Sunday, January 13, 2013

A snowscape flayed

A Village in Vermont
Something I occasionally do on the blog is critiques of readers' art that is sent to me . I choose those that I think will be most instructive to other readers. I cannot critique the work of everyone who would like me to do so, though.  I open them  in photoshop and quickly scribble some corrections on them with the brush tool, not very slick, but it shows what I intend and doesn't deface the original art. The picture below was sent to me and since it is winter and there is snow (at least in the north) I am going to take a scalpel to it. Thank you to my victim, who will remain unnamed, for allowing me the use of the art.

Above is the piece as submitted, and below is my Photoshopped version.

Here is what I did, and why;
  1.  I worked to create more diverse and interesting shapes. For instance, I felt the three pines across the foreground were too similar. I downplayed the one at the furthest left and I made the shapes of the two remaining trees more individual. I made sure each of the trees had a different size too. I want to get as much variety of shape as I can. Repeated shapes, sizes and intervals between shapes make a repetitive and uninteresting design.
  2. I dropped the pine on the right down behind that little bench. That is visually more interesting. I am value stacking, it helps get recession and  is another way to vary the shape of that pine from the pine on  the left. This ONE has  something in front of it. I like to stack lights on top of darks and then lights behind those. It gives more punch to a design.
  3. I opened up and simplified the middle of the painting. That makes it  circular design, a vortex. This makes the eye travel around the circumference of the painting like a big "O". Read  Edgar Payne if you want to know about design "stems", that is large geometric patterns concealed beneath the representation that give order and arrangement to a painting.
  4. I felt that the path leading through the foreground was to obvious,  I just hinted at it using shadows catching the now half concealed trail through the snow. It is really easy to be too obvious in painting. Often it is best to give less information rather than more.
  5. I varied the line under the pine trees, rather than HERE'S THE TREE AND HERE'S THE SNOW! I wove the two of them together. I used the shadows and lumped up the snow to avoid too straight and obvious a line where they met the ground. Dropping that right hand tree a little lower helped keep the three trees from sitting on the same straight line also.
  6. I added recession to the snow as it went back. If the foreground snow and  the background snow are the same value and color the eye will read them as being equidistant. I painted the foreground snow with a smidgeon of  cadmium yellow, the midground snow with a little  cadmium orange and in the distance I added a little cadmium red. As the  snow recedes the yellow gradually drops out and the red  increases.
  7. I  threw another layer of distance into that background line of trees too, and varied the line of the trees against the sky back there. There were two groups of two pines back there that I felt were too symmetrical, so  I removed one of the pair on the right.
  8. I warmed up the sky a little too, that explained the color in the snow, the sky being warm makes the picture more unified in the temperature of the light. I felt the color of the light was unexpressed, or too neutral.
  9. I added hazy drybrush "twigs to the weeds in the foreground. The transparency of that is more interesting and it allowed me to sneak a subtle violet color in there.
  10. I threw a little snow up in the  branches of the deciduous  tree at the right. I did this to add a little accent there, and also it is another example of a way to do a little value stacking. It is a little accent to enliven the passage. I often like to throw one little detail into each passage, the viewer perceives it and moves on assured that there is something going on in there. Passages don't need to be bristling with detail, one little observation of a detail will carry the whole area. It also adds sparkle.


There are now several on tap, I have already announced the White Mountain Snowcamp, I do have space left in this one, if you  are interested, please click here. Snowcamp is the most fun I have all year! The workshop is held at a rambling, late 19th century inn, The Sunset Hill in Franconia, New Hampshire which is very romantic and old timey. It might be cold, but the inn is right at our backs as we work, so we can run inside by the fire and drink more coffee if it becomes too much.The workshop will be held January 26 through 28.The inn is the perfect place to do a class and the scenery is fabulous. The White mountains are spread before the inn like a movie set.

Sarasota, Florida

Sandcamp! This will be held February 8 through the 10th.  I have had a local ask me to do this one,  actually several  people inquired about a Florida workshop so here it is. I will follow the usual protocol. In the morning I do a demo, and in the afternoon the students will  paint and I will run  from easel  to easel doing individual critiques. I will explain my methods and materials and give individual attention to each student. I will also do a seascape demo, as we will be on the water it is useful too know a little about how the surf works. 

