Last January, I visited my friends’ ranch in Ingram and painted the Plein air (below left.) The morning was overcast and misty, but as the sun peeped over the hills, the sky took on a soft pink cast. After I returned to my studio I decided to paint 2 large paintings from the one Plein air and my memories of the land. The Plein air showed a strong horizontal composition, but when painting it larger, I encountered lots of problems that were not apparent in a small format. The line of trees in the foreground stopped your eye from entering the space behind, so first I opened the “wall of green” with trees that had lost their leaves. Second, the road behind the opening sets up a curved line to bring your eye back to the blue hills behind, which picked up the lines leading you through the sky. Eyes tend to follow the light, so it’s often a good solution to make the lightest area the upper right third of the painting. In the Western tradition, we read from left to right so placing the strongest light on the right further reinforces that tendency. Moving the eye around your painting requires that you evolve from your original plan and that is a good thing. The second painting (below right) is another solution to the same riddle. Painting is just problem-solving. It’s like a never-ending puzzle that never leaves me bored.
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