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Old 09-12-2006, 11:54 AM
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Smile Trees...darker than we might imagine..a discussion and sharing

I was sitting in a teacher's staff meeting this morning, and as is my habit, I bring a couple of my art magazines to peruse thru (tsk tsk...I know!). Had a Plein Air mag with me this morning...and I was reminded on something I was going to start a discussion sometime ago.

Many past write/teachers (Carlson...for one) spoke that the sky is the lightest in terms of planes and light. The ground then next lightest, and the trees being vertical appear and need to be represented darker.

That seems to make sense in theory, but then many of us painting out there especially later in the day when the sun is lower see spectacular color hitting trees such that they glow.

When we try to paint them glowing...the paintings don't always feel just right.

Often...we nearly have to paint our skies close to white so that the lighter value of the glow of the tree registers. We might choose to put a bit of complement in the sky to pit against the trees...but that can make the sky darker, and fight against the relationship of planes.

Of course, there are storms, dark clouds and all kinds of circumstances where this isn't an issue. I think of fall colored cottonwoods lit up by sun against dark mountains and shadows as well as dark clouds.

But...for the most part, it is interesting that trees can be painted dark, lean toward the reddish side, but because of the way the sky is represented and rest of the painting still feel as though the sun's light is hitting them.

I'll put up a couple examples...



the values of those midground trees are actually quite dark, but they come off feeling quite lit up...
Now...this is one of Scott Christensen's and I imagine a studio piece painted from one of his plein air...but still instrumental to consider...

here a closeup of the same-


Another of Scott's-


the trees are quite dark...but the light hitting the rocks and so forth yet gives it a feeling that the trees are struck by the sun's light..

here an Edgar Payne...


against the foil of the hazed out background...the warmer colors, though a darker value yet feel as though hit by light. Interesting???

Here one from Emile Gruppe-


By going dark enough in general...that which is midvalue appears lighter, and thus light very light...

It seems the lower light key works better at following Carlson's ideas...

One thing that Payne said has stuck with me. For better or worse, its been the cause of a wrestling...that has taken me a bit from literalism of what I am seeing or trying to see to realize there needs to be interpretation due to limitations beyond my control.

In essense we begin with a deficit as painters, and I'll remind what I have reported in the past, Payne said that where values are concerned, the eye sees approximately 400 values outdoors in nature...but that pigment is limited in only representing approximately 40 distinct values. That's a huge difference, and if we are overwhelmed with one value or intensity of color in general may find a real struggle to get the painting to hold together.

He also suggested (back around the early 1900's) that nature's light is about 2,000 to 3,000 times more intense where color is concerned than pigment is able to imitate.

If that is true...then anyone that sets out naively thinking they can literally copy nature and produce exacting realism is in for a hard awakening and inescapable frustration. Instead we are at best given chance to interpret and we hope somehow to develop the facility or skill to pass on an exciting feeling that our painting is speaking our heart or the moment convincingly.

This thing Payne said admittedly has been sorta dogging me...and it is more apparent there needs to be more creative license or we need to acknowledge it anyway, or we are back to fooling ourselves that absolute realism can be visually stated.

I think maybe Chris or Bill said it (sorry don't quite remember), but that there is the attempt to paint realism...but often such attempts lack 'REALNESS...

wow...I like that.

Here now is a work from Libby Tolley, a popular woman artist...



and I am impressed with the mid to darker value range yet feeling... holding to feeling warm, lit up...

one last one of Scott Christensen's-



perhaps in this last one...is is a combination of value contrast between snow and trees...yet the snow is not all that light in value, and secondly a complementary and color temperature thing going on...

now...I'll invite comments, discussion...examples from other artist's works you may be aware of, and perhaps we'll all benefit and enjoy....
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Old 09-12-2006, 11:59 AM
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Re: Trees...darker than we might imagine..a discussion and sharing

ah...heck, one more of Scott's..

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Old 09-12-2006, 12:24 PM
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Re: Trees...darker than we might imagine..a discussion and sharing

Larry,
Here in north Florida we have a lot of very dark trees and they are often random. As I view fields and large masses of trees they are often quite dark, having brilliant trees juxtaposed next to them, rather like a patchwork effect between values.
Love,
Linda
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Old 09-12-2006, 01:05 PM
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Re: Trees...darker than we might imagine..a discussion and sharing

Larry, this past year when I began reading Carlson's book I immediately recognized a problem in my work....my verticals (trees usually) weren't dark enough...oooooooh BINGO the lightbulb goes on When I'm painting and things don't seem to be pulling together 9 times out of 10 it's because my vertical planes aren't dark enough!!
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Old 09-12-2006, 01:33 PM
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Re: Trees...darker than we might imagine..a discussion and sharing

Hi Larry,

For me, it all about relationships. Color and value relationships. True, we are limited by the ability of our pigments, but we can portray the relationships that we see. Heck, I learned this stuff from your CD. What gets my juices flowing is just what you mentioned. Those instances when the trees are lighter/brighter than the ground. When the sky is darker than the trees. It's almost like I'm trying to say, "here is an example that doesn't fit the rules and it still works". I think I'm a student of Kevin McPherson's school of thought.
Our job is to paint pretty pictures, not necessarily to portray Nature exactly.
If we wanted to do that, we could take a photograph and be done with it. I'm always thinking, what could make this scene better.
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Old 09-12-2006, 01:37 PM
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Re: Trees...darker than we might imagine..a discussion and sharing