This workshop will extremely intense, we will meet for breakfast and work until the light fails. Then we will eat dinner together and I will draw on napkins and wave my arms. I try to cram as much as I possibly can into the three days. I will, (as usual) work you like a borrowed mule.

If you want to come, here is the link.


Clem Robins said...

whose is the picture it the way top, the one you DIDN'T crit?

Judy P. said...

I have been outside doing plein air in the MN snow, believe it or not. In your MN workshop I whined about going out in the cold, but you did inspire me. Value stacking, recession in the snow and little sparkling details-wow I must work with that more! But lately it's been so dreary and overcast, no light vs. shadow to play around with. How do you make recession in overcast snow (the cads sound too bright) and how do you make the muted, meager colors of very gray day interesting, while not losing the sense of overcast weather?
Thanks Stape!

Poppy Balser said...

Stape, your last two posts have been remarkably helpful, above and beyond your usual level of usefulness. I especially found valuable this quote from today:

"It is really easy to be too obvious in painting. Often it is best to give less information rather than more."

and then I keep reading and you say you like to add one little detail or sparkle in a passage. One might think these two statements are contradictory but I think I get it. If a painter has been successful in not being too obvious then that little sparkle will have a good setting in which to shine. Yes?

This crystallizes something that I have been struggling with and I am grateful. You lead me to new insights with every post. Thank you for taking the time to write for us.

James Gunter said...

I have to agree with Poppy. This is a very useful and timely post. You've addressed some concerns I've had lately.

Judy's comments about painting overcast landscapes sounds like a new post, maybe?

Randall said...

Nice spin on the workshop name!! Can't wait to see some paintings come out of it. I like painting at the beach and did some from some jetties down here in Galveston. Loads, loads and more loads of fun especially when you can get down next to some big waves. Reminds me of your posts on painting surf and some of Waughs work and how his view points are stunning!!


Robert J. Simone said...

Think "Snowbird Workshop" would have been apt. I'm gonna see if I can rearrange my schedule to attend. I think I can do it.

Anonymous said...

Awesome to see the critique back! There's some good learning.

But what I have to say is...Damn! Seascape demo in FL? Man oh man that would be awesome!

Stapleton Kearns said...

Clem;That was a photo I took a year ago. I wanted it to appear on the facebook posting rather than the picture I was to crit.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Start out by looking very carefulky at what is before you....that is the default setting. If it doesn't look good, then improvise.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Hi there! I mean that a single detail in a passage can satisfy the eye as well as a hundred. The viewer sees the one detail and moves on.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thanks. I know I have written about that once, when I was on Vinalhaven island. It is back in the dark hinterlands of the blog somewhere.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I expect I will have to invent the surf there. That is the usual course of things.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I hope you can come. That should be fun.Will you bring your head-frame?

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thanks,I hope it goes well. Demos sometimes do and sometimes they don't.It is always a high wire act.

Robert J. Simone said...

Alright, I'm in but I can't bring that same head frame. My head has gotten a lot bigger so I'm using a 16x20 head frame instead of that old 8x10! Looking forward to it. Should be fun!

Judy P. said...

Found Stape's older post on painting overcast weather:

Now where am I going to find space for all these neck tattoos?!

James Gunter said...

Thanks, Judy. I was struggling to find that in the "dark hinterlands of the blog" until you posted the link.

But then, maybe I should read this entire blog again!

jill said...


Unknown said...

Lets see, we have snow camp and sand camp- how about both? Here in New Mexico, land of enchantment, ( and green chilis) you can have sand and snow, in the same place, at the same time! I think we deserve a workshop here. Lovely, artsy-fartsy Santa Fe will never be he same if you come........

Theresa Grillo Laird said...

Great post! I'm interested in the yellow in the foreground snow, then orange, then red.I know that yellow goes out of the colors as they go back, but I thought all the warmth goes out and you get bluish or purpleish tones. Cad orange and cad red?? I don't get it. Is this something having to do with snow?Thanks!