Friday, August 27, 2010

Rive Bank: Fixed

Okay, now that I've let it set for a day, it was time to fix "River Bank". When looking at the painting, I realized that it was brighter than it should have been and the tall tree in the middle looked more like a dinosaur, than a tree. Kind of like a Foliage Godzilla attacking something.

So, needed to fix it. Fixes:

1) Melded the dark shadows together and the highlights together.

2) Added greys to the edges of the bushes to make them more rounded.

3) Restructured the tree to be more uneven and wider. This removed the "dinosaur" look.

4) Varied the height of the tree-line so that it wasn't too linear and aligned with the river bank.

5) Added some richer reds/purples to the shadows on the river bank so that I could bring up the brightness of the trees/bushes without having to add more highlights to the foliage.

6) Varied the river to be more interesting. Added more bright spots and a much lighter green to the area closest to the viewer and darker blues to the part near the river bank. This allowed me to blend the edge of the river bank with the water without having any distinct lines.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

River Bank

Worked on my latest painting, last night. Now that I'm getting more comfortable doing the massing of the landscape on my small 9" x 12", I decided to up the size. This latest painting is on an 11" x 14" canvas. It's amazing how much farther back you have to stand to see the color changes. By the same token, it's easier to make some subtle adjustment to the painting.

As with some of my other landscape paintings, this was painted based on a plein air painting that I did. The colors actually came out pretty close to the original painting.

Overall, I like it. To finish up the painting, I've got to do some edge work on the river bank to make the water line work up into the soil. I also need to make the left-most tree more rounded. But, it's a matter of a couple of touches here and there. Nothing significant.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Best to let painting sit for a while

Last night, I was taking a look at my latest painting and realized that there were some mistakes that I did not see when I finished the painting. Some of the mistakes were brought to my attention at the time of the finished work (by my wife) and some were found out by looking at it with fresh eyes.

Mistake 1: From a distance, the tree had a vertical line of dark/light. It was not rounded. In addition, the tree trunk was too bright and stood out.

Mistake 2: The picture of the painting was taken on too bright of a day. The colors of the foreground were washed out and too yellow. In addition, the colors on the mountains were too grey. The current picture matches the color much more closely.

Mistake 3: The road was drawn wrong. At the point where it nears the tree, it flattens out a bit and doesn't recede in the distance.

Now that these mistakes were fixed, the painting looks much better. So, taking a couple of days off and reviewing the painting later definitely helps seeing any problems that seem to be present.

Sunday, August 22, 2010


Now that I'm in the mode of reworking some of my plein air paintings (or repainting them), time for another one. During my landscape workshop that I took with Karen Winslow (Winslow Art Studio, Cambridge, Vermont), I was working on small thumbnail paintings to just get the basic techniques down.

One of the thumbnail that I did on a foggy morning was this one. The thumbnail was a 4" x 5" painting where I was just working on getting the mountains in the background to recede and determine how to paint the tree with morning light.

In the workshop, I made the mistake of rimming the entire tree with light. This is called "Chasing the light". Rather, by massing quickly, define the light direction and what is highlighted. Then, follow that pattern. Don't change it.

Overall, pretty pleased with this painting. The colors/values seem to hold together pretty well (in my opinion).

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Motherhood: Concept Drawing

Now that I've gotten some of my other paintings out of the way and fixed up, time to get back to my dinosaurs.

I set up a still life that features one of my toy dinosaur and some fake wooden eggs. As I started laying out the painting, I realized that I was having a hard time getting the full dinosaur and eggs into the painting. If I did, then the dinosaur and eggs were too small (the tail is pretty long). It wasn't that interestinsg. So, I decided to use Photoshop to work on the composition.

My general technique with Photoshop is to take a picture of the entire area with my camera. Bring it into Photoshop and set the Square Selection Tool to be a fixed size. In this case, It is going to be a 9" x 12" painting. From there, I resize the image and crop out different areas to create a composition. In this case, I wanted to focus on the eggs and the front half of the dinosaur. Make it look like she's watching over it. This way, I can get the detail that I want from the creature and the eggs.

Once the composition is done, I then work on doing a drawing. This helps solidify the composition. Whenever I'm not working directly from painting the entire still life setup, I always do a drawing. It helps me remember the shapes and let's me compose different ideas in my head. Easier to do it during the drawing phase, than the painting phase.

