Saturday, September 3, 2011


"Canyon Reflections" 8" x 10" oil on canvas

"Canyon Reflections Redo" 8" x 10" oil on canvas

From time to time I have shared how I put paintings away in a closet or just turn them around against the wall so I can't see them, then pull them out, stick them on the easel and give them a fresh look. If I deem them worthy I will look for weaknesses and strengths, mix up some fresh paint and give it another go.

The painting on top "Canyon Reflections" is the actual plein air study done on a trip to Canyon De Chelly three years ago. Upon my return I framed it and sent it off to one of my galleries. It sat there for a year. I then moved it to another gallery where it sat for another year. I recently received it back in a box with another canyon piece with the explanation from the gallery that they just weren't getting any interest in the painting. At least I didn't get it back with a note that says "This painting sucks. What were you thinking?"

The short of all of this is and the purpose of today's blog is to demonstrate the importance of good photographic reference shot during outdoor painting trips. When I decide on a scene I will shoot three photos. One normal exposure. Then I'll shoot one overexposed and one underexposed.

The overexposed one will give me a look at things sitting in the shadows. The underexposed one gives me a better look at things in bright clouds...that are usually washed out in the normal exposure.

So today I took the canyon painting and decided with a few tweaks it could be better painting. I put the three photo references up on the TV screen, covered the painting in Liquin and reworked the painting from top to bottom. The most dramatic change is in the distant cliff. I felt the first one was just too boring to be occupying so much space. So I changed its color, its value and its shape. The rest of the painting was reworked to go with the distant cliff.

Without the photo reference I would have been stuck. I would not have been able to rework this painting. What if it had been a 24" x 36" or larger? I'm lucky it was just a small study. Now that it is done it is going to a good friend of mine who was actually painting just a few feet away. We have decided to trade paintings.

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