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 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vincent_van_Gogh. 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!