So, pretty happy with the composition, so far. Time to begin painting it.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Alone Time

My latest painting, Alone Time, is based on a plein air sketch that I was working on while viewing the Burlington Park (Vermont) next to Lake Champlain. While working on this painting, I nearly gave up on it. However, I'm glad that I finished it. This is a perfect place to take a nap.

The original plein air sketch (shown below) is just awful. There is no depth to it, the composition is weird, the trees are done totally wrong. Very flat and very bad.

So, somewhere in my head, I had decided that there was potential for this painting. I just didn't know what it was. I first started with the basics: Add more blue/grey to the background to send the hillside farther back. Repaint all of the trees to be darker and add stronger brights/darker darks to the front to "flatten" out the landscape and give some atmospheric perspective. After I laid down the basics, I looked at the painting and thought: That's awful. So, I decided that I should just chuck it and restart a new one with a better composition (go back to the lake and do a new painting).

At that time, my wife (Melissa) looks at it and says: "You need some bushes in the front and I don't like the white trees. They don't look like trees". So, I decided, "Hey! I'm a painter. I can do whatever I like". So, I just started to play with the painting.

I like the final result.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Swimming Hole

My latest painting was a plein-air piece that I started on vacation. The lake is Webster Lake in New Hampshire. My family and relatives go to spend a quiet week there and I get some more painting/drawing time in.

So, this is the view from back yard. I like this painting. The time of the day was late morning and the sun was coming over from behind my head.

After I set the plein air piece down for a couple of weeks, I decided to revisit it and see how it could be improved. There several pieces about it that I really didn't like.

A) The dark band of trees in the distance is the same value as the dark area underneath the tree. This is not possible. Due to atmospheric effect, the darker trees in the distance should contain more grey/blue.

B) The main leafy part of the tree is too flat. This was a more rounded tree, so I focused on making the shape more round using greys on the edges and brighter colors near the front.

C) The grass area and flowers in the front are too muted. I brought up the color intensity to warmer colors to bring them more to the front.

D) The tree trunk on the right is too exposed. It draws your eyes to it. Therefore, I added more leaves/brush to break up the vertical straight line.

E) The water contains two bands (blue and yellow ochre/grey). I varied the water to make it more interesting and to give it some perspective. Adding more greys to the back of the water and more yellow ochre/whites to the front help "flatten" the water and add more interest.

F) The large rock in the water in the front was darker than the shadows under the trees. I lightened up the rock a little bit and added some greys to the edges to round it off a bit. This made the rock sit better in the water. I added lightened up/greyed up the rocks behind it to send them a little farther back.

Overall, the beauty of taking classes is not to learn how to paint a particular technique, but to learn how to find the issues with your painting and fix them.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Question: Lighting Setup

This was a post that I put on Wetcanvas... what do you think?

I've got the standard question about lighting. I work a full-time job and do all of my painting at night. Rather than paint by myself in my studio, I have setup my easel, still life set up in my living room. This gives me the opportunity to spend time with my wife/dogs while I work. The issue that I have is lighting. Since this is my living room and my wife would like it to look nice most of the time, I'm using a lamp behind me (picture on the left) to light up my canvas and a light behind my easel to light up my still life.

The main issue is that the standing lamp that lights up my canvas produces a glare on the canvas. There's not much room to put that standing lamp anywhere else. Ideally, I would think that some sort of lamp that could attach to my easel would provide a good light for the canvas.

Any ideas? I always stand at my easel and can stand back about 5 feet to check out the painting from a distance. There's area that you see for the easel and cabinet/still life stand are all that I have available.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Still Life: Copper Pot and apple

During my class last night, we worked on cylinders again. Since I've been having trouble laying down too much paint and not getting my shapes drawn correctly, I worked more on a simple painting (other artists chose more complex ones with flowers). I'll be more confident doing the flowers once I get my basic shapes down on a regular basis.

While painting the copper pot, I learned a couple of things that I tend to forget. First of all, don't worry about the reflections, shadows, etc on the structure. The first task is to get the drawing done correctly and then lay out the basic values so that the pot is rounded. Once that is completed (and you've defined where the light source is coming from), you can then worry about the other features on the pot.

