Originally Posted by Sonni
"The effect of nature at the moment sets the key. Put the subject down in shadow first, then in sunlight.
Separate into big passages of light and shade. Get the big simplicity of foreground in relation to the mass of sky. In doing the sky concentrate on something in the study to get its relation to the landscape. Always have something within about 10 feet with which to compare the color values of your distant objects.
Avoid distant views, paint objects close up. If the foreground is well done, the distance will take care of itself..." [page 55]
I have Hawthorne's book too...some good stuff in there, but not really sure I'd agree this statement ought to be followed verbatim. Also, not to put you on the defensive Sonni...as though you were suggesting anything of the sort...but for the sake of learning and discussion around here I'd like to offer some thoughts perhaps contrary to this. To that end...tips to follow for "Successful Paintings" will also demonstrate that perhaps even that which is successful will vary in definition. Degas after all believed that Sargent was not deserving of being called an "artist."
For one...light is different from one part of the country to the next, one part of the world to another. Light, the moment...that which you see can be so fleeting that not indicating the light first (if that's what your gut hunch suggests) risks losing the moment. Painting on a white ground or support makes painting the shadows first logical, but I've developed a habit of priming my surface with a warmer light to mid gray. The darker support allows the strokes indicating light to be seen immediately...
in fact, I've been playing with gouache of late, using various toned and colored supports, but even black...and the results have intrigued me that I inquired of a friend just last night to take her up on her offer to try some of her black gesso she has...
For example...to paint this one of the Hiles Deer Trail...I went right for the light...
Here is the work...6"x 8" (image size) on 8"x 10" black 300# drawing paper...and show its beginning block-in of light that follows-
in another, 5"x 7"....the "Access Road"...and another black paper,
the blocking in-
here you see I've indicated the light of sky and light hitting the road, grasses hit by light and so forth...
These are just studies in gouache, but they demonstrate my habit even with oils that often it is important to nail the light before it is gone.
We have a saying in Wisconsin, especially the north woods where we are hit with Canadian weather fronts, Lake Superior and Lake Michigan effects...that if you don't like the weather, wait around for 15 minutes!
In one afternoon...you can have sunshine, rain, snow, overcast, and back to sunshine.
The other thing Hawthorne said here I don't agree with...that is to avoid distant objects. I think its relative to what your world is. For example here in the midwest we experience farms, things across open water from a distance...
Take Marc Hanson's lovely painting, Fortress Minnesota-
this distant shimmer of light off the structures of this farm are one of those things we've come to love of Marc's work.
I wish we had Hawthorne here to comment...but when a comment of a past teacher/painter does resonate with our soul, so-to-speak...it perhaps is good to run with it and see what one may learn, but do prepare yourself not all will agree or do things the same. That too is okay, and part of what makes art so intriguing to look at, and to pursue..
I imagine Hawthorne might say that the darker ground, whether a midgray or as my two examples here the extreme of black...has already represented the shadows simply needing to be carved or sculpted out; but, by having a darker ground your concern starting out can be to focus on the effect of light itself straight from the get-go and that allows you to jump on the moment before the light changes...