M. Stephen Doherty

M. Stephen Doherty
The editor of Plein Air magazine at work

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Paint Landscapes From Sketches, Memory & Photos

9" x 12" oil sketch done on location near Ste. Stai church in Venice, Italy

Photograph of the location I painted.

The preliminary sketch done with diluted transparent oxide red oil paint on a 20" x 20" canvas.

The initial block-in of the local colors

The finished painting done from the plein air sketch, the photograph, and my memory.

Ever since my trip to Venice in May, 2009, I have been looking at paintings of the city by 19th century artists like Sargent and Whistler, as well as contemporary artists like Steve Rogers (http://www.watercolorsbyrogers.com/) and Len Mizerek (http://www.leonardmizerek.com/). I've become more aware of how those artists exaggerated the color relationships, simplified the complicated spaces, and composed the shapes and values. I decided to respond to that new awareness by painting a studio picture using the oil sketch I did on location, a photograph I took at the same time, and my imagination. I did the oil sketch near Ste. Stai, one of the many Venetian churches that Sargent painted.
In order to emphasize the abstract relationship of shapes, I changed the format of my painting from the horizontal shape of the plein air sketch to a square, increased the contrast between the cool and warm colors, heightened the bright colors, muted the dark- and middle-value colors, and used a palette knife to apply thick layers of paint that would emulate the textures of the ancient walls. Using the palette knife really transformed the painting and I'm sure I will use that technique again in other paintings. My friend Urania Christy Tarbet (http://www.uraniachristytarbet.com/) is sending me a set of palette knives she is now marketing because I told her how much I liked the effects one can get.

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