Sunday, March 9, 2014


A friend recently sent me a photo thinking it would make a good painting. I agreed and since today is too cold to play golf or paint outdoors I decided to take the day to be in the studio and see what I could do with the photo. Below are the photos I will be working from. 

I'll warn you up front that I rarely copy photos. I use them as jump off points for me to express myself creatively and to push my imagination and memory. In this case I have painted plenty of times in West Texas looking out over fields of cut hay. 

Its not unusual in the heat of summer for a heavy rainstorm to form, pass through dumping loads of rain and an hour later be gone. We get summer squalls where the sky turns very dark and you'll see a heavy shower off in the distance. Then one will drop behind you, then out off to your right side and then another one way off in the distance. Its like the sky is springing leaks everywhere. I've painted in these conditions and not gotten a drop of rain on me. I've also had the opposite happen where the sky just dumps its entire load on your head.

So any way, I'll probably stick to an accurate rendering of the ground plane, but the sky will most likely come out of my head.

A quick sketch of the ground plane. In the photo the tree is fairly close to the middle which would be a disaster in a painting so I have moved it over to the right a bit. This changes the angle of the road and because the road is a little too straight in the photo I add a curve to it. I'm already thinking the tree is too tall but I'll wait a bit to make any final decisions about it.

I paint the ground plane almost to completion. I've added some water sitting in the rut of the road on the right side just to see how that effect feels and I kind of like it.

Even though there is no rain dropping from the clouds in my photos, I want to play with the idea of having rain like the summer squalls I described earlier. I place the rain over to the left to give the painting balance. Had I placed it behind the tree or over to the right the whole painting would feel off.

This is why painting outdoors and memory comes into play when doing a studio painting. I've been outside enough to have seen the reflected light coming from the ground hitting the underbelly of clouds. I don't see it in the photo, but I definitely know its there so I go ahead and paint it. This is when the bright sun, hits the yellowish field of hay and that light bounces back up into the clouds.

I have blocked in the front row of clouds and now I step back from the painting to decide if I want to keep the rain over on the left and I do, so I'm good to paint more clouds. 

Trouble in far everything has been going along well, then for about two hours I struggle with the clouds and when things aren't going as planned I've learned to swallow my pride and wipe off the offending portion of the painting that is not cooperating. Sometimes my hands have a mind of their own and they mix colors I don't want or they hold the brush the wrong way or apply paint in places or in a fashion my mind is not wanting.

When that happens its time to take a break and force my mind and hands to have a conversation and come to some kind of agreement on how we are going to proceed. If they continue to fight with one another I just call it a day and find something else to do.

Finally after much conversation and repainting the same area about a dozen times, the clouds finally begin to take shape and I'm pleased with the result.

The trick to painting clouds is to be patient with the process and to make them look as if they are occupying large amounts of space by using overlap and paying attention to the subtle shifts in color as one cloud sits in front of another or casts a shadow onto a lower flying cloud.

The best blending tool I own is my right index finger.
That's why I always get paint on my face or clothes.

I shortened the tree. I think this gives the clouds more importance. I really like the idea of water sitting in deep ruts in the road so I darkened the entire road as if it is wet dirt and painted in the ruts with pools of standing water everywhere.

Here's a couple of close ups. This is the rain off to the left and hay bales.

Here's the road and tree.

Here are some of the clouds. You can see the reflected light from the ground on the left cloud.
And below is the finished painting.

"Passing Storms"  20" x 30"  oil/canvas
Copyright 2014, Rusty Jones

Sunday, March 2, 2014


Don't pay attention to the PayPal button at the top of this post. I haven't figured out how to get rid of it yet.

I recently drove from Texas to Scottsdale by way of Sedona. The first day I drove 16 hours straight to Flagstaff. That gave me about a day in Sedona and Jerome to do some sightseeing, photographing and even had time to knock out a couple of paintings. 

I drove to the eastern side of Sedona to the Round Top Rock area. I realized the last time I was here I was traveling with someone who knew the area and now that I was on my own I had no clue where to go.
So I basically just drove along the main East to West road to find things to paint and luckily this worked out pretty well.

Across the highway from Round Top Rock is this formation. I chose to paint the far left formation because I  liked the shadow pattern.

Sometimes finding shade is more important than the unpleasant odors one has to deal with. Setting up next to this outdoor bathroom proved problematic because of the odor and because of the high volume
of people needing to use it while I painted. As people stood in line waiting their turn, they felt obligated to engage me in conversation. I talked to people from Canada, Hawaii, California and New York to name a few.

I'm painting on a 9" x 12" panel. This is the beginning of a quick block-in of the main shapes.

My view of the subject and another shot of the block-in.

Further blocking in. I think I'm getting a little light headed at this point. Holding your breath while painting will do that to you.

A close up view of my subject. That big shadow is moving quickly so I'm glad I painted it in early.

I have put in the sky so now I'm ready to move quickly to the main rock formation and then I'll lay in the foreground elements.

About ninety percent done. Just need to tighten up the transitions from the main rock formation to the foreground.

"Sedona Cliche"

Kind of punched up the color at the very end. I think looking into the bright morning sun in combination with the odor from the bathroom made me a bit loopy and I was seeing colors that probably weren't really there. This is one I'll have to adjust when I get it back to the studio.