So, in my case, I first massed the table, background, pot and apple. By squinting, I needed to make sure that the relative values (compared to each other) was correct. I wasn't worried about the color. I just needed to make sure that the background was lighter than the table, the table was slightly lighter than the pot and the apple front was lighter than the pot, but not as light as the highlight. In addition, the sides of the apple was of the same value as the dark side of the pot.

Karen helped by adding a couple of touches here and there, but nothing major. I also made sure that the shadow on the table was linked to the base of the pot and then moved up the side of the pot.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Finished Painting: Before The Sun

"Before the Sun" is an original 9" x 12" oil painting created on a 1" stretched, high-quality canvas. The painting is presented as unframed (Sides are painted).

This painting depicts a morning scene on Webster Lake, New Hampshire (USA).

All Artwork is copyrighted to Doug Hoppes Studio and is not to be copied or reproduced in any form without the permission of the artist. Sale of this item does not transfer its copyright.

Purchase Painting

Monday, August 2, 2010

Basic Procedure on drawing a still life

When practicing my drawing skills, I always go through a basic set of steps: 1) Quick sketch, 2) Mark important features of the sketch, 3) Define value structure, and 4) tighten up drawing and add background.

These steps are for the basic drawing of a still life. One of the important reasons that I stress this is because, unlike doing a painting, I don't worry about the environment or the background until I get to the tonal phase/final phase.

First step: Quick sketch. As you can see from the drawing, this is a basic quick sketch to just get the general shapes. I don't tend to erase, unless the drawing is absolutely wrong. This took about 5 minutes to do. The purpose of this sketch is to just get the general form and proportions correct. Notice on the legs/feet and the hands? No detail. I just wanted to get the overall form laid out and then I'll worry about the corrections later.

Now that I have the general shape and proportions correct, it's time to tighten up the lines to make sure that the drawing is more accurate. I pay particular attention to the position of the parts closer to me and how they appear to the parts that are farther away (make sure that the perspective is correct). For the hands and feet, I define the shapes better. Notice that the drawing still does not have a lot of detail. However, the lines are more accurate than they were before.

Once the basic shape's accuracy is defined, the next step it to outline the major lines. Most of the lines in the middle will be defined using cross-hatching to define the value relationships. Now that the major muscles are determined, the pencil lines are erased and only the general ink lines are left.

The third phase involves defining the value relationships between the muscle areas. This also includes deciding where the light is coming from and what parts of the figurine is still in shadows. This requires much closer observation of the model, for accuracy.

The lines of the dinosaur are still fuzzy, but the form looks better. The issue that I had with this current dinosaur was that I overly-cross-hatched the shoulders and back. Unable to lighten up those areas, the dinosaur turned out much darker than I wanted. In addition, my cross-hatch technique was suffering due to the fact that the "light touch" just wasn't there, that day. When doing cross-hatch work, it's extremely important to be able to draw really really thin lines that are close to each other. The closer the lines are, the darker the area becomes. This is the basic method, in pen and ink, to create a value variation.

The final phase is to "ground" the toy. It needs a surface, rather than floating in air. In this case, I was watching the clouds above my house and decided to model them. The point on doing the landscape is not to make it too detailed. The focus of the drawing is the dinosaur, not the landscape.

Tip: To help ground anything, always place some significant shadows at the point where the model touches the table. For the most part, in any still life, this will be the darkest area (See the dark patches where the dinosaur's feet touches the ground? This helps make him look like he's walking).

Overall, I'm pretty pleased with this drawing. The entire drawing took about 1 hour to do.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Drawing Study: Allosaurus

Today, I got a chance to do a drawing of my newest toy: The Allosaurus. As with the other dinosaurs that I've been drawing, this was one of the more realistic toys that I've used as a standard still life.

This was a fun dinosaur to draw. I was having trouble today with my cross-hatch technique. So, got to get my thinner pens out and practice a little more with it. Parts of the dinosaur are shaded too heavily and part have the lines a little too defined for my liking.

However, the size and proportions seem to be correct for the model. He's scheduled for some appearances for one of my paintings, so I want to draw him a couple more times so that I can get the shadow patterns laid out correctly.