View Full Version : John Cox Workshop - Part 2

07-02-2006, 10:47 PM
Hi Everyone,

This is the second section of our John Cox workshop! I'm starting it out, but John will be here in a bit!:wave:

Here's a link to our old thread.

Barb Solomon:cat:

07-02-2006, 11:03 PM
Here's our new John Cox's workshop gallery thread. This is for posting your work after you try John's techniques.


Barb Solomon:cat:

07-02-2006, 11:09 PM
QUOTE from John: "If you wish a critique, say so, but be careful what you ask for, you may get it."

Yea John. These artists!!! Sheeeeesh. Soooooooo sensitive! Feel free to rip my work apart so that these guys can learn from my mistakes ….. I will make that ultimate sacrifice for the team!! But….if these guys are standing in line waiting for your help….remember…..I do know that I selected the last row last seat. :)

07-03-2006, 04:02 AM
Loved the demos of the female portraits, can't wait to try the ideas out, and looking forward very much to the landscape demos.

07-03-2006, 07:59 PM
I'm already giving this one 5 stars before John even gets here... ;)

07-03-2006, 11:58 PM
BOO! :evil:

07-04-2006, 11:19 AM
OK John,
I have a question. Perhaps this will be covered in upcomming lessons...but here goes.
You suggested a (wonderful) way of laying out one's pallette using the 3 warm and 3 cool colors and white. Done that. Next I have been working on my color mixes with the limited pallette---warm red+warm yellow=warm orange, warm yellow+black=warm green (which I love), etc, etc. Got that.
I haven't gotten to the cool mixes yet but I will.
Here is my question.
During the painting of any one given piece do you use the warms and cools together and if so, how, without making mud?

07-04-2006, 11:39 AM
John... I know now that you use oil primed canvas' (BTW... thanks for answering that question)... my next question is... Do you ever used toned canavs"? If so... is there a time and place to use them? If so... what color do you tone them? These questions came about when I ran into this situation while painting with the limited palette you shared with us. I knew as soon as I started painting the questions would come... :wink2:

Could you look at this post in the Workshop Gallery thread....http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showpost.php?p=4766122&postcount=22... I couldn't seem to get the warmth out of this palette to cover the original but was happy with the results of the limited palette. Where did I go wrong?... Now that I see it on the monitor I do see the warmth on her neck... must have just used the wrong color mixes... is that what happens when you work on a palette that is a different color from your canvas? I was using a white palette painting on a toned (medium gray) surface.

Thanks in advance...

07-04-2006, 02:28 PM
John, thanks for your reply to my questions. I'm behind time right now, really busy with another project, but I've just copied all the posts into a word processor file and will print them out and re-read in leisure. I hope to have some time really soon to try out some of this.

Thompie - you go, girl~! Great stuff..... I'll check out the rest there later.... I know others have been posting too....

07-05-2006, 11:09 AM
Hi everyone!

Just checking in so I don't get behind. Hope you all had a great Fourth!! So far I have learned quite a bit!! Thanks, John!

Sheri (cowgirl06)

07-05-2006, 10:42 PM
Today, I would like to talk a little about perspective and composition. I am only going to talk about some basics used in landscape painting, but they are by no means an in depth explanation of all possible compositions. I would like to refer you to the Edgar Payne book “Composition of Outdoor Painting”. This is a excellent book and does a wonderful job of explaining composition. There plenty of diagrams showing almost everything one could imagine and explaining why they work. He also covers almost everything one needs for composing a painting including color, steps in the painting process and on and on. It’s not just a book on composition. It is an excellent book on painting and I highly recommend it to all. You will see it on the list I will give out at the end of this workshop.
Before I get into this I was asked about “toning” a canvas before beginning a painting. I have done this in the past, but rarely do it anymore. I could have done a washy uneven, runny colors ( those are technical terms that us pros use) over the canvas before starting both of the portrait demos. In fact probably would have made for a more interesting background. This is one place I am more likely to use a “toned” background. Many artist do use this technique and it works well for them. One top landscape artist covers his canvas with a thin layer of Cad. Red Light and lets that dry before doing a landscape on it. What this does is give a warm glow later on after the painting has dried. This happens because oil paint gets slightly translucent when it dries and the thickness of the paint decreases. I do not recommend this unless you are a very experienced painter and have great control over your color mixing and values. Most artists that “tone” a canvas will do it with a wash of a neutral gray made with the colors they intend to use in the painting itself with some white added to lighten the value and add a lot of thinner and a little medium to help bind the pigment and to help the adherence of paint to canvas. Winsor Newton, or a mixture of Damar varnish, Stand oil and turpentine in equal amounts. There are other good mediums from other manufacturers such as Gamblin and Grumbacher and others. Pick the one you like, you don’t need much. I use Winsor Newton Liquin myself for this purpose. “Toned” canvas’s are good for “killing” the white of the canvas so that one can see values easier. But the downside is you also have a duller surface to paint on, so bright translucent colors do not stay all that bright after the paintings dry (remember what I said about why the red tone works). I paint on a white canvas most of the time and only rarely use a toned canvas and then only for specific reasons. I hope that helps.
Okay, I will start with a short very condensed version on perspective. I am assuming that all of us here has at least a rudimentary understanding of perspective. It is one of the tools we use to make a two dimensional surface appear to be three dimensional. I could get into a lot of geometry here, but that is not going to happen. :) I am just going to talk about a few things that need to be understood and used in a composition. I urge all to do a little studying on this for extra credit. :lol:
All of us have stood on the side of a street or road and observed how the sides of the road or street get closer together as it recedes into the distance and how all things appear to get smaller the farther away from our position. Well there are several other things happening here also that you need to know about. Color being one of them, but that will be addressed later. First I want to talk about “planes”. Most of you know that there is a horizon line generally at eye level (why I very often use high horizons, except when painting a sky). If there is no “horizon” line showing. such as in a portrait as in my demos, there is still an “imaginary” one. A head for example will have at least two “vanishing points”. This is just a quick diagram I made to demonstrate what I am talking about. It is not all that accurate, just enough to give you the idea. You may also imagine, instead of drawing a head here it was a square box drawn in three dimensions.
“Planes” are horizontal “lines” that, starting at the lower and upper edges of the canvas get gradually closer together as they get closer to the horizon line. Just drawing something smaller than your main subject does not make that object recede. It also must be on the correct “plane”. I have made a rough drawing of a man and then a second man smaller and on a different plane (in turquoise). You can also see the perspective lines (in black) and how they eventually lead to a “vanishing point”. This does not apply to people only. It applies to rocks, trees, animals and even clouds. This is something you must take into account as you compose a painting to create the illusion of a third dimension.
Print out this diagram and then take it outside and look towards the horizon. Now notice how different objects are on different “planes” as they recede. Or have a spouse or friend stand about 8-10 feet from you and another person of about the same height stand about 15-20 feet from you. You will see this principal for yourself. You can do this on your dining room table. Place a cup close to the table edge and another closer to the center of the table. Bend down low enough that the far edge of the table makes the horizon (this makes the planes more obvious). Do you see what I am talking about?
Now, if you just paint or draw these objects on the correct planes and make the table edge the same value and intensity of color as the edge closest to you, it will look like the table goes up, not stay level and go away from you. There are a number of reasons for this. First is because how our eyes work. You can only focus on one thing at a time. If you are facing two people, no matter which one you look at the other is “out of focus” and the further away someone or something is the more out of focus they become when you are looking at someone close to you. Does this make sense? Try it, you’ll see it. Then we have “atmosphere”. Between you and any object there is “atmosphere” and the farther an object, the more “atmosphere”. Yes, I hear you saying “But John! I’m just painting a still life! And the objects are all the same distance from me.” I will answer “ If that is true, you have a boring arrangement.” So arrange your still life in an interesting manner. Some items will be closer, some farther from the viewer. There is not a lot of “atmosphere” separating each item, but there is some, so it is your job to show that. I was once told it was as important to paint the atmosphere as it is to paint the objects.
At this point it is important to understand how color works in perspective. This is what “makes atmosphere”. As objects get farther away from our viewing point, they the darks become lighter in value and cooler in color. Notice I said the darks. The light areas become slightly cooler, but their value does not change. Why? Because there is only one sun, and it is shining as bright fifty feet away as it is right where you are. Yes there are exceptions, cloud shadows, artificial light etc. I think you get the point though. This brings up another interesting point. Have you ever wondered how an artist can paint a night scene and put a lot of color in it? He can make you believe it is night time because he understands how light works at night. In a way it is the opposite of the way it works during the day. At night the dark appears “black” It is as black close to you as it is on a mountain twenty miles in the distance. The light areas get darker as they recede and they do so rather quickly. Frank Tenney Johnson was a master at this. His paintings were full of color, but you absolutely believed it was night. When an artist paints a night scene and uses little color and it still is believable as night it is because he/she also used their values correctly. If you do not learn this and use it and just paint a dark painting, it won’t look like night, it will look like a dark painting. That’s all. Values, folks. I keep saying this and I hope you are getting just how important they are.
Okay, now I want to get to the composition, itself. As I said at the beginning of this, there are many ways to compose a painting. What I am going to show you here is a couple of basic compositions that are very commonly used. Most if not all of you have heard of the “golden mean” or “golden section”. This is referring to some elements of dynamic symmetry. Basically, we are talking about a canvas of 2 to 3 ratio. Common standard sizes are a 20”x 30” or a 24”x 36”. There are a few other standard sizes made in this ratio. We can also divide other sizes and shapes into thirds but the second measurement will be off. This is not necessarily bad. For instance I and many other artists paint a landscape on a square canvas. I will be showing one here as a compositional example. Here is a diagram of a basic composition I use extensively. I show it in both 2 to 3 ratio and a square.
The numbers are the order of most effective placement of the center of interest. Please understand this is very graphic to stress the areas. When you or I compose a painting we do not have to place the center of interest in one of these exact spots. In fact you want to stay away from a “mechanical” looking composition. So use your judgment of what looks best to you. Remember, your artistic license authorizes you to do so. :) I also want to say these numbers are not a hard and set order. The numbers can be interchanged with each other as needed to make a strong composition. This composition is sometimes called “Steel yard”.
One thing that is very important though is the placement of the vertical line that should go through your center of interest. This should be the only vertical line that your eye can “draw” from top of the canvas to the bottom. It can be very subtle or very strong. Look at this painting. Notice that your eye can “draw a line” from top to bottom right through the center of interest. Other “lines lead the eye to the center of interest.
In this next one, I show you a square, as always has a vertical, but I also show you how I have divided it into thirds. They are not exact thirds as I want to avoid the “mechanical” look. I also place the bright light against the dark above and below the center of interest. I also picked up similar colors in the sky and in the tree in the foreground. The rock formation is a triangular shape and this helps to strengthen the composition. The trick on a square is don’t place the center of interest in the center of the canvas. It will look like a “bulls eye” and be very “mechanical and stiff looking.
The next is a Spiral composition it works very similar to the “Steel yard” above but the eye is brought into the center of interest in a spiral fashion.
The vertical is still there and it is what makes the stability of the whole composition. Always have a vertical going through your center of interest, this gives the painting the stability as I just said. Think of it this way. You want to set up a tent. You place guide wires all around it (the angled lines leading to the center of interest.). You make them strong and anchored well, but until you put the vertical support rod in the tent it just lays flat no matter how much you pull on the guide wires. The vertical line functions the same way in your painting.
In a landscape painting you can use a bush directly below the center of interest and close to the bottom of the canvas and a cloud at the top above it. That is a simple example but you see what I mean. If a portrait you want it to go through the eye of the subject that is nearest the viewer. By using light and dark values, shapes, and poses (in a figure or figures) you have unlimited possibilities to compose your paintings with. I will any “tool” I can to make a composition work the best I can.
I’m sure there will be questions and comments here so I will end here and give you that opportunity before I move on to the next phase of making a painting. I truly hope this makes sense to you all and helps you.
More later,

