Moody, Minimalist Landscape Painting

Posts tagged “small landscapes

Small Studies in Oil on Primed Paper

I began using small oil-on-primed-paper studies as a teaching tool in my September 2013 workshop at the Provincetown Artists Association and Museum.

At work on one of the studies for

At work on one of the studies for “Blue Above”. (Photo courtesy of Carol Duke.)

As you can see above and below, I did several versions of the same image, moving elements around, encouraging my students to do the same.

Version

Simple version, tidal pool coming off the bottom and corner of the picture plane.

It is not just a question of what is included and what is left out–though that is always a major consideration in my work (see https://scheeleart.wordpress.com/2015/06/30/contoursdistillations-a-solo-show/   for more on that conversation). Even in this very reductive composition, there are many variables. What, exactly, is the shape of the tidal pool cutting toward us, and where does it leave the picture plane, both on the left and on the right? How high or low is the horizon line? Cool greens, warm greens, or both? Back shore more compressed and lighter, making it seem further away, or larger and darker, bringing it forward?

Version with suggestion of houses in back land form.

Version #2 with suggestion of houses in back land form, and Long Point lighthouse on the right.  Tidal pool moves off the right side. (Sold)

I decided to go very white with the sky in the large piece, since I love the shore phenomenon of bright blue sky overhead and white at the horizon, which is due to the many miles of atmosphere, denser close to earth, that we are looking through.

Blue Above, 12

Blue Above, 12″x36″ , currently at the Julie Heller Gallery, Provincetown, MA.

None of these versions is any better or worse than the other—they are just different. The choices that I made for the larger oil were largely mood-driven. For example, I opted to emphasize the simplicity of the major shapes by omitting the lighthouse and bits of detail on the back shore. Including them would have made it a more descriptive piece, which I do from time to time. But at heart I am a minimalist, enjoying the open feel that these compositions bring.

First set of small

First set of small studies. (Mostly sold; two are currently at Edgewater Gallery, Middlebury VT.)

I soon saw that the studies function nicely as small paintings in their own right if I finish them the same way I do a larger piece. They look great framed with a mat and under glass, though I have also exhibited and sold a number of them mounted on board, sealed to be airtight, and presented without glass, such as the below.  I did a grouping, example below, for a small works show without any intention to do them larger—some of them are images I already had done as pastels or larger oils. Switching it up!

Tidal Flats at Dusk, 6

Tidal Flats at Dusk, 6″x6″, sold by Thompson Giroux Gallery. (Sold)

 

Study/Triptych in Reds

Study/Triptych in Reds, 3 panels of 5″x5″/ea., private collection.

I decided to leave out the soft water-shape in the larger version, mostly because I knew that I was going to frame each panel separately and I felt that the simpler field dividers would work best, carrying the horizontal sweep of the composition through the strong verticals of the frames and the wall space between.

Triptych in Reds

Triptych in Reds, 3 panels of 24″x24″, currently at Gold Gallery, Boston.

 

 When I do these studies, I don’t do them to copy them later in a big piece, but rather to familiarize myself with some of the elements. I have my students do several of the same image, and until they do they really don’t get the concept. It isn’t to come up with the perfect study to be copied, but to move things around and look at the results to see what sections work best, comparing all of the studies. Having done that, choices will still need to evolve organically with a larger piece–and just the size difference can really influence this process— but you now have the advantage of  having posed key questions to yourself.
Study/Intervening Bay

Study/Intervening Bay, 7″x7″, private collection.

In this recent piece I moved the front tidal pool a bit over toward center in the larger piece and had more room to play with the blues. It became clear that in the 24″x24″ version I needed to clearly differentiate between the three groupings of marsh grasses to indicate far, middle, and close proximity, using color to establish distance. Why? It just didn’t look right to have them all on the same plane in this particular image. This, though, is something that in another painting I might love—allowing all of the shapes to sit right on top of the picture plane, functioning as a color field painting.

Intervening Bay, 24″x24″, private collection.

The study and the large version each ended up where they needed to, and different from each other in subtle ways.
Study/Open Road #1, 4.5

Study/Open Road #1, 4.5″x14″. (Sold)

These two are quite similar, the main difference being the enhanced distance in the road that I created with the larger piece.

Open Road, 20

Open Road, 20″x60″, available at Gallery 901, Santa Fe, NM.

 

Sometimes after both—or all of—the pieces are finished there are things that I prefer about the study. In the following two, it is the differences in size and materials themselves that create a somewhat divergent feel.

Study/Sunset Sea, 5″x5″ (at Thompson Giroux Gallery).
One element to be considered is that the texture of the paper is more assertive in a small piece, and often a bit more matte, even though my linen also has tooth and the paint is applied to the same dark, absorbent ground. Here I feel that the study is more painterly and the oil-on-linen more photographic.

