough from front tree.
Fix - I cooled down distant row of trees.

Problem - Too much weight on the left side. 
Fix - Added more fencing on the right. The added fence counterbalances that weight and creates a more specific "path" into the scene.

Problem - The highlights did not convey the light of that day.
Fix - Lightened up the highlights on the trees.

Problem - There was no reference to the season.
Fix - Added Bluebonnets. It was Texas in Spring, and I just HAD to!! Bluebonnets were everywhere else and I had plenty of reference. 

OBSERVATIONS

This is another case where I had stuck a little too close to reality and lost the feeling! It comes down to this question - what is more important: aesthetic or reality? I say aesthetic. Sometimes it is necessary to adjust reality a bit to accurately portray what we SEE and FEEL about our subject. Permission granted to make changes for the betterment of your painting! 

AND... Below are pictures from my teaching sessions at PleinAir LIVE!

Broadcasting live from the studio of PleinAir Magazine in Austin! 

One presentation included an overview of my process of building a painting and a color mixing demo... 

The other presentation was about overcoming the challenges of painting outside.

Each presentation ended in a Q and A session with Eric Rhodes, publisher of PleinAir Magazine. A HUGE thank you to Eric, the magazine, and to all who signed up!!!

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Glint of Gold - Fix It Friday #19

Glint of Gold, 24 x 24, oil on canvas, L. Daniel © 2020

Hello friends! Welcome back to Fix It Friday! I hope you are all staying well and finding peace in these challenging times. This pastoral walk down a favorite Texas trail gives me that little getaway that seems SO needed right now. I painted it earlier in the spring when the wildflowers were out, and have been stewing over it ever since, up on the drying shelf... something was bothering me... 

BEFORE

AFTER

CHANGES
Problem - The prominent oak tree in the middle ground appeared choked and flat.
Fix - Removed mass of bushes at base of tree to visually free it up.
Fix - Separated layers in middle ground to increase space and depth. 

OBSERVATIONS
Layers always add an illusion of depth. Separating out several layers in the middle ground area, added to the overall sense of distance. I always like the idea of being able to go further "in" to the scene! 

PAINTERS! Join me at PleinAir LIVE!! 
I am teaching in the PRE-event Beginners Workshop (July 14) on "How Painting Outdoors Differs from Painting Indoors, and Overcoming the Obstacles", AND "The Basics of Oil Painting". It will be a fruitful and fun time! 

Please sign up through my affiliate link: 
https://pleinairlive.com/register?affiliate_id=2514217


Thursday, July 2, 2020

Hydrangea in Blue - Fix It Friday #18

Hydrangea in Blue, 9 x 12, oil on panel, L. Daniel © 2020

This painting needed to be fixed, literally, as in repaired. I was taking it home to finish later, and it rubbed against another wet painting in my carrier. I didn't see the transferred paint until all had dried. It was tempting to just toss the whole thing, but I hate not finishing something! ;)

BEFORE


AFTER

CHANGES:
Problem - Painting had unwanted paint transferred from another painting.
Fix - Tackled problem area by building it back up with my dark neutral (ultramarine and burnt siena), as if starting from scratch in that area. But before I began, I oiled out ( with refined linseed oil) and rigorously buffed the entire surface. I often do this when painting back in. It helps the new paint flow on better.

Problem - It needed a background (I wiped out first attempt on location).
Fix - Reworked background colors. I wanted something that would capture the sense of dappled light, and would not fight with the blue of the hydrangea. After a number of attempts, I think I finally got there.

OBSERVATIONS:
Make sure to pack your wet panel carrier properly!
If at first you don't succeed, try, try again... ;)

WISHING YOU A HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY!!

Monday, June 29, 2020

Garden of the Lion - with Process Shots!

Garden of the Lion, 18 x 18, oil on canvas, L. Daniel © 2020

Revisiting this handsome lion with bigger brushes and larger canvas was so much fun. I love this guardian of the flowers. This one is fresh off the easel and available now at the Anderson Fine Art Gallery in St. Simons Island, Georgia! 

Here are process shots to show how it came together...

BLOCK IN - SKETCH
I began with an underdrawing (ultramarine and burnt siena). This allows me to check placement and scale of all the elements, and its a good place to make adjustments to the basic design before I get too far along.

BLOCK IN - VALUES
I established a "roadmap" for my values by indicating the shadow areas of the scene. Putting my darks in early and accurately gives me a structure to build on. I also stained the canvas with spots of alizarin crimson as place holders for my geraniums that would be painted last. 


STARTING WITH THE DARKS
Working dark to light allowed me to hold on to values. It is also the best way to build a painting... so much easier to add lighter colors on top of a strong base.  