Quote:
Originally Posted by blondheim12
Larry,
Here in north Florida we have a lot of very dark trees and they are often random. As I view fields and large masses of trees they are often quite dark, having brilliant trees juxtaposed next to them, rather like a patchwork effect between values.
Love,
Linda

cool Linda...sounds like enough stuff (random...) to challenge and keep artists on their toes!!!
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Old 09-12-2006, 02:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JanB
When I'm painting and things don't seem to be pulling together 9 times out of 10 it's because my vertical planes aren't dark enough!!


yep...values, and as I have often said...nine times out of ten if a painting isn't pulling together, it is less a color problem, more than likely a value issue. Gruppe said that nearly ANY color scheme or approach can be pulled off IF the values are right...
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Old 09-12-2006, 02:09 PM
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Re: Trees...darker than we might imagine..a discussion and sharing

Quote:
Originally Posted by weaston
Hi Larry,

For me, it all about relationships. Color and value relationships.

yep...and a high key painting from an artist such as Camille Przewodek, can paint the trees light..but because the lowest value is a higher starting point on the value scale....it yet feels right relatively speaking, so long as you carry the rest of the painting lighter as regards the relationship determined by the key...

Quote:
True, we are limited by the ability of our pigments, but we can portray the relationships that we see. Heck, I learned this stuff from your CD.

hee hee...
okay...so, you caught me...and see I played one of the key roles an instructor often does, and that is to play dumb so that discussion can engage..yet, if we are open minded we will always stand to learn still more!!!

Quote:
What gets my juices flowing is just what you mentioned. Those instances when the trees are lighter/brighter than the ground. When the sky is darker than the trees. It's almost like I'm trying to say, "here is an example that doesn't fit the rules and it still works". I think I'm a student of Kevin McPherson's school of thought.
Our job is to paint pretty pictures, not necessarily to portray Nature exactly.
If we wanted to do that, we could take a photograph and be done with it. I'm always thinking, what could make this scene better.

Yep...
I'm always running into those nonartist types that think we artists simply make pretty pictures but then are often surprised to discover we are capable of thinking and put a high emphasis on such! There is very little we can place into automatic and hope it will turn out.


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Old 09-12-2006, 02:22 PM
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Thumbs up Re: Trees...darker than we might imagine..a discussion and sharing

speaking of Camille Przewodek, here are a couple of hers, and dang...she is good.

I tend to be more reserve, conservative...sensitive to neutrals, but her paintings as colorfilled as she pushes them just are so stinkin' good, and feels right. If you haven't checked out her work...you got to see a bunch to really get what she's doin' and appreciate it..
http://www.przewodek.com/index.html

here is one that is higher key, Wes...as I mentioned earlier-



and this one...trees darker, but you get the feeling light is warm, very present...
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Old 09-12-2006, 02:45 PM
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Re: Trees...darker than we might imagine..a discussion and sharing

Is it a matter of how we want the viewer to react or where we want to direct their attention? Below are examples by Matt Smith:

Here is an example that I think follows the previous examples of Christensen.


Here is an example of the opposite (in my opinion).


Did he use the values he did to aid in the composition and direct the viewers eye? Or was it based purely on the conditions as he saw them or interpretated them?

Interesting topic. I ask questions here because I haven't really evolved enough as a painter to encounter these in my own work but I'm interested in finding out how others think.

Tim
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Old 09-12-2006, 05:12 PM
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Re: Trees...darker than we might imagine..a discussion and sharing

Hi Larry

Looks to me that Scott's or any of the other artists 'Brown" trees he paints are in an area where they are dying and make good tinder for forest fires..They sure dont look even close to real to me.. I dont care how famous they are thats the way I see it.

The ladies painting is more real with the green and oranges of summer and fall. Any of the others with a green hue to them..

Colour differences is not values to me .. Hues of the same colour are values to me.. So to say brown ugly looking trees is a different value to green ones like your asking/saying in the last couple of pics to me is wrong.. Those are colour comparisons..

But then again I am probably wrong..

Johnnie
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Old 09-12-2006, 08:31 PM
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Re: Trees...darker than we might imagine..a discussion and sharing

hey Johnnie...sure respect your having your own tastes and druthers for sure!

I myself wouldn't mind my trees appearing to make such good tinder...
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Old 09-13-2006, 02:22 AM
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Re: Trees...darker than we might imagine..a discussion and sharing

It's my opinion that when you have to paint the sky almost white for your trees to feel dark the trees are not dark enough. I think most painters paint to light in general, only making use of part do the value scale and not having enough contrast. I always go as dark as I can first, gives me more choice/ range. Working from photo's helped me push my darks. Sweet examples by the way.













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Old 09-13-2006, 08:59 AM
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Re: Trees...darker than we might imagine..a discussion and sharing

those are most excellent examples and a great contribution to the thread content, Bill...much much appreciated!!!!

I've had a few paintings where I have painted the sky nearly white...with success, but it is for the most part as you say!



one example where I used a very light near white sky, Bill...but otherwise, my skies are painted and colored. This one was an experiment and one to push for glare...


love those examples you have shared...!!!
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Old 09-13-2006, 10:57 AM
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Re: Trees...darker than we might imagine..a discussion and sharing

Gruppe said that nearly ANY color scheme or approach can be pulled off IF the values are right...

Easy to say (know) MUCH harder to do
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