07-06-2006, 02:16 AM
Very intriguing. Off to read and digest before asking any questions.

07-06-2006, 04:05 AM
John's right about Payne's book. It's well worth the cost!! Great stuff today!


07-06-2006, 08:33 AM
Thanks John for the clear introduction to planning a painting!
Hi everyone!
No questions yet, but I am sure, I will have some. :)

Anita Murphy
07-08-2006, 09:42 PM
Thanks John. Have put the book on my wish list at Amazon.

07-10-2006, 11:38 AM
Wow! Wow! Wow! Ttompie, she's the noisy one in the back row, mentioned this workshop so I thought I'd check it out. I just finished reading all the posts and trying to absorb it all. I was rewarded with a big Ah-ha in the last post on composition. It explains clearly why a large piece I've been working on isn't really working. Thank you, John, for that.

I want to join in, but I'm a little intimidated about starting with a portrait. I guess I'll grit my teeth and make an effort. I look forward to more and hope I haven't disturbed the progress too much by arriving late. I'm subscribed now, so I shouldn't be late again, and if I am, I'll try to be real quiet till I get caught up--wouldn't want to disturb this great class with a noisy entrance.

07-10-2006, 03:37 PM
Today, I will begin a new landscape painting. I have had an idea and I have looked through photos and sketches I have made in the past. I have settled on three photos. Two actually, the third is a detail of one of the photos. The photo I will be using for the foreground and middle ground is one that many would throw away. I didn’t because it shows the effect of light that I like to use and it has enough to make out a good shape. The rest I can fill in from my own knowledge of this area. By doing this and some rearranging and colors I can make a completely original painting, still accurate to the location (the Grand Tetons in Wyoming) and not be a “slave” to the photos. They only serve to give me some shapes and inspiration to produce my idea. So here we go.
I first make a shape and value patterns sketch from the photos. This is very rough but it is enough to keep to the original idea.
You can see the sketch and the photos. They are not going to win any prizes in a photo contest, but they have the information that I need for this painting. Understand this is not the only sketch I made, in fact I made five of them before settling on this one. I show just this one just to avoid any confusion a still photo might cause showing several other similar sketches.
Next I have laid out my colors which for this painting will be Cad. Lemon, Cad. Yellow Light (a cool and a warm); Cad. Red Light and Winsor Red (the second will be used sparingly); Cobalt Blue and Mars/Ivory Black and of course Utrecht White. I start by mixing a combination of the Cad. Red Light and Black and making the reddish brown it makes very thin with thinner (mineral spirits).
This is what I will draw my composition on the canvas. Notice the "S" line. the vertical will show as I refine the foreground later.I will use a Filbert bristle brush to draw with. This combo of colors works well because it is part of the colors I will be using in the painting, so when I start to paint into the drawing even if it is still wet it will work right in and not cause any adulteration of my fresh colors. The other option is to let your drawing dry over night. I have worked both ways and it doesn’t seem to matter. In this case I will work it wet. When I draw this way it is easy to wipe out a mistake and the paint flows smoothly so I can draw basic shapes. Notice that I do not put any details, that will come later. Right now I just need the shapes. This gives me “landmarks”. Sort of like a coloring book. :) The difference is I won’t worry about staying in the lines. :)
Now I wipe my palette clean and begin to mix the same color I drew with but no thinner. I will add small amounts as I spread this mixture to speed up the fill in of large areas. I don’t worry to much about solid color, just this color, but not a wash. We talked a little about “toning” a canvas earlier, well this is sort of like that, only I am using more opaque color and only “toning” specific areas. This will give a harmonizing effect and keep my color choices compatible in this area. I will leave a “space for the sunlight through the trees, but what I am doing is massing in the foreground and the Middle ground. This is the beginning of my lay-in.
As I proceed notice how I have made an “earthy” green and added more red in some places so as not to make it to boring. I added a little subtle variation to this mass. Notice that these mixtures are all coming out of the original red/black mix. This is “bridging”. See how it goes in order.
Notice that the color gets warmer (for the sunlight in the trees) and cooler the other way (black). On the canvas I also mass in the tree sunlight. Here’s a close up. Notice still no detail. I have used a # 8 Flat and a #4 Flat bristles.
This next picture of my palette I start mixing a Cobalt Blue and Utrecht White, “pulling” color (bridging) from the pile of base color. This is to begin laying in the background mountains. I will vary the value and the amount of base color mix to adjust value to show lesser distance as part of the mountain range gets a little closer. I now paint the shadow areas of the mountains with these mixtures using a #6 Flat and a #2 Filbert bristles.
I stepped back just now (should have sooner) and I notice that the warm area depicting the sunlight in the trees is to far over to the left. So I wipe out the warm colors and the darks where I need to move this area to.
I repaint the darks and the sun glow where it should have been in the first place (first picture) and then soften the edges (second picture).
Now I go back to the mountains. I mix a warn reddish, almost a washed out flesh color with Cad. Red light, a little Cad. Yellow Light and white. ( I know, I skipped a picture since I didn't show just the mountain shadows painted and the sunlight unfinished. Sorry:o )This was also “pulled” out of the color bridge (warm side) and then added the colors mentioned and white to bring it to the needed value. With it I fill in all the sunlit parts of the mountains. I am using a #2 Filbert bristle to do this and then soften all edges with a flat sable brush.
Next is the sky. I mix a fresh batch of color same as the mountain shadow color and add just a little Winsor Red and I make the value lighter than the lightest mountain shadows value.
Since my light is coming from left to right and somewhat backlit, I start with this intial sky mixture in the upper right corner. As I work down to the mountains, I gradually add more Winsor red until where the sky meets the mountain it is a light pink gray. As I work across to the left I add more white and Cad. Lemon gradually.
Painting a sky like this is harder than it looks. Most say “No Clouds. No Problem!” I say “Wrong!” The reason is you have no place to make a break in color or value and yet it is constantly changing I subtle amounts in both color and value. As you work down towards the horizon (in this case the mountains) you are adding red but no white so the value is getting slightly darker in value, But as you move across the canvas you are adding a little red and more Lemon and white. So you are changing color and value. I work back and forth, from color to color and value to value with a # 8 Flat bristle and a # 2 Filbert (for the shapes in the mountains) Constantly wiping and cleaning brushes as I do this until I have a good smooth blend of color and value. I don’t want the viewer to see any “lines” in the sky, just a smooth gradual change in the colors and values. The left corner is almost white, maybe one value darker than white.