ADDING THE LIGHTS
The key to keeping clean color is to use a light touch with subsequent layers. With alla prima painting, it can be tricky and "scrubbing" turns everything to mud. Beware.

Final Marks and Highlights
Once all value areas were established, I was able to suggest detail with final marks and highlights using slight value shifts. So important to save these until the very end, when everything else is working. I also painted the geraniums last to keep their marks clean and fresh. 

___________________________________

(I'm honored to be teaching in the Pre-Event Beginner's workshop! Please look for me there!)



Thursday, June 25, 2020

Backyard Rest Stop - Fix It Friday #17

Backyard Rest Stop, 16 x 12, oil on panel, L. Daniel © 2020

Todays makeover is one from the archives, and it's a good lesson in composition (on what NOT to do). I was drawn to this cozy scene in my backyard for it's familiarity, good vibes, and simple one-point perspective. I also wanted some practice observing perspective and architecture, so I gave it a go. (It was also raining and this was the only place to paint, and stay dry.)

BEFORE

AFTER

CHANGES:
Problem 1 - All the perspective lines led the viewer's eye right past my subject.
Fix - Added a railing to contain the eye within the porch area.
Fix - Made the coffee table edges curvy, to slow down the "racetrack" effect.
Fix - Lushed up my subject (added more flowers, warmed up color, added more suggested detail.)

Problem 2 - Overall tone was drab and flat.
Fix - Popped some warm light onto bricks.
Fix - Warmed up white window frames and siding.

OBSERVATIONS:
Lines of perspective can have a very strong directional impact. They can be like pointing arrows. In this case, my goal was to create a scene that the viewer would sit down in, and want to stay for awhile. Wouldn't it have been great if all the lines were pointing to my sitting area?? That wasn't happening. 

We want to use built-in lines of perspective (and other elements) to take the viewer TO our focal point... NOT away from it. What I learned from this one is to pay attention to where the "lines" are pointing, and be intentional about how I use them. 
___________________________________

(I'm honored to be teaching in the Pre-Event Beginner's workshop! Look for me there!)


Monday, June 22, 2020

Crane Courtyard and PleinAir Live!

Crane Courtyard, 18 x 18, oil on canvas, L. Daniel © 2020

This larger work is fashioned after a smaller plein air piece I shared a few weeks ago. Crane's Cottage, at the Jekyll Island Club Hotel in Georgia, is the site of many weddings and special events. This intimate courtyard where lunch is sometimes served, offers a spot to get away, and have a "moment". I enjoyed my moment there immensely and found myself going back to the little scene, wanting to linger at this spot a bit longer. Painting it larger was just the ticket. 

It is newly available at the Anderson Fine Art Gallery in St. Simons Island, Georgia!!

And now for some BIG, BIG NEWS...
I am thrilled to be participating as an instructor in the upcoming PleinAir Live event! I will be presenting in the Pre-Event One-day Beginners Workshop, offering "the basics" to beginners who want to learn to paint outdoors. It will be a lot of fun, hope to see you there!

Click HERE for more info and to register!

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Leaning Tree - Fix It Friday #16

Leaning Tree, 9 x 12, oil on panel, L. Daniel © 2020

It was a hot, hot day on the Georgia coast. The light was drenching this tree, adding sparkle to its already dramatic pose. To paint it, I found the only shade around, but it was too close to the subject (no umbrella that day.) I could not see my whole subject without scanning it with my head. TOTAL mistake. I "thought" I could pull it off, and I knew better... but no. The brain can not put the parts together very easily (at least my brain can't).

If you have taken a class with me, you know how bossy I am about this. I pester my students to 1) be in the shade, and 2) be far enough away to see the subject with one glance. Why do I pester? Because I care... :)  

BEFORE

AFTER

CHANGES:
Problem 1 - The tree ended up looking dissected and flat.
Fix - Added the foreground side of tree canopy, giving it volume. 

Problem 2 - The tree looked emaciated.
Fix - Gave the tree its full summer foliage and added the drenching light. 

Problem 3 - Background tidal creek sat "on top" of the marsh as if at high tide. 
(Note: the tide came in as I was painting and that creek did appear... the problem was that I had already painted the rest of the scene at a lower tide level.)
Fix - Removed the distant tidal creek. 

OBSERVATIONS:
I struggled with not being able to "see" my subject. I struggled with not anticipating nature's changes. In fact, I did much better working from my memory on my fixes than I did from my obstructed view. Analyzing visual information is a very important part of direct painting. When that ability is blocked, it's a hard challenge to overcome. 

Huh! Just as with most things in life, it turns out we do better when we understand the "Big Picture". I'm keeping that in mind. 

________________________
Click Here to see Fix it Friday #12
Click Here to see Fix it Friday #13