Learning from the Masters – Study #2

| November 29, 2009
practice oil painting

Learning from the Masters #2 Final

Author’s note: The image above is not my original work. It was painted by me but as a study of an original piece by Clyde Aspevig for educational purposes only. The original work can be found here.

After two failed attempts at creating something interesting at the easel today, I decided to slow down and revisit my interest in learning from the landscape masters. I watched a short video on Clyde Aspevig’s site, during which he said that he collected his knowledge from all the painters that came before him, and those before them. Through this process, he said we need to keep building a library of ideas. We need to look at all the aspects of painting and how it is constructed before we can fully appreciate it. He also said we do not teach enough of this in our schools. My goal in an exercise like this is to force myself to undertake an in depth analysis of a master’s work so I can begin to build my own library of ideas. When I do this type of exercise, I really look at every aspect of a painting and take mental notes of key aspects like color, value and temperature changes, composition, edges, perspective and contour cues, and brushwork.

Clyde Aspevig value exercise

Clyde Aspevig value exercise

Day 1:

My first step, which is shown in the 8×10 piece above, was to try and get the painting drawn correctly and lay in the basic values that I saw. I was blown away just thinking about how much information was actually on the original’s 12×16 inch canvas. When you think about rendering a majestic mountain range, miles of open fields, and a lush foreground in such a small space, it can be a little overwhelming as a painter. Of course Clyde does it with such grace! I just hope one day that I am able to simplify but say so much in my own work.

On the initial drawing, I made a mistake of drawing the distant mountains too tall and had to redo them. My brain said paint them big, but in order to get the expansive feel of the mountain range, they need to be drawn to the correct height so they look miles away from the foreground. This would have been a big mistake in the field and underscores how important our drawing skills are to the success of our paintings. With the value painting complete, I decided to mix a few colors and make a test panel for the painting of the mountains. The color and effect are pretty close but I feel that I need to warm up the darks and snow that are in the light just a little. I will tackle that tomorrow since I need some shut-eye to be productive tomorrow.

Laying in the sky and mountains

Laying in the sky and mountains

Day 2:

Tonight I started by laying in the sky and mountains. I am pretty happy with the progress after a couple of hours of massaging the thin paint to get the forms built. I paid particular attention to Clyde’s hard and soft edges that are critical to defining the mountains. It is cool how just the slightest touch of light or dark makes a huge difference. I keep telling myself that I am defining massive amounts of granite with a single dash of the brush. I also added some warm highlights and a few accents. It’s funny how white is really not visually the brightest. The cad yellow and a dash of cad red mixed in really makes the lighted planes of the mountains pop. To get the somewhat luminescent blue green in the sky and mountains, I had to add Viridian to the mix. The color space without Viridian seemed too restrictive compared to what I see Clyde’s piece. I noticed that Clyde’s piece has some very subtle colors layered in that are pretty tough to replicate. There may be some underpainting that is showing through too. I am pretty sure the sky needs a little magenta on the left side. I will add that tomorrow as well. All in all I am happy with tonight’s result and look forward to working the middle ground tomorrow.

Day 3 results- nearing completion

Day 3 results- nearing completion

Day 3:

I had a ton of fun working on this today. The hardest part was the middle ground believe it or not. It seems the simpler the area is, the harder it is to describe. Every nuance of the brushstroke counts! I’m getting close but I still have a little bit of work to do. I want to let it simmer overnight so I can take a fresh look tomorrow for the subtle touches I need to add to polish it off. I noticed tonight that Clyde has these ever to subtle dashes of almost pure color dancing in the foreground. Pretty sweet if you ask me. The layering of the foreground color has been the most fun so far. This exercise has totally been worth the time. It has reinforced many of the concepts I have been reading about and allowed me to focus on skills that will help be define my own work going forward.

The final is posted above. I toned down the colors a bit and worked on the definition of the greyish foreground bushes. As I said, this has been a great learning experience and now it time to move on!

Category: Fine Art and Painting

Comments (3)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Nicole says:

    As always, a beautiful and intriguing subject you’ve chosen! I much admire Aspevig’s ability to say much in few brushstrokes. I’m looking forward to seeing how your picture progresses (I’m living vicariously, lol, since I can’t do any painting at the moment!).

  2. Lee says:

    Hi Nicole! Thanks for the comment. Are you motoring already? I assume you have driven somewhere warmer!

  3. Nicole says:

    No, not motoring yet, argh… Still searching for the appropriate truck to pull our new home (several more prospects to check out today). At least we’re having fairly mild weather, and winter seems to be dragging its feet about getting here, which is fine by me. It’s really hard to find the time and mind-set to do any painting when things are so unsettled (we’re bunking with friends in a house that’s a bit small for four adults, so no room for painting, either). So, I’m especially eager to see your finished piece. I’m loving all the diagonal movement in the fore- and middle-ground leading to those mountains!