Friday, February 17, 2012


Using my very best dramatic movie voice... "This is a story of triumph over evil. A story repeated every day in art studios across the world. It is ugly. It is beautiful. It is full of suspense, drama, pain and JOY." There is no nudity and violence is minimal. How's that for the start of a blog?

I tell workshop attendees and audiences all the time that every painting reaches a critical point where it will either fail or succeed. When I paint I know exactly when I have reached the point of failure and I will step back from the painting, give it a very hard, critical look and then decide to either trash it or keep painting. Early on I operated on a 50/50 success to failure ratio meaning I was just as likely to fail as I was to succeed. As time has gone by my ratio is 90/10 success to failure due to my experience (meaning many failures). This is a long introduction to my latest adventure in failure and my triumph over it.

I recently decided to tackle a 36" x 60" canvas, the largest painting of my career. There is something very intimidating about a large blank canvas, but I was committed to doing it. I chose a mountain range just outside Sedona as my subject.

Staring it down! Got to admit, I'm a bit nervous.

After putting on a simple burnt sienna sketch I block in the bottom foreground which will be in shadow. This creates depth and throws the viewer deeper into the scene. This was the one area of the painting I was totally confident about so it helped me get over my jitters and get some paint down.

Sorry for the bad photography.

I shot video of the process as well. The movie version will be released on YouTube soon.

Now I know why my back hurts when I paint.
I'm blocking in large areas of color and adjusting values as I go. Why am I standing so close to such a large painting?

At this point I'm still feeling good about everything. The color and value relationships are working well. The design looks good and the flow through the painting seems appropriate. Not a bad first day's work.

The completed block-in except the sky. This may sound weird but I have no clue what kind of sky to put in. I'll decide this later.

What I would give for a Hughes easel about now!

Ending day one. Six hours of labor. My brain hurts. My back hurts. Will try to finish the painting tomorrow.

The start of day two. A very serious...critical review.

I'm not liking it. I see problems. Its not flowing, I don't like some of the things I liked yesterday. Do I spend today fixing the problems or do I go a different direction?

"CRAP! FAILURE!" "36 inches by 60 inches of miserable FAILURE"

Decision time. I am going to keep the foreground....don't have a sky....I am going to completely scrap this mountain range and paint in some red cliffs I liked from Arizona.

Three hours later. Out with the old, in with the new. You can still see the cliffs from the first painting in the background upper left.
The foreground has remained the same. I finally feel like I have control. This might work.

Probably the most important decision I made was to create a sense of scale by adding a farmhouse at the base of the cliff. I quickly drop this in to see if it works. The spot of cool blue on the roof really sets it off from the red cliffs.

The completed farmhouse and additional buildings. Now it is time to finish things up.

I'm smiling again. I have yanked this painting out of the mouth of failure and turned it into a triumphant success. Now I have 36 inches by 60 inches of drama. I decided to paint a sky I have seen many times where the low clouds bump into the red cliffs and pick up all kinds of dirt. Even on a clear day it looks like it is going to rain any second but never does.

I have a really nice lead-in at the bottom of the painting that takes the viewer directly to the valley and the valley has a red gully that leads you to the farmhouse near the center of the painting and the farmhouse gives you the sense of the massive scale of the cliffs. All-in all a good effort.


Kirk Witmer said...

Snatching Victory from the Jaws of Defeat ... way to go Rusty!

Carol Reynolds said...

Enjoyed this post so much ! It is a wonderful painting and your progress in the photos is interesting. Yep, "way to go!"

john pototschnik said...

You simplified it and therefore made it stronger. Really nice result, Rusty Jones.

Scott Boyle said...

Rusty, you have articulated the struggle so well. I try not to paint late at night, for I find the monsters come out and do strange things with my brushes. The destruction they do can only be fully realized the next morning!

Peggy Kingsbury said...

Can you say "super hero".

Rusty Jones said...

Thanks everybody. I know what you mean Scott. The gremlins will take over on a moments notice.

Bonnie Heather said...