Sunday, April 4, 2010

Red-Green Composition

This spring the show theme or challenge however you want to look at it is color complements. So the painting has to be predominately done in a primary color and its complement. For this paintings I chose the red-green color complements, and will use Cadmium red and sap green plus titanium white. These, I think will give me the range of colors and shades I need to do this work.

As you can see, even this limited pallet gives a full range of values. Red-green giving a really rich brown, which can be darked with more of either color or lightened by adding white.

After blocking in the major areas of the painting with paint thinned with mineral spirits, I began adding the gross details, locating and starting to shade in the background trees and vegetation and laying in some of the rough shapes of the rocks that will bracket the falls. I like to work in a impressionistic way at this point, simply laying in colors and letting them blend on the canvas itself. For this I use larger brushes, 1" flats, and 1/2" filbert. Once the basic shapes are in, and I am getting a range of values, I used a script brush to simply flick through the paint to give an impression of tree branches. With some large thin blocks of color I can give the idea that there are building beyond the park, but I don't have to give them any details, this will all be covered by the trees.

With a small painting knife I began building up some of the values that will make the rocks have depth and texture. This is one of the biggest challenges of this painting, as the sandstone of the park has a real rich range of color tones, and for this painting to work both the colors of the rocks and the warmth of the day will need to come through.

I laid in the seated man in red, but will as the painting progesses I will add more and more green to him. After the rapid waters of the falls are added, the darker values of the green will give him a sharper contrast to the foaming water and tie him into the foreground vegetation. I have added the painting as it is after the first painting session. Tomorrow I will beginning to define and finish the background and move onto perfecting the rocks and adding the spray and foam of the falls themselves.

The background is pretty much done, I like the way it looks very wild and unkempt. And I thing the rocks work. Now I just have to get the water to have both depth and foam. A real challenge. But over all I think it is coming along very well.

What is missing so far? Depth to the water, details to the foreground and shading and shadows to the man. This will show the light souce and help the painting hang together. I also think the river looks uninteresting like this. It needs to look more active, containing more life, as it truly does. Although it very rocky in this place, there is a great deal of vegetation cropping up all around.

Now I feel the falls looks more active and real.


  1. This is a very nice tutorial...helpful and basic especially to those who are advancing to color from black and white.

    Your example is a very interesting one in terms of composition and variety which we often fail to look for in our choice scenic work.

  2. Thanks, I am glad you like it.

    I hope a number of people see it, especially beginers who think they have to copy thier photos exactly.


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