Monday, July 26, 2010

Composition and Process

During the past 2 months, I've been spending more time developing prelim studies. Focusing on mostly larger formats, I needed to eliminate any unforseen composition problems, really clarify the value relationships, and play some with the color. Thoroughly enjoyable. The first painting, "Valley Afternoon," was developed after a photo shoot in Sequim, WA during the annual lavender festival. I created an ink sketch, blocked in values with some warm and cool gray markers, and finally scribbling over the values with some colored pencil odds and ends. The placements of intersections, masses, and important lines were keyed to Golden Mean measurements which are visable as red lines.

As the painting progressed, I chose to open up the background trees/land mass as it was feeling too closed in. I fought to keep the mowed contours of the mid-ground pasture, but found them to be a bit too powerful in this painting. "Valley Afternoon." 30 x 24"

The other painting is based on some sketches I made while at Antietam National Battleground in Maryland a couple of years ago. I was so interested in the relationship between the old farm house and the gigantic tree in the front yard, that I did a couple of smaller scenes of the large barn at the back of the house, as well as a strong vertical of the tree and house alone. This time I wanted to put more of the existing scene into the composition, and play with the shapes. Since the vantage point condenses everything into a somewhat flat plane, I thought it might be interesting to go with it, using the hay bales as a way to move the viewer up the hill to the homestead. The process of placing the shapes, horizon line, strong verticals, and hay bales, is absolutely determined by the G.M. You'll notice a bale at a major intersection in front of the house, and another on the same vertical in the extreme foreground. This helps make the amount of foreground pasture less obvious, and helps guide you (with mostly open space!) to the farmhouse. As the painting unfolded, I made some changes to the area behind the house--again I felt the need to open the area up. (Do I have claustrophobia issues?) This felt better to me, and brought a stronger connection between the house and another structure. "Big Shade." 30 x 40."
Until next time....


  1. Wow great paintings, I love their solid composition and color treatment. I am curious to try to use GM in my next painting.

    Thanks for sharing your thought process with us :)

  2. Susan, thanks for your recent updates. It is very helpful to glimpse the thinking that underlies your paintings--especially the way compositions unfold.

  3. Just wanted to say that I have always admired your work, especially its color sense.
    Am adding you to my blogroll. Cheers.

  4. I have loved your work for a long time, and am really pleased to find your blog. It is great to have your process laid out for us. I know that if I plan out my paintings more, there is less chance of failure, or at least they work out better. Thanks so much!