I now take a Flat sable brush (# 14 Rhenish from Utrecht) and lightly smooth out the bristle brushes brush marks. This blends the sky even more. I am very careful not to brush into the mountain colors or pick up any of this color when doing this blending. I will use a smaller Flat Rhenish sable #4) for the softening of the mountain edges. I will also use my finger in places to “blur” an edge, especially near the canvas edge. I’m sorry the photo does not show this work or color very well at all. I tried several shots and lighting, but the contrast is just to much for the digital camera. In person it looks right on value and color.
After finishing the lay in of the sky and all the softening of all edges, I paint in the water. I begin with the reflections (shadows) and then paint in a slightly darker value of the sky color that I started with. It is a warm blue gray, almost violet in warmth. I soften all the edges here also. This completes the initial lay in.
When I am doing a lay in there are several points I want to touch on. First, my color is the darkest in value for a given area that it will be. Anything added will be lighter in value with the exception of maybe re-establishing a dark when I am near finishing. The sky is correct and as it will be, so I make it opaque. The darkest darks are translucent they are so thin. Middle values are opaque also. Second, I keep all my edges soft at this stage and up almost to the point of finishing. This way I can very easily control my edges and only have a sharp edge when and where I need it. It is so much easier to soften edges wet into wet than to try and soften dried color. There are a number of ways to make a soft edge after the paint is dry, but it is never the same as wet into wet. So make life easy for yourself and try this method of softening while wet. Third, I try to get my values very close to what they need to be, but as stated above it is the darkest value of and area. I repeated this a different way to get value across to all. My colors are in the “ballpark” They may get some adjustment, but not a lot. Fourth, I keep all colors thin at this stage. That does not necessarily mean using thinner, though is some (the very darks) I do use some. The rest of the colors are the consistency they come from the tube. Some are scrubbed in (usually middle values) as in the portrait lay ins. These can be somewhat translucent, but I tend to make them opaque. The lights are opaque but still the layer of paint is very thin (but no thinner).
I am constantly referring to the sketch and the reference photos for their information, even though I am altering some colors or values at times, I want to stay in the realm of reality while making an original piece.
Now that the lay in is finished I will let this sit over night and start the next phase in the morning. At that time the refinements begin.
Any questions before we move on? I will check in here now and then to answer questions before the next phase tomorrow.

07-10-2006, 03:56 PM
Just wanted to say thank you John for these wonderful workshops.
Only recently I found out the existence. Have to read everything. That is going to take a while I guess, since your posts are nicely long (but my understanding of your language is not 100%) How long will you be here to answer questions an such?

Again, thank you so much, I think this is going to be very helpfull!!

07-10-2006, 04:39 PM
John great lessons again. Thanks very much. Be back later to read it all. :)

07-10-2006, 05:05 PM
Right now I just need the shapes. This gives me “landmarks”. Sort of like a coloring book. :) The difference is I won’t worry about staying in the lines. :)

John... you know how to communicate these lessons just for me... THANKS! :thumbsup:

07-10-2006, 05:13 PM
Notice that these mixtures are all coming out of the original red/black mix. This is “bridging”. See how it goes in order.

John... When you refer to bridging is it something you do on the palette (as a mixing technique) or is it done on the canvas????.. or both???

07-10-2006, 05:36 PM
Just awesome tibits that are so good!!!! Thanks John! Love the lights!
Guess that means I love the darks too!
I really do enjoy using the cad red and black, it is a beautiful color.
And perfect to draw with.
Thank You!!!
Thank You!!!
Thank You!!!
:D Nickel

07-10-2006, 07:10 PM
Hi All,
Just checking in to answer a couple of questions. Hope today's lay in was easy to understand.
Waterdraak, I will try and keep from using my Southern U.S. sayings, but it's just me, so please forgive me. If you are not sure of something I have said, please feel free to ask me about it and I will be happy to say it another way that may be easier to translate. I do this to help everyone, so it does not bother me to go over things untill all are clear on the subject. So please ask if you have questions. As for how long will I be here. This lesson will go to the end of this week and that will finish the workshop. Then I have to go to an art show for a week. Please use this time to think of and ask any questions you have. I will return to Wet Canvas after my show and I will start answering questions. I will do this for about a week. I am always checking into Wet Canvas and this thread I believe will be in the archives for your use. Ask BJS or Nickel how and where to access it. I'll be around.
Rosic, Bridging is on the palette and on the canvas. It is more readily seen in the portraits and of course very obvious on the palette itself. All it is, is an oderly logical progression of color following the color wheel. Sometimes on the canvas it is not as easily seen since there can be abrupt changes in color and value in many subjects, but if you follow it as closly as possible and use it in all of your mixing, you will stay in harmony, have less confusion, be able to re-mix a color exactly, paint faster and more accurately with higher level of color quality. Even people that know nothing about art will not realize it when they see your painting, but it will be logical and appeal to them, because it is what their eye is used to seeing colorwise.
I'll be back in a couple of hours.

07-10-2006, 07:56 PM
Rosic, Bridging is on the palette and on the canvas. It is more readily seen in the portraits and of course very obvious on the palette itself. All it is, is an oderly logical progression of color following the color wheel. Sometimes on the canvas it is not as easily seen since there can be abrupt changes in color and value in many subjects, but if you follow it as closly as possible and use it in all of your mixing, you will stay in harmony, have less confusion, be able to re-mix a color exactly, paint faster and more accurately with higher level of color quality. Even people that know nothing about art will not realize it when they see your painting, but it will be logical and appeal to them, because it is what their eye is used to seeing colorwise.
Thanks John... Let's see if I've got this right... this bridge encompasses a graduation of all the colors between light and dark or from one color to another... the more abrupt the turning edge between planes the less you would see of the various colors and in turn the more gradual the turning edge the more colors you'd see... am I on the right track?

07-10-2006, 10:48 PM
Hi Rosic, You got it kid! you are exactly on the right track. You said it beautifully. i mght steal that definition from you.:)

07-11-2006, 01:43 AM
Thanks John... Let's see if I've got this right... this bridge encompasses a graduation of all the colors between light and dark or from one color to another... the more abrupt the turning edge between planes the less you would see of the various colors and in turn the more gradual the turning edge the more colors you'd see... am I on the right track?

