Thursday, December 16, 2010

Two Gray Hills

Finished last night,  this was a fun painting to do.  The clouds were a delight to paint and after experimenting with Indian Red as per Johannes Vtoohuis' webinar workshops, I have decided I love it for southwestern landscapes.  Much better than Alizarin crimson, which I'll probably relegate to use in other subjects from now on.

Two Gray Hills
oil on board

One of the concepts that Johannes has been emphasizing in his workshops is to focus on values.  He repeated the quote I've heard before:  "Value does the work and color gets the credit".  So true!  And it's so easy to seduced by warm, high-chroma colors and misinterpret their values as being lighter than they truly are.

Everyone who paints landscapes is familiar with value planes and probably most of us have read or are at least familiar with John Carson's landscape painting guide.  In it, he discusses the four basic planes of light:

  • 1 - sky, which is always the lightest value, save for snow - usually 2-3 on the value scale
  • 2 - slanted plane:  ie, mountains - usually 5-6 on the value scale
  • 3 - upright plane: ie, trees - usually 4-7 on the value scale, with 8 for darkest shadow areas
  • 4 - flat plane:  ground - usually 4, maybe 3 or 5.

While painting this piece, I was mindful of that.  I have had a tendency in the past to make the undersides of rain-laden clouds too dark.  Even as dark as they appear to be, seldom are they ever darker than the lightest value of the land.  This is easily verified by converting a photo to b/w.  

The only exception I've personally seen is in a scenario similar to the one above:  a deep, deep blue sky at the zenith, and a solid blanket of pale faded grasses in the winter.  Or, dark stormclouds behind a front-lit hill, cliff or mountain of pale rock, where the light is hitting the surface close to 90 degrees.

Out of curiosity and edification, I converted the painting and the reference photo to b/w.  And while I was correct about the sky and grass value, it turns out my grasses are still about one value too light.  The darkest darks of the clouds were only slightly darker than the lightest lights of the grasses.  

It's probably time to re-read Carson for probably the 3rd time...


  1. Thanks for your comments and the new piece!

  2. I love Indian Red, too.

    This is another in a long list of good paintings. Except, it is your new series! Lovely.

  3. That's very interesting information on the value planes. Thanks for posting it! Your landscape is lovely.

  4. Helen - I'm glad you found the comments useful; Carson's book is really indispensable, I think, if you do landscapes. I learn something new every time I read it.

    Casey - thanks so much, and also for your blog comment re mine. I really appreciate your interest and support.

    R - thank you for stopping by again; I'm so glad you found that information interesting and useful. I'm glad I posted it, then!

  5. Ok, I'll reread your blog and Carson's...however you got me itching to go pick up the pastels so I will have something to post next week....thanks for the inspiration. I'll look forward to more.

  6. Wow, great job!
    In general, I think earth colors to the best choice. ;)

  7. Hi Cindy - thanks for your visit, and I'm delighted that you found inspiration here; I will look forward to seeing what you post on your blog, then :).

    Jala - thanks! Yeah, trying to work with a more standard limited palette was...too limiting. Experimenting with various mixtures I've never tried before sometimes works!


Your thoughtful comments add value to this blog - thank you so much for taking the time to leave them!

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