This past year’s been kind of crazy around here. Between MB work and the barn remodel I haven’t been able to oil paint much. Now that I’m set up out here (!!!), I’ve been easing back into it a bit more. Haven’t been able to start anything new yet, but had these two paintings I’d started last year and for their own respective reasons hadn’t been able to finish them.
Hate unfinished things hanging out in the studio, but I’d put enough time into each of them to where there was investment there… I’d normally just sand them down for the panels, but with these two, I thought it’d be fun to resurrect them try to carry ’em to the finish line- and really glad I did!
It was fun to work back into something after so long. Found myself a lot less invested in things, which made it way easier to change stuff. It’s interesting to see how differently you view something after a few months.
The first one I worked back into, I’d originally started last fall. I based it off of foggy shot I took of the pond out in our yard. Foggy scenes are deceptively difficult, in that it’s not so much about surface details but more about careful value placement and accurate silhouettes. I started this one by painting the sky first, and then into the back tree line and foreground elements. Painted this all wet in wet in order to get the “quiet” soft brushwork necessary to block in subtle values. Once the first pass was dry, I painted that central tree in the middle ground on top.
There were things that bothered me about this painting, but I just didn’t have the time/motivation to dig in and try to figure out how to fix it. So it sat on the bookshelf for a couple of months, taunting me every time I walked by. I made a mental list of things I wanted to try on it, and would think to myself “oh just you wait til that barn is finished, then your ass is MINE”
Finally got to sit down with it last week for a bit and ended up repainting almost the whole entire thing. Taking a hard look at it, I realized that it was too yellow and didn’t really capture that cold wet smokey atmosphere we get out here sometimes. Repainted the sky much cooler this time, and knocked more color and temperature in general across the whole thing.
Cooled off the grass and got to detail out areas as well, but still tried to keep things soft to push that atmosphere. SO SATISFYING getting in there and refining stuff after months of it sitting there staring at me. Still needs a couple more passes to refine a few things but I feel like I’m in a better place with it now.
This other one I started last summer. This is of a clearing off in the back of our property. I really like this area and how the heavy tree cover dapples the ground, and I love these crazy old trees with the exposed root systems. I came out here to shoot reference at least a dozen times before I got anything promising, and even after deciding on this shot, I thought long and hard before I started. To be honest I think I kind of psyched myself out on it. There’s a LOT of information to deal with, and I felt like it was necessary to try to interpret as much of it as possible. I got through a monochrome block in, but at some point just threw my hands up in frustration and stopped working on it.
So it sat there on the shelf behind me for like 6 months. At some point I glazed color into it, and had started picking at the tree stump, but just couldn’t figure out a solid approach to it. That is, until a few days ago, when I pulled it back out and started messing with it again.
It’s going in a very different direction than the foggy scene, where here I’m painting “noise” to describe a lot of the surfacing. I started with the left background, and have been working my way left to right. Trying some harsher “crisp” edge work in order to push the surfacing and also to help establish a wide value scale to get that dappling effect going. About halfway there on this pass. It’s taking forever, but starting to get what I’m after, and hoping one more pass of some broken dry brush stuff here and there and we’ll be in good shape to bring it in for a landing.
Looking fantastic so far. Really impressed with your ability to maintain the overall value structure while pumping every corner with such detail. Reminds me of Shishkin. How big are each of these?
Thanks Garrett! I find once you do get the monochrome value pass laid its not too hard to maintain it when you go in with the opaques. I just try to keep an eye on it and make sure whatever im putting down is in the same value ballpark as whats already there. Shishkin is a huge compliment 😀 thank you. im very inspired by the Russian realist painters and he's definitely someone who's work i look up to a lot! The foggy one is 16×20 inches and the dappled light one is 12×24 inches.
Beautiful paintings Justin. Inspiring stuff!
Thanks for the info Justin– they're smaller than I thought! I will have to get back to doing some monochrome underpainting soon; lately just been going alla prima.