Bernie, I have no idea what you just said, but I'm going to write that epiphany down somewhere.


All it is, is an oderly logical progression of color following the color wheel. Sometimes on the canvas it is not as easily seen since there can be abrupt changes in color and value in many subjects, but if you follow it as closly as possible and use it in all of your mixing, you will stay in harmony, have less confusion, be able to re-mix a color exactly, paint faster and more accurately with higher level of color quality. Even people that know nothing about art will not realize it when they see your painting, but it will be logical and appeal to them, because it is what their eye is used to seeing colorwise.

That I understood.

But the fusion of planes and gradient values is confusing me, if that's what Bernie is trying to explain. Did I miss something?

07-11-2006, 03:52 AM
Superb demo, John. I love those grand mountains... I hope to try out a landscape asap following your tips.

07-11-2006, 06:12 AM
the more abrupt the turning edge between planes the less you would see of the various colors?

= more contrast

the more gradual the turning edge the more colors you'd see

= less contrast

Am I right about this ?:confused:

Waterdraak, The pictures of your animals are fantastic:clap:


07-11-2006, 06:15 AM
Waterdraak, The pictures of your animals are fantastic

Not only the pictures, the paintings also :rolleyes:


07-11-2006, 12:19 PM
Hi Rosic, You got it kid! you are exactly on the right track. You said it beautifully. i mght steal that definition from you.:)
It's yours... I wouldn't have a clue if it were not for your help... :thumbsup:

Hey Richard...:wave:

07-11-2006, 01:44 PM
iii: Bernie, I have no idea what you just said, but I'm going to write that epiphany down somewhere. :)

You got company :wave:

Maybe it has to do with the 40% turning thing.

07-11-2006, 03:33 PM
Hey John, hey classmates, I did my homework on Moonlight Johnson, and last night was the full moon and I guess since I live in the city values are a little off but my question is can the night sky be so light in value like 9? I was holding my little gray card up to the sky and of course I can't see.....
and then something started shaking the tree and it wasn't the wind so I ran back in the house. lol. I did notice that you can't really see any color except within about a foot of where you are standing or running in the house as the case may be. Well saturated color, mostly really dark shades of color but they didn't really look grey just dark. Just wanted an opinion about values. Thanks Nickel

07-11-2006, 04:05 PM
wow - thank you john - this info is worth it's weight in gold...:clap: literally:cat:
hey richard, bernie
:D Mama always had a way of explaining things so I could understand them - forrest gump :D

07-11-2006, 05:49 PM
Richard and Terry... you guys will be calling me teachers pet soon... :evil: http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/11-Jul-2006/17108-3D_apple.gif

07-11-2006, 06:00 PM



07-11-2006, 10:59 PM
I did notice that you can't really see any color except within about a foot of where you are standing or running in the house as the case may be. Well saturated color, mostly really dark shades of color but they didn't really look grey just dark. Just wanted an opinion about values. Thanks Nickel

Just ditto the words saturated color that's the wrong words. What was I thinking, anyway, colors are unsaturated....sorry for the mixup. :)

07-12-2006, 01:49 AM
Hi Gang,
I’ve been looking at your work on the “your turn” thread part of this work shop and I must say it looks all of you are getting the hang of what I am saying. I’m lovin’ it! Truly I am seeing a lot of improvement with all the postings. Your questions are good also, shows you are thinking. I’m proud of all of you. I really am. Just keep at it . I know the color charts can be boring, but I promise you that they will pay off for all of you and it won’t be long before you start to see that reward.
Today, I am starting to refine my lay-in. I have let the lay-in set up some over night and I cleaned my palette so I need to mix up another pile of the Black and Cad. Red Light mix, that I am using as a base mix. This is what all of the other colors of the foreground and the middle ground are “pulled” out of. After I have the base mixed, I start to “bridge out to a much warmer red color and then to an orange and then some yellow orange. Going to the cool side I make a cool green by adding some Cobalt Blue and some Cad. Yellow Light. These and variations of these colors will be in the middle ground and foreground. By having them pre-mixed I can easily move around from warm to cool and the in between colors. I don’t have to constantly be mixing more of each of these colors to get the variations.
I start with a combination dark of the cool green and the base red brown (Black/ Red mix base). I start with my #6 well worn flat ( a new brush could be used also) and begin to brush in some darks and go back and forth with warms and cools in a somewhat random way. The exception is when I get close to the areas where the sun glow through the trees is going to be and here I stay pretty warm and get even warmer by brushing in the reds, orange and yellow I premixed out of the base color. This is still very loose work, but I am making brush strokes that sort of resemble trees. The exception if the sun glow area, I keep that loose and soft edged.
Next, as I work my way up towards the tree tops I get warmer. Base color then add red and more red as I near the top. I am also getting more accurate with my drawing and I change to a # 2 bristle Filbert for this. Also notice that the tree tops in the sun glow area are more accurate as well. The trees on the right side are getting slightly lighter in value.
This effect (sun glow in the trees) is an exception of painting technique when in the studio for me than what I do when painting on location (plein aire) in that I am painting the light first, and then the dark over it in just this area. The reason for this is to get a better softer glowing effect. It will be okay because I will paint the dark over it in this same session. This is tricky and takes some practice. I keep the light warm colors fairly thin. In the above photo you see the warms brushed in. First I put in the yellow orange, then in the next photo you see the red added over it. Notice I am beginning to make tree shapes, not just loosely brushing in the colors.
In the next photo I blend these colors and soften all the tree top edges. I want no hard edges.
Here is my palette at this point. See how I am working all the colors from the original base colors. Just above the main pile of color is a strip of black with a touch of blue and white on its upper right end. This is for accents as I need them. Sometimes you will find you need a spot of color that the value is darker than your other darks. This is used sparingly. I have made it just in case I need it. The blue part of it is for a cooler accent in the trees if needed. It will be used very sparingly.
The brushes are my well worn flat a new #2 Filbert (next to palette knife handle) and then the other small brush is a well worn #2 Filbert for blending close, small areas of the trees against the mountains. This is the same brush I did the “scumbling” with when I did the lay-in of the two portraits. I will use this brush first and then a small sable flat to finish the softening of edges.
In this next photo, I am really starting to bring the darks and the lights together and define the trees in the dark areas and some of the ground cover foliage. You can also see some thin lines drawn over the sun glow area. These are guide lines and the will become tree trunks also if any is left showing after I make the trees darks in this area. In the photo it is hard, if not impossible to tell that these lines are not just a solid color (base reddish brown) but a variety of reds and browns and will get lighter in value towards the tops of the trees. The dark areas of the trees also get warmer and lighter in value. Think of it this way. There is more light towards the tree tops than closer to the ground where the tree is thicker and more full consequently casting more shadow and allowing less light in near the ground.
In this final picture you see the trees pretty well defined. They are by no means finished, but I have taken them as far as I want to go at this point. I will begin to refine the fore ground next. Then the background ( the mountains and sky, if necessary). When the rest of the painting is up to this same point as the trees are now, we will be able to see what needs fixing, or accenting, or subdued. I will then be bring the painting together as a whole, not just specific areas.
Any questions at this point? The foreground work will be posted this afternoon. Things are really going to begin to move on this painting now.
More in a little bit.:wave:

07-12-2006, 06:28 AM
thanks again, john, it's really helpful to see your steps and the way you mix color on your palette. this landscape is starting to really glow!

07-12-2006, 10:16 AM
I love how this is taking shape John- the effect of the sunlit trees is looking good so far

Thanks again for this series


07-12-2006, 12:37 PM
Hi everyone!

I have been reading and learning, but not posting. Just put my grandson on a plane back to Austin. Now I can get back into the studio. This has been a great seminar. John's teaching and all the great questions. You've been asking just the things that seem to help me understand better. Thanks everybody!!


