Stage Two and Final Painting

My thinking was to add color on top of my blue underpainting to provide a base on which to build. The foreground had to be a rich, bright yellow. I could add lighter yellows and pale greens to this later. The same for the bush. I wanted to really deepen the shadows at the base of the bush and on the ground to contrast sharply with the bright sunlit area of the foreground, a juxtaposition of light and shadow. I made the background very blase’ using a drab brown and some greys for the stair rail and curbing. I did make the window frame a bit redder. It helps to draw out that diagonal of the composition I was attempting.

For my final effort I played around with medium and lighter greens on the bush and when I reached a point where I liked what I had, I added some very light highlights. These highlights help lead the eye around and give a good 3D quality. Down on the sunny grass I made a few suggestions of blades of grass and really played up the texture of grass along the shadow line. I didn’t want to further emphasize the diagonal so my highlights are more vertical there. I used the red roses all over. Actually, I think I got a little carried away but I really like the overall effect. 

So Van Gogh’s painting suggests to us 1) a simple subject in a simple setting, 2) use light and shadow to create a dramatic composition like a diagonal, 3) juxtapose two complimentary colors to play up the vibrancy of the colors of the whole painting, and 4) use little devices like his path and irises to add interest, and direct the viewer’s eye. I used a stair railing and curbing in my version.

Send me a copy of yours and I will display them here if you like. This was great fun! I spent some time on Sunday and yesterday painting. The hours fly by and when I’m done I feel so relaxed. I have several of Van Gogh’s paintings in mind for the next one. Not sure which one will be next but please feel free to pick one and suggest it. Otherwise, stayed tuned!



Photo and Stage One

I had a hard time finding a lilac bush in bloom when I went photo-hunting. The bushes had all passed their prime. So I looked for a flowering bush on a bit of a hill. Hills are a little scarce around here too. But anyway, here is my photo for this project. Notice how the concrete curbing on the left and the white railing on the right emphasize the diagonal I’m trying to create. The sunlight in the foreground along with the shadowed background also create the diagonal. It’s a bit after noon so my shadow cast by the bush is short just like Van Gogh’s. Since my flowers are red roses I’m really going to play up the greens. Van Gogh was genius at juxtaposing colors with their compliments so I will too. My rose bush is dead center like Van Gogh’s bush. I’m ready to start painting. Here’s a photo of my prepped canvas. It’s a canvas board, 9 x 12″. I’m recycling a used canvas by painting over the acrylic underpainting with white acrylic paint. I know some people like to start with a toned canvas, but I see my composition better when I start with white.

Next I watered down some phthalo blue and roughly placed my bush, the background, the railing, dark under shadows and medium shadows. This will be my guide for the rest of the painting. I’ll just be putting the colors on top of this loose sketch.

I can hardly wait to get started with the greens. There are a few different ways to make green and working with acrylic paint can try your patience. That will be the next challenge. What do you think so far?

Let’s begin!

Wouldn’t it be great when (if) we get to heaven, we could spend time with anyone we want? I have to admit I’ve fantasized about sitting down with Michelangelo and talking about painting. And recently I was looking at Van Gogh’s paintings. I admire them so much for so many reasons. He could make the mundane objects of everyday life look magical. So I thought why not let Van Gogh get us started teaching us how and what to paint.

First we will take a look at a painting and make some observations. By no means will we cover every little aspect of each painting, just some of the major points like composition, value and color. Once we have that in hand we will go out, take a photo of a similar subject. We will apply what the great master teaches us through his painting and see what we come up with. What a great idea!

This is a good exercise for anyone at any skill level. You only need to be willing to try and I guarantee you will learn and benefit from it. So let’s get started!

Here is Van Gogh’s “Lilac Bush.” Here Van Gogh painted a simple bush in bright mid-day sun. WOW!! Such a simple subject. See how amazingly beautiful the bush and surroundings are? Why? Because of the light! When I look at this painting I can almost feel that it is a warm day. Why do I know that it’s mid-day? Look at the shadow cast by the bush. It’s very short and almost directly under the bush. The sun has to be nearly directly overhead to cast such a short shadow. To emphasize the brightness of mid-day sun Van Gogh made almost everything around the bush very bright. Then he made the background sky and trees very dark. See the dark blue strokes in the sky on the upper right corner?

So many lush shades of green in the bush and lots of oranges and yellows all around the bush. There are even a few accents of red in the shadow of the bush to make things exciting and sparkly. Red is the opposite of green. Yellow and orange are neighbors of red. This makes for a vibrant painting…exciting to look at!

Van Gogh put the bush in the middle of the painting and made it big enough to nearly fill the whole canvas. If you look closely you can see a group of Irises on either side of the bush, a bright area in the upper left of the painting and a brown tree trunk leaning to the left on the right side of the painting. Why? Because all of these elements make a diagonal flow to the composition. That’s important since he put the bush smack dab in the middle. If you put your subject square in the middle it’s in danger of being boring! Van Gogh overcomes this danger by making the whole painting seem like it’s on a diagonal line. That’s much more exciting to look at. He got that idea from the beautiful Japanese woodblock prints that many of the Impressionist and post Impressionist were inspired by. Van Gogh inspires me!

If you want to know more about Van Gogh and his paintings check out Lilac-Bush-1889.jpg and I’m off to take a picture of a lilac bush on a bright sunny day, one with a mid-day shadow. I’ll post it and my painting in progress in the next few days, weather permitting. Stay tuned!

Hello world!

“If you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.” Joseph Campbell