I’ve decided to share the basic process that I went through to create “Autumn Landscape.”
I was inspired to paint by the light shining against a line of trees outside my kitchen window. It was early evening, and as the sun shone in straight from the opposite horizon, the orange-leafed trees glowed with a neon effervescence. I decided I must paint this glowing landscape.
I started the painting by blocking in a base of medium orange against a cloudy grey sky.
I was aiming for a strong contrast between the sun-washed orange trees and the dull sky, but no matter how hard I tried, I could not arrive at the bright orange from my memory of the scene. To combat the problem and create more contrast, I experimented with various colors across the sky and trees, but nothing brought the specific results I wanted. I also created more textured, slightly violet clouds. Finally, attempting a fresh brightness, I wiped a strong yellow glaze over the entire painting.
After the yellow glaze, I decided to take a break from the act of painting and spent a few days simply looking, in order to make a focused decision. The yellow had not solved any of the problems with which I had been struggling, and in fact, I hated it.
I decided that since I couldn’t get the brightness I wanted out of the orange (even with all that yellow), I would focus more on the textures of the trees and sky than getting the precise color of orange I wanted.
I added thick, fluffy white clouds against a bright cerulean sky, which peeks through the clouds more and more towards the horizon. In doing so, the painting’s time of day was changed from early evening to mid-afternoon. Tiny areas of yellow and violet, from my earlier sky, still show between the clouds, but instead of dominating the scene, they add intrigue and color unity.
I was now left with a broad orange area in the lower left quarter as well as along the bottom of the painting, which I considered filling with the houses which are in actuality in front of the trees in my neighborhood. However, houses would interrupt the flow of organic forms too much for what I wanted to achieve with this painting. I took a little break from actively painting and spent a couple more days looking at the painting, imagining the possibilities. Something was missing, but I couldn’t think of just what it was.
I receive artist Robert Genn’s twice-weekly newsletter, which I highly recommend. On one of my “looking” days spent with my painting, I received this letter on light and shade, and I had a little “AHA! (duh)” moment. My painting already had plenty of light and medium tones; what it needed was shade. The dark areas you see in the finished painting are a very deep shade of violet, though it started as the warm brown you see pictured here (I was at first too timid to go too dark).
I layered in lots of fun details – scallops of yellow leaves, bits of sky and shadow peering between the leaves of the trees, and finally, thin trunks, branches, and twigs. This is my favorite part of painting. After all the main areas are blocked in, and the colors worked out, I get to bring my tiny brushes into play. And, once this stage is in progress, I know I am nearly finished, and I love to see a work come together.