Keep Practicing – First real landscape

My first real landscape is what I refer to as a practice painting.  What is a practice painting?   It is a painting by my own definition that is a subject matter that I want to paint, and I have no real plans for it other  than a desire to learn from the experience of painting the picture.  I did a series of practice paintings of our cats and I think I learned a great deal from these.  Animals are a difficult subject matter but they can be done with the right mindset.  I also did some flowers as well, which also yield a certain amount of difficulty, and I believe that I need to do more of these to feel more at ease with that subject matter.  But truly, regardless of the subject matter, more practice strengthens the skill level of the artist in general as long as each time the artist is always looking for how to improve his or her skill.  Sometimes one learns how to mix colors better, use the paint brush or palette knife more effectively, how to be more patient and observant, or perhaps how to allow oneself not to feel so self conscious and try new things.

I was never really into landscapes and tended to gravitate towards doing drawings or paintings of people and the landscape was always just background and not the main focus, so when I decided to do the Columbia Gorge Painting, it was to be my very first actual landscape.  It was a good choice since I can clearly recall fondly standing on the hillside with the winds rushing past me thinking that this view would make a marvelous picture and possibly a painting as well.  I think artists make better art when they are inspired by their subject matter, so I am very hesitant about accepting a commission to paint something for someone based upon their inspiration.  It is not a task that I would take lightly.  I also do not go into painting projects half hearted so I am unable to simply discard a canvas like a sheet of unwanted tissue paper, so when I say practice painting – I mean something that I take very seriously and wish for the end result to come out acceptable as well as learning from the experience.

I also think that this is one of the first paintings I started to do the documentation process on.  I now start snapping photos earlier in the process to see how the painting changed throughout the entire painting project.  As you can see from the first photo that the sky is already in place along with the clouds, which I spent a great deal of time pondering upon how to execute in a believable fashion.  I have started on the mid ground mountains and have started the layering process that I like to do when painting.  (By the way, I paint only in acrylic.)

In the second photo I have blocked in the water area and have advanced along in the mid ground mountains.  Since acrylic is water based I require at times for the paint to dry before proceeding further on certain areas, so I will start laying down the color in other areas while the paint dries in the area of focus.  Sometimes an initial layer of paint is required because a canvas has an odd surface that acts as if it has an oil on it and I almost have to scrub and dry the paint on before I can do any serious work.  Luckily, I don’t have too many canvases like that.

The third photo shows a great deal of progress since the last one, and I have started to lay down the color in the zone after the river.  I tend to divide my paintings up into areas in my mind and paint the farthest away objects first and work my way down to the closest objects.  The nice thing about doing this is that it gives me time to touch up anything I don’t like and I can appreciate the progress of the painting.  So part of the painting is completed or nearly completed while I am still working on very unfinished areas.  It’s kinda like having milestones on Elance.  Little spots of finalization or achievements that encourage me to continue and that the painting will be alright by the time I actually consider it finished.

I have put a lot more detail in now and continue with the process of laying down more color.  This process may seem very slow to some artists, but it allows me to step back from the painting and just think about what I am doing.  Are there any areas that feel wrong?  Do I really need more detail in a particular spot?  Am I happy with the color choices?  Are they too bright or too dark?  It’s something that my drawing instructor emphasized that we as artists need to slow down and carefully observe what we are doing and really look at shapes, lines, angles, and shading.

By the time I am at the fifth photo, I am pretty excited about this painting and feel pretty good about the experience.  I am satisfied with what is happening and I have to make sure I don’t get too excited or have too high of expectations and just stay focused on the creative process.  I need to make sure that I don’t put over indulgent expectations on the project that might actually make me sloppy and try and speed up the painting process.  It needs to go at a slow steady pace where the calm observation can occur.  At least that is the way it works for me, it may not work that way for other artists.

I am on the home run stretch on the sixth photo, which looks very much like the final photo.

The final photo is photographed outside in the natural lighting of the sun.  I really prefer natural sunlight to take pictures of the final work if possible.  There is something about the sun that gives off the clearest and most honest of lighting.  So this is my very first acrylic landscape, and it was a practice painting that has given me the confidence to go on and work on more landscapes in the future.

I say, “Keep Practicing.”

G. Winkler ©2012

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Gretchen Winkler is a Writer, Artist, Radio Show Co-Host, Costume Designer, and ordered Knight. For the past 20 years she has authored several informational websites, started several technical companies, and has been an avid student of art, literature, history, technology.

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Posted in Art, Painting

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