07-13-2006, 12:09 PM
Now I am going to work the foreground and the middle ground on the far right where you see light coming across the water. First though, I would like to say a few words about brush handling. If you remember in my earlier introduction I told you about painting different trees using a bristle fan brush. That is just a demonstration of what most any brush can do if you learn how to handle your brushes. When I am painting I will use the brush any way that will give me the effect I am going for. As you have seen in this demo I use bristle Flats and Filberts for the most part. How I use these brushes is what I am talking about here. I will use the brush on the tip of it’s edge, on the flat of the tip barely touching the surface of the canvas. I will use it in the conventional way to move large amounts of paint and I will often use the full flat of the side of the brush. Here is a shot of me using the side of the brush to paint the effect of grasses and bushes.

I will use an upward flick barely touching the surface. Actually, a more accurate description is the brush doesn’t touch the surface the paint on the brush does and is dragged off the brush with the flick of my hand. As I work my way across and done the painting I will flip the brush around letting the full brush touch make a regular brush stroke and so on. I also vary the angles that the brush touches the canvas and re-loading with paint as needed. Another thing is when I mixed the color for this I did not mix them fully. So any colors I used for the mix are also visible in their own color as well as the mixed color. This will give a very random and textured appearance.
This next shot of my palette shows a light valued gray made from the base mix (Black/Red) It looks quite light, but is actually closer to a middle value. I will use this to draw show guide lines for the patterns in the foreground and it will be the color of some patches of bare ground that will help make the pattern more interesting. After drawing these guide lines I may add more base color or more white to make variations in color and value in it so it doesn’t look like a “poster” color, and will be interesting that way along with the shapes.

Here I have drawn in the shapes. This also helps me to show some perspective in the foreground besides color temperature and value.
Looks kind of like snow in shadow :) because it appears so stark at this point, but trust me it won’t as the foreground painting progresses.
In the next picture I have painted in grasses and bushes. See how I used the guide lines? Notice several things in this. I used a variety of colors but still close in color; the closer to the viewer the more color and slightly lighter in value. Now, this may seem contrary to normal practice of making a darker value as things get closer. It is not though. We must make allowances for different situations. What is happening here is, the viewer is in the shadow but in more open area, so there is more light from the sky. Closer to the trees, not as much sky light reaches the ground, so it is darker overall. The shadows (under bushes for example) closest to the viewer are darker than in the middle ground or will be as accents are added in the finishing phase.
Other things to notice now are how I over lapped the guide lines where the grasses were next to it. I did this on the side close to the viewer and put the idea of shadow on the other side. I used this (grass overlap) and bushes to add to the perspective and to “break” a solid line. It also establishes my “vertical” and “leads” the eye into the painting If you look at the zig zag line, starting in the very foreground it takes your eye into the middle ground to a “light spot” at the bottom of the darkest trees on the left. Then it picks up with the shore line of the river and takes your eye around the bend in the river to the background. It picks up in the background mountains with the darker blue value mountain ridge in the middle and takes you to the left again. Notice how much I lightened and softened that ridge as it approaches the canvas edge. I may even lighten and soften it more so the direction of the light in the sky brings your eye back into the picture.

So you see what appears to be somewhat random really is not. It is all very planned. The other “bare ground spots of the foreground work as lines bringing your eye to the zig zag line and the focal point which all of you by now probably think is the sun glow area in the trees. A surprise is in store, so stay with me.


In this shot I have worked the foreground more adding color and value changes where needed You may notice the foreground near the viewer is warmer and overlaps of the grass is more established. There is more variation of value and color in the darker trees on the left also.
Now I am beginning to work the middle ground on the right side. I have used a vertical, almost “dry brush” stroke with a green over the warmer color that was in this area since the original lay-in. The orange color shows you how “rough” I make the mist rising from the sunlit area of the river. By the way remember when we were talking about mist, fog, etc., particulates in the air? I said the color and value depended on the situation and it took on its color from the available light sources. This is an example of that. But now back to the painting of the mist. This as I said is how I lay the paint on at first. Next I will soften it with a worn Filbert bristle brush in a “scrubbing” effect, as you see in the photo below.

I will then take a small Flat sable brush and soften it some more working the “dry brushed” tree color (green) into the mist.


I realize I need a little more red where the mist blends into the green, so I add that. Below the orange color I add some Cad. Lemon and white and blend this in. This area is now ready to work into the water that is in shadow.
This last photo shows the whole painting as it is at this point. I have not worked on the water in the shadow yet, that is next. Since I have been showing close ups, I just wanted you to see how the whole looks and see how it is all coming together. Sometimes focusing on detail shots we can sort of loose the “big picture”. I can see it since I am painting the picture as you will on your own. Any way here is the whole painting at this point.


Next I will finish off the water in shadow and work on the mountains. Be back soon. :wave:

07-13-2006, 05:26 PM
Thank you, John, for doing this.
I can't say I understand a lot of it since I've never had any art schooling except some tole classes years ago (yes, folks, tole. I admit it and my age too then I suppose). However, some is getting through to me with promises to be a help. Appreciate those promises.
Thanks again,

07-13-2006, 09:25 PM
John so great to watch you working on the landscape. The demonstration is so clear. Thanks for the lattest demonstration. :)

07-14-2006, 01:55 PM
It looks great, though I've only skimmed it for now, but I'm copying it into another file and will read it at my leisure over the weekend. :)

07-14-2006, 10:28 PM
Dynamite. Thank you, John.

07-14-2006, 11:00 PM
Here I am again. Bet you thought I had abandon you all. I haven’t, and I am extending this workshop for Saturday and Sunday, so that I can finish this up. Things have been hectic here trying to get ready to leave for Wyoming and all the other situations needing my attention. But, I said I would finish this and I will. Sorry the posting have been erratic, but it strictly to my time needs with all there is to do. I’m a “one man band”, so if it is going to get done, I will be the one who does it. I beg your patience.
Today I am painting the water and a surprise. But, first the water. I will start as I do almost always with the dark values. I define the reflections in the water. The reflection of the darks are slightly lighter in water and the lights slightly darker. It does appear very dark at the shoreline, but this is a reflection of that shoreline and are very close in proximity to the water surface, which the trees are not. Also, because the trees are back from the shoreline, the reflections are not the same size as the trees.

Notice in the reflection is some of the very warm sun glow. This is not hitting the water directly, but is also a reflection. I keep the reflections lined up with the tree that is being reflected and I keep soft edges but using the thin edge of a sable Fan brush and very lightly blending in short horizontal strokes. This blends the paint and at the same time gives the effect of ripples in the water.
Now that the darks are in and softened I re- work slightly the middle shadow under the bright lit area of water on the right middle ground. I use some Winsor Red and white for a clean pink and then add a little Cobalt Blue and ever so little black to make a violet shadow. I also do the reflections on the far right of the small spit of land.
Next I begin to paint in the light value that is a reflection of the sky. I notice that I need to bring a little more red in the shadow just below the bright lit water, so I work in a little of the reddish brown base color in there. Then back to the light value and start defining ripples in the water, I am very careful not to overdo this as it is moving water, but very smooth and fairly deep.

Here is a close up of the water. Look at the bushes. I have placed some of the water color

In spots. What I am doing now is painting the negative space. In other words I am painting the spaces between the leave of the bush where water can be seen . This will give the bushes more form when I do the finish.

Here is more of the negatives painted. You can start to see more shape to the bush, even though they are rather flat looking as yet. The next picture shows the whole painting at this point.

Now I am looking at the painting and I say to myself, “Self, something else is need in this painting for interest.” It has to be something that makes sense and will not make a change in the design, causing a lot of re-painting. It also has to add something to the painting, not just doing something for the heck of it. It needs to be subtle yet identifiable. So what do I do. I put on my thinking cap and try to think what would something naturally be there and is common to that area of the country. I got it! In the next photo do you see what I did?

Look closely at the sunglow area, on the shoreline. Here is a close up, below.

