M. Stephen Doherty

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

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Risking Change

We all talk about risking a change in painting materials & techniques, but to actually make those kinds of significant changes can be daunting. I've decided to take those risks now that I have a new home, studio, and landscape; I can devote more time to my own painting; and I have ideas to work on that were suggested by artists I have interviewed or watched demonstrate.

Among the changes I want to make are the composition of values in my plein air landscape paintings and the palette of colors I use to create those images. Specifically, I want to lighten the value of the shapes in the distance, and I want my color choices to be less dependent on exactly what I observe in nature.

Here are a few of the paintings I've created since establishing these objectives. When working on the first painting (Blue Ridge View, 2013, oil, 16" x 20"), I made an effort to lighten all the values in the distant spaces and darken the foreground shapes in order to project a deeper sense of space. I also pushed the colors in the background towards light purples and blues while pumping up the grays, browns, and purples in the foreground.

When working on the second painting (Road to Charlottesville, 2013, oil, 12" x 12"), I reversed the value composition by making the background shapes dark and those on the right-hand side much lighter than they actually appeared. I also moved the colors toward warmer tones using the new Gamblin Warm White oil paint, as well as warm pigments like yellow ochre, cadmium red, and ultramarine blue.

Finally, the view through the trees (View From Wayne Baptist Church, 2013, 11" x 14"), is also one in which I lightened the background, darkened the foreground, used thicker mixtures of oil color, and pushed the color mixtures towards warm purples, yellows, greens, and browns. By the way, I painted a 9" x 12" snow scene in March from the same parking lot.