Yellow Band, 36″x36″ (at Julie Heller Gallery).
With the following pair, the study is simpler and more illustrative than the larger piece that came after.
Study/Skyline

Study/Skyline, 7″x7″,  (at Thompson Giroux Gallery).

In the larger size I needed to add more buildings, and I opted to make it more atmospheric. It turned out to be very useful to have established the front detail in the small piece, since I wasn’t at all sure how it was going to work out or even if I wanted to include it. I liked it well enough in the study to follow my own lead in the larger oil.

Skyline with Lifting Rain

Skyline with Lifting Rain, 20″x20″ (sold by Edgewater Gallery).

Here are some pieces from my current collection of studies that I haven’t yet done large. I will do this with some, and others will remain in small format only.
What I choose to paint next is driven by a complex set of considerations, partly mood-driven and partly tending to the needs of my galleries. Yet sometimes I love to not over-think it, changing direction at the spur of the moment. Any of these could be explored in large canvas at any time, and/or my next large piece might be of an image that I did not approach first in small format.
Study/Mountain Contours

Study/Mountain Contours, 4.5″x14″, currently at Albert Shahinian Fine Art in Rhinebeck, NY.

 

Study/View from Little Mountain, 6

Study/View from Little Mountain, 6″x8″, currently at Edgewater Gallery, Middlebury VT.

Study/Lake Mists, 5

Study/Lake Mists, 5″x5″ (currently at the Tenderland Home, Phoenicia, NY).

 

Study?Gleam over Tidal Flats,

Study/Gleam over Tidal Flats, 6″X10″. (Sold.)

 

Study/Green Valley

Study/Green Valley, 6″x10″.

 

Study/Late Summer Light, 5"x7.5".

Study/Late Summer Light, 5″x7.5″.

 

Study/Meadowlands with Mists.

Study/Meadowlands with Mists, 3.5″x10.5″. (Sold.)

I was so enjoying the color on the above that I decided to do a version without the industrial detail in the back landform.

Study/Fall Marsh Mists, 4

Study/Fall Marsh Mists, 4″X8″. (Sold)

And then I wanted to simplify even more and use the soft lavender with greens instead.

Soft Summer Light, 4"x8".

Soft Summer Light, 4″x8″.

Additional pieces (updated since the publication of this post):

 

Study?Yellow Bush, 4"x14.5", Edgewater Gallery.

Study/Yellow Bush, 4″x14.5″ (at the Tenderland Home).

 

Study/Waterspouts, 6"x9".

Study/Waterspouts, 6″x9″ (at Julie Heller Gallery.

 

Study/It Looks Like Rain, 6"x9".

Study/It Looks Like Rain, 6″x9″.

 

Study/Summer Marsh, 5"x12".

Study/Summer Marsh, 5″x12″ .

 

Study/ClusteredCLouds, 5"x12".

Study/ClusteredClouds, 5″x12″. (Sold.)

 

Study/White Fields, 5"x11".

Study/White Fields, 5″x11″ (Sold).

 

Study/Grey Dawn, 5"x7".

Study/Grey Dawn, 5″x7″.

 

Study/Winter Warmth, 7"x7".

Study/Winter Warmth, 7″x7″ (sold).

 

Study/Se.rene Winter, 5"x11"

Study/Serene Winter, 5″x11″ .

 

Study?Reservoir from Little Mountain, 4"x12".

Study/Reservoir from Little Mountain, 4″x12″ (sold).

 

Study/Green Fields, 5"x13".

Study/Green Fields, 5″x13″.

 

Study/Glowing Sky over Fall Marsh, 6"x8".

Study/Glowing Sky over Fall Marsh, 6″x8″ (at Tenderland Home).

 

The study below illustrates another use for the small format, as it was a a study for a commissioned painting (something that I have always done in a small pastel or oil to iron out the imagery that has been chosen by the collector):

 

Study/Resting Clouds, 4"x14".

Study/Resting Clouds, 4.5″x12″ (sold).

 

Lifting Clouds, 18"x42".

Lifting Clouds, 18″x42″, (private collection).

 

You may have noticed that some of the oil-on-paper pieces have a deckled edge and some have a clean edge. This does not translate with the large oil-on-linen work, but instead is something that I’ve been playing with in my pastels for a number of years. Some images have shapes within that relate to the uneven edge, and others have a more linear sweep to the composition. Those that have the deckled edge are framed showing it, and the others have the mat coming right up to the edge of the image.

I never like to over-plan. But even though I got along just fine without these studies for years and years, I have to say that for myself and for my students, they can have a liberating effect. Once you have internalized some aspects of what you are doing, it is much easier to proceed with confidence and an exploratory attitude.
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