Elk. I added some Elk. Note two groups, but in the lead groups are three (an odd number), the second group is only two, but they are just emerging from the trees. Elk are seen in Grand Teton National Park all the time and this area is even very close to the National Elk Reserve, so they definitely are a common site here. I painted them with values of the base color, then added a little orange to their backs picking up the sunglow.
One has to be careful doing something like this since you don’t want them to look like an after thought and just pasted on. So one must keep the colors as part of the whole of the painting. Bridging colors really helps here because you only have a few colors and can make the needed color and values easily. You also have to integrate the new object into the painting. Though very small the Elk are walking though the grasses and bushes, not on the grasses and bushes. I also “lose” some parts of them against the surrounding colors and values. I think it adds some interest to this painting. I hope you do as well.
I have also accented with some brighter warms parts of the trees and softened the edges of them. When this painting is finished hopefully they will appear to glow. I did this to help me see how the Elk were going to “work” with the painting closer to finish. I don’t want to have to paint them out when I actually finish the painting. If they needed to be removed it would be much easier now than later.
Next post I definitely will go to work on the mountains and sky and then the Grand finish! Yeah! Right! Actually we will all see if I can pull this off successfully. :)
More to come,

07-15-2006, 09:57 AM
Fantastic!!! Your painting is quite inspiring!!! I am gaining so much from this workshop. I can't believe how much more I am "seeing" as I look for painting subjects. Again, Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!!!


07-15-2006, 11:40 AM
I've never done a semi-successful landscape. But.....I will try.......if I get 30% of what you're teaching correct....then the painting will be a definite success. Thanks again John for doing this for us. I'm still painting away....but....can't tackle a landscape just yet. But...I will..........I gotta procrastinate a bit more first.

07-15-2006, 06:48 PM
Hi Again Gang. This afternoon I am going to do the work on the mountains and then finish this piece.
I have cleaned my palette off as the mixed colors are running short and most are beginning to set up and get a little to stiff to work with and some are actually drying enough that they are getting a “skin” on them and this will start getting chunks of paint on the painting and we don’t want that. So with a completely clean palette I again mix the base color of black and red. I match exactly what I had before. This is very easy since it is only two colors and the value is controlled by the red. So when the color is right, the value will also be right. I want this mixture correct because everything in this painting has at least a small amount of this in it, therefore to get the other colors correct, this must be.
For the mountains I bridge out to the cool side, adding the Cobalt Blue and white. Once I have the color correct I make several values of it. I start on the Grand Teton itself. My brush work in this shadow area is mostly a “drybrush” technique. I do not want heavy paint in the shadows.

This is the middle one that looks like a… well a teton:o . It is the main one that gives this mountain range its name. As I side note, these mountains were first discovered by fur trappers, many of whom were French. The were first seen from the western side, looking east. We are looking west in this painting. From the other side the three tallest peaks look just like three breasts, thus the original name of “Trois Tetons”. The trappers that saw them from the east side called them the “Pilot Knobs”, because they could be seen from many miles away and they used them as a navigational reference. A little trivia for you there. But let’s get back to the painting. I first paint in the darker value of the gray blue color I am using. Here I am really drawing (remember that nasty word). This is very like what a pastel artist does on a colored paper, only in the shadow areas I am actually painting monochromatically since I am only using different values of the same color. Even the small amounts of snow on the mountains are the same color, just a light value. I avoid too much detail, only enough to give the appearance of shape.
Next I mix a warm orangey color from the base color by adding more red and then yellow Light and white. I do the same here mixing several values of this color. This is the sunlight on the mountains and then I begin painting it. Again this is really drawing. This brushwork is a combination of drybrush and light impasto. I use a small flat sable for this, only because of the physical size of these areas. Very small.

This picture (above) shows mostly the shadow work on the entire mountain area and only a little of the sunlit areas. Notice I am changing the values accordingly to each of the formations as I did in the initial lay-in. This makes them appear to be receding to the right.
In the next picture, there isn’t much change but the mountain shape is defined and I have a sharper edge on it. This will enhance the Vertical, I spoke of in the composition phase.
Now I move back to the foreground area and begin to pull everything together and do the finish work. I actually start in the middle ground by indicating through the use of slight color and value changes the trees and river bank and begin working forward.

Notice that most of the colors are cooler and get warmer as they come forward. I want to give a warning here. It is very easy to mix a nice color and correct value and it is looking great as you paint with it, so you just keep going and paint every bush and grassy areas with it. This happens almost sub-consciously. Remember think! If you allow this to happen your foreground will look like it goes up, not back. The color changes I have painted in are very subtle and get warmer. This work is done with a #2 bristle Filbert
I also add some brighter oranges and yellows in the sunglow areas of the trees and under and around the Elk.
Now I begin working with the side of a flat bristle brush adding touches of warms in the grass of the very foreground and cooling this color as it recedes to the middle ground. In places where the bare ground shows I indicate a little shadow in the grass adding dimension to it.

I soften the bushes in the foreground using a light scrubbing motion using a flat bristle brush. I add some more orange and yellow to the tree tops and defining their shapes a little more.
Now I step back, look at the painting as a whole painting, not just specific areas. I see that the bare ground needs to be lighter in value and some subtle variety, so I do that. I step back again. I like it and don’t know what else to do to it that would add anything to the piece, so I take a lunch break.
After lunch I return to the studio and look at the painting again. I still see nothing to add. Just about anything I would do, would not add and more likely would detract from it. So I carefully set the wet painting in a frame I have I the studio and set the “finished painting and frame on a display easel to look at it. I still like it and I am going to call this a done deal. All I need to do is sign it. Here it is. I call it “Teton Shadows”. I hope you like it and have learned some things you can use in your own work.


I have enjoyed doing this demo for you and the entire workshop. This does not end it though. Tomorrow I will be posting some lists of books, suppliers and so on that I think you will find very valuable as you progress with your art. I will also answer any questions you have about this demo or the workshop itself. When I return from Wyoming I will be available for more questions and will show you the finished portraits. The A/C delays, downed website and the other problems I encountered that delayed thing has taken away the time I was going to finish those two small portraits and I wanted to get the main body of the workshop in. It did get a little challenging for me towards the end time wise and I hope you will forgive me for the erratic posts, but we got her done. I’ll be here before noon (Arizona Time) tomorrow. Please be here or check in to it at your leisure, because there will be some valuable info, comments and answers to questions. See ya’ll tomorrow.:wave:

07-15-2006, 09:10 PM
Hey John, the painting turned just as beautifulll as I have expected all along the demo. Thanks for this wonderfull demo and workshop. Learned so much. :)

07-16-2006, 01:12 AM
Bravo John! It has really been great to watch over your shoulder while you paint and learn about the process of creating!

Thank you so much! Best to you these coming weeks! In the meantime while you are gone, I'll study along these demos and look forward to your return.

Happy Trails!


07-16-2006, 07:17 AM
I truly appreciate you, giving of your time, knowledge and experience. All of your paintings are masterfully painted but your landscapes really speak to me. So again, thank you John. I hope your art show is very successful and look forward to your return. I hope you will share some of your experiences at the show with us.


07-16-2006, 08:56 AM
I'm sure sad to see this end. I think I've gotten a lot better in just this little time. I started to highlight the important stuff in this demo.....but......it's all important. You didn't waste many words! You've put sooooo much info in. It won't really sink in unless I do that step by step along with you. Sooooo...guess I should get started. Gonna do a mini version though....wouldnt want to waste too much paint. :) Gotta do the second layer on the baby I painted though first....and fix her eye and nose. And....practice that "bridging". Thanks again John. Enjoy your trip.

07-16-2006, 04:07 PM
Good Morning Gang,
I hope this workshop has been informative and inspiring to each of you in some way. Whether you paint landscapes, figurative or still life and florals, the principals, I have shared with you apply in some manner. I have painted just about every subject matter in my years as a painter and I have used each one of them in someway.
All of us form work habits and ways we are comfortable with to get the effects that we are trying for. Sometimes they work, but are limiting, as they will not produce the quality we want in all cases. That is the problem with formulas. They just don’t work for everything and every problem we might encounter. But, knowing the fundamentals and understanding what we are trying to do and why will give each of us the tools to figure out a solution. Look at the idea of a clean organized palette. If you think about it, it makes perfectly good sense. How could you function in your home if it was totally disorganized and different items just piled or set any where that had room for it. It wouldn’t work very well and would probably drive you crazy in a very short time. What if you only washed dishes when you need one or two of them to prepare a meal. It won’t work. It is just common sense to organize it. Color charts are the same. They give you practice in mixing color, but more importantly they show you what the colors can do. If you do enough of this and use these limited palettes to paint, you will come to know what combination of colors makes the color and value you want and need for your painting. Manufacturers of paint love to sell you all kinds of “pretty colors”. They make lots of money when you spend your money with them. But if you look at your drawer or box or wherever you keep your tubes of paint after a year or two you will find all kinds of “pretty colors” that you only used once or twice and now they just take up space in a drawer or box. Believe me, you do not need them. Save your money. Art supplies are expensive for what you need, don’t waste money on colors you don’t need.
Now understand, I am not saying you can’t use anything but what I have suggested for palettes in this workshop. On the contrary. There are colors that you just can’t make, but can get in a tube or can make from some particular tube color. The trick is to ask yourself first, “Can I make this color or something very similar with what I have?”. If the answer is “no” then ask yourself “do I really need this and will I use it enough to justify buying it?”. If you are going to use it once or twice, there is probably a better solution. If it is something you will use a lot of and quite often, then buy it. All I am suggesting is to think before you buy. As you paint more and have some time of using these methods I have suggested behind you, you will find that you need less and less colors to accomplish your paintings. It happens to every artist that works with a plan and knowledge. I have said and shown what these limited palettes can do and I have only shown you a very small amount of their potential. Look at the paintings I posted in the introduction, watch my website as I post new paintings in the future. You will see a wide range of what limited palettes are capable of. Now there will be some that say or think, “Easy for you to say. You have all the experience with them.” Just think of this question, “How do you think I got the experience with them?” The exact same way you can get the experience with them. I worked at it and studied what I could get from just a few colors. I “made” myself paint a complete painting with only three colors plus white. I tried different reds, different yellows, blues, etc. Then I saw what each would do in mixtures of others on the palette. Was it easy. No but it wasn’t that hard either. What is hard is changing a habit (clean organized palette) and changing a way of thinking (Palettes with all kinds of colors on it to a limited palette.) That is what is hard. When you do something in painting (or in life) and you do it a certain way just because that’s the way you have always done it, ask yourself “Is this really working?” and “Is there a better way?” I have had students tell me reasons why they did something in a painting. They will “justify” it by saying things like “I always do it that way.” Or they say, “So and so (artist instructor or helper) does it this way.” My reply is “Do you think it is working on this painting?” It is the same question the psychologist on TV “Dr. Phil” says when told the same thing about someone’s life. He asks them “And how is that working for you?” when it is obvious that it (whatever “it” is) is not working for them. Same is true about a problem in a painting.
It will help you tremendously if you start identifying colors by what kind of color they are, not what they are called (tube name). By this I mean is a color warm or cool, does it have more yellow in a red (for instance) which makes it more orange like. I look at a color and say “that is an orange (warm) red” or that is a blue green and so forth. I talked about this earlier, but I want to impress it on your way of thinking. This will help you in so many ways, from color matching to what to mix that will make the color you are seeing.
Keep a record of your paintings. This is especially important if you are selling them, but even if you are not, it could be valuable to you. Keeping a record of each painting could give you a record of the palette you used and references brands of materials, any particular problems you encountered and how you solved them and so on. As an artist selling your work, it gives you a record of when it was painted, where is it consigned or what show, size, maybe even a photo of it. When it is sold who purchased it. Maybe it is the catalog piece for a show you are in, or it has been made into a print or published in a book or other publication. I keep a complete record and photo of every painting I do. I have found it very valuable even years after the painting is sold and gone, sometimes through several owners. About 3 months ago I was contacted through my website by a client who inherited it from a family member who originally bought my painting from a gallery 25 years ago. They wanted an evaluation for insurance purposes. If I had not kept a record I probably would have had trouble remembering the painting, if at all. Since I did have a record, I could give them all the info they needed and more. It also told me of another potential client for a future painting. I think you get the idea. There are computer programs (I use Working Artist 3.0) available for this and/or you can keep your own hand written log book. Your choice.
Painting is hard work. “Burn out” can be a problem as in any other line of work. I work at not letting this happen or at least reduce the severity and length of time I feel it. I read, anything that does not have to do with art. Music helps, so I listen to all kinds that I enjoy. I get out of the studio, take photos (which also gathers reference material while “getting away from it all”. This usually inspires me to get back to work. In the short term, I go out to eat with an retired architect friend of mine once a week. Sometimes we take in a movie. I will often watch TV for pure “escapism”, something I don’t have to think about, just watch the moving pictures. I call it “brain candy”. Maybe a hobby works for you, or some other activity. The idea is to do something you enjoy that is a break from your work and/or studies.
One of the most important things I want to share with you is to always THINK POSITIVE. When you do a painting and it is not what you had envisioned, instead of thinking you are just not any good, think of it as a learning opportunity. Ask yourself why didn’t it work, how can I make it better the next time. Then use it as a reason to try a different approach, or practice a weakness to make that better. When I was first starting, I would look at my work and see that I didn’t do clouds very well, so I practiced doing clouds. My trees weren’t all that good, so I practiced trees of all kinds. Now I didn’t do this mindlessly. I studied clouds, trees, or whatever I needed to know. Say you paint animals, how does a four legged animal walk, run, and so on. Learn about your subject and you will also have another tool to paint it better. I watch people’s mannerisms, how they stand, how they do any particular motion. Did you know a man will look at his fingernails differently than a woman does? A man turns his hand palm up and curls the fingers into the palm and looks at his nails. A woman tends to hold her hand palm down and slightly spread her fingers to look at her nails. What does this have to do with painting? Everything if you paint people. You wouldn’t want to paint a very feminine woman in a very manly pose now would you. It would not make visual sense and the viewer wouldn’t believe it, but might not even know why they don’t. Ever watch a horse “take a break” The horse will often stand waiting and will cock one of its hind feet to take the “load off” and it’s head and neck will drop lower than when it is moving. These are just a few minor observances, but they all help make a painting more real. Art is everywhere and all of life can be used positively in your life and in your art. Any art you do is good. At least you tried, many people quit or give up and say to themselves they are just not a good artist. That is not positive thinking. Positive thinking is trying, failing and trying to do better the next time and learning why you failed before. I was once told they don’t shoot you for making a bad painting. It’s true I have found. Heck, I’m still alive! So it must be true. My point is THINK POSITIVE in all things. I have to keep telling myself this after all these years.
Before I give you the list of recommendations, I would like to say listen to what other artists have to say. No one has all the answers. You can always learn something from any one. It might be something very valuable coming from a new beginning artist that is really good for you, but it also can be from a very knowledgeable artist and you learn “Never ever do that!” The point is you never know where you will find the gold. What I have shared with you is NOT the absolute answer to all your art questions. It is what I have learned and how I paint. Use it all, use a little, or use none, but find your way to produce the paintings you want to do. Practice, practice, practice. That is the key. I sincerely hope this workshop has helped all of you in some way. Big or small. Art is something that makes mankind civilized (though I’ve known some pretty uncivilized artists). It can bring beauty into ones life and the whole world. It is a noble undertaking, whether it is for personal enjoyment or for a living.
The List of Recommendations
“Fill Your Paintings With Light and Color” Kevin MacPherson Northlight Books
(Great for fundamentals and more understanding of limited palettes)

“Alla Prima, All I know about Painting” Richard Schmid Stove Prairie Press
(Possibly the best book on painting available. A masterpiece in itself)

“Composition of Outdoor Painting” Edgar Payne Payne Studios (great for compositon of all kinds, not just landscapes) This book can be ordered from DeRu”s Fine Art Books; 9100 E.Artesia Blvd; Bellflower, CA, 90706 (310) 920-1312 or Scottsdale Artist School www.scottsdaleartistschool.org

“Carlson’s Guide to Landscape Painting” John F. Carlson Dover Publications
(this is a “bible” for landscape painters, but I will warn you, it can be difficult to read, it’s an old book, and very few pictures, all in black and white. The info is great though)

“Color Compass” M. Grumbacher, Inc M. Grumbacher, Inc (color wheel and booklet. Good, simple explanations and examples)

“Analogous Color Wheel” Hal Reed Hal Reed P.O. Box 941, Woodland Hills, CA 91365 (818) 884-6278 ( This is not a book, but a great color wheel showing the Munsell Color System (the basis of color bridging). Really good stuff and a tool I have next to my easel always.)

Utrecht Art Supplies www.utrecht.com (800) 223-9132 (Great for paints, canvas, stretcher bars and Rhenish sable brushes. Great prices. Ships anywhere)

Jerry’s Artarama www.jerrysartarama.com (800) 827-8478 based in Raleigh, North Carolina ( great prices and sales of paints. Huge selection of all artist supplies)

Trekell Brushes www.trekell.com (great prices on the best quality artist brushes)

Century Editions www.centuryeditions.com (absolutely incredible top quality Giclee’ prints and digital photography of art. Ask for Andy, tell him I sent you. I get nothing from this, I just really believe in his work. It truly is unbelievably good work.

Well friends, I guess that is about it for now. I will be checking in for questions today and maybe a little tomorrow. I leave early Tuesday morning for Wyoming and will return in about 10 days. Ask question, If I can’t get to them before I leave I will answer as soon as I return. I hope this has been enjoyable and informative and you will be able to use some of it for a long time helping you make better art and enjoy doing it. I enjoyed having all of you who participated and those just looking in. My thanks to Nickel and bjs0704, they have been a great help to me and brought this to you all. Thank you both so much. I appreciate everyone’s kind words and wishes. You are all so very kind. Cowgirl, I’ll see you in Wyoming.
Take care all and happy painting. :wave: You all can do this!

Anita Murphy
07-16-2006, 05:55 PM
John - thank you SO much for a superb workshop. :clap: :clap: :clap: I am looking forward to putting all you have taught us into practice - particularly keeping my palette in order and learning more about painting from a minimal palette. We are extremely lucky to have had you share your knowledge with us and I for one appreciate it enormously!

07-16-2006, 08:03 PM
Huge thank you, John for this workshop. It would be much to wordy to tell you why I appreciate it like I do, let's just say this has been one of those memorable experiences we all look back on and mentally mark as a turning point in our endeavors. Bless You for your generosity. May you have a safe trip and a good time.

07-17-2006, 11:17 PM
I guess I explained myself better than I thought. No one has any questions?:) Well, thank you all again for all your kind words and compliments. They are appreciated. Just hope I lived up to everyones expectations.
I am now off to load my car and get some rest, 4am will come mighty early I suspect, and then I am off to Wyoming. I will check back in with ya'll here when I return, so if you think of questions that will be the time to ask them. I will be on the site for a week to answer the questions and then I need to start packing to move to a new home. Paint everyday and remember "THINK" don't just put paint on the canvas. Have a purpose for each brush stroke.
See Ya'll next in about 7-8 days.:wave:

07-18-2006, 11:04 AM
You did a fabulous job John. All the instruction and demonstration was clear and your answers your really good. Thanks and have a great show, you and cowgirl. :) See you in a week. :)

07-18-2006, 09:34 PM
Thanks, John! You've done a fabulous job! I've been along and it is so interesting! :clap: :clap: :clap:

Best wishes,

Barb Solomon:cat:

07-19-2006, 03:33 PM
Very fascinating. Such a lot to take in and digest. Thanks for a great workshop with interesting asides and a helpful booklist.

the landscape demo painting turned out brilliantly.

I need time to read, digest, and then attempt a landscape project.

Thanks again, John!!

07-19-2006, 03:35 PM
Very fascinating. Such a lot to take in and digest. Thanks for a great workshop with interesting asides and a helpful booklist.

the landscape demo painting turned out brilliantly.

I need time to read, digest, and then attempt a landscape project.

Thanks again, John!!

07-20-2006, 01:43 AM
Thanks, John! I'm up to my ears in 'alley gators,' but have read everything and archived it. Once I get a couple of these pesky critters taken care of, I've entries in the county faire to get ready.

Last year (acrylics) I entered two paintings (one wasn't quite done based on last minute 'gremlin' alert). The finished one took 2nd and it took third in a larger county fair in California.

This year I'm looking at entering one acrylic and at least one oil. The second oil 24 x 36 is in progress as is another acrylic. It would be neat to enter two acrylics and two oils. :D

07-22-2006, 11:37 PM
Thank you John, I'm an absolute beginner and truely appreciate the effort you have made in doing this worshop. I think I grasp the colour bridging and can now see the benifets of a limited pallette.
This is the most informative and understandable article I have seen on the net, I think you have done a superb job on it. I'm sure I will have questions when I have worked my way through it but at the minute I'm having fun learning about mixing and finding colours.
Cheers John :thumbsup:


07-24-2006, 01:57 AM
I hope this workshop has been informative and inspiring to each of you in some way.

It's been a good read, and demo with useful notes. Thanks for sharing this.

Have fun in Wyoming :) take lots of photos.

07-24-2006, 07:57 PM
Absolutely brilliant workshop, I'm still digesting it in bits working my way up to the landscape. That turned out just beautiful.
Many thanks again for this!


07-25-2006, 12:34 AM
Hi Everybody,
I am back from Wyoming and a very successful show. Had a great time visiting with Cowgirl there and enjoyed seeing her beautiful work as always. It was a very beautiful show this year with the most opening night ticket buyers ever. Wall to Wall people and they came for the art. I am happy to report that my work sold well and I want to thank the collectors and especially the Art show commitee. I have to say that I have been in many shows over the years, but this one is run better than any show I have ever been in or attended. They treat the artists like royalty and always seem to find a way to make the show and the fun better each year. If any of you get to see this annual show, do yourself a favor and go. Cheyenne frontier Days Western Art Show and Sale held at the Old West Museum in Cheyenne, Wyoming each July. It is a treat.
Anyway, I am back and i will watch this thread from now through this coming Saturday and will be happy to answer questions any of you may have. I'd love to hear from you.
I did get one question on my website. I prefer to answer here as the website is for business, but the question was about studio lighting. The answer is there are a number of very good "color corrected" light bulbs both flourescent and incandesant. Ott-Lite and Verilux are two. I use GE Chroma 50's in flourescent and north light from the big window in my studio. I also have a Luxo combination flourescent/ incandesant swing arm lamp on my palette table. The north light is best and strongest, but I keep the lights on all day long and recommend you do to. The reason for this is to lessen the color shift when the north light does start to wane in the evening.
I will say that these lights while not 5500 Kelvin (near sunlight) they are very close and are pretty close to neutral. I know artists that paint in a windowless studio with these lights and their color and value are always right on the money. most home improvement stores have several brands of these lights in stock.
More coming up, I hope.

07-25-2006, 03:51 AM
Hi John,

Welcome back and congratulations with your successful show.:clap:


07-25-2006, 07:42 AM
Welcome back! I was happy to hear your show was successful, congratulations :).


07-25-2006, 11:57 AM
Oh a very big welcome back John! Sounds like it was fun and rewarding!
So very glad to have you back!
You too cowgirl! :wave:

After you two get settled in and rested some, it would be great to hear about the ups and downs of getting ready for a show and what happens afterwards, just any tidbits you both would like to share with us. Maybe any advice to offer for first timers wanting to approach or enter an event. I think you have to work your way up to a show like Cheyenne Frontier Days Western Art Show and Sale. Maybe a new thread so we can keep this landscape workshop seperate, your call guys. Anyway, I know you both are busy. I love that. Busy with art :thumbsup:

Best to all, Nickel

Again, thanks John for all you've done here. It is a lot of information to digest and take to heart. You are the best for helping us. :heart:

08-20-2006, 12:08 AM
I just wanted to add a link to the first wip John did here at wc in case anyone wanted to review it. It is in the HOF in the oil channel.
It is a great demo too.

08-22-2006, 02:33 PM
Just a quick note as I looked at your work I see that you lightened your flesh tones with white. this can sometimes create a chalky look removing the warmth that you are looking for. instead of lightening with white...lighten with another value or color; yellow, naples yellow, sometimes the value doesn't need to be lightened but rather the cooled or warmth added to it. Such as; some people will darken a curve on the face that turns away from the forground when instead...cooling it or toning/greying it down would work better. sometimes depending on the color, you can lighten with ochre or yellow ochre light. The same with darkening. people will darken a color with brown or black...instead, use color to darken; purples, greens, blues etc.

See examples from Jeffery Mims:

Good painting.