How Using A Mini Series Can Help Artists Explore One Idea in Little Time

Just like television, artists have mini-series too. An like TV, they aren't always polished fleshed out ideas ready for the big screen, or in this case, larger formats. Recently I did three images of the same plein air sketchs, but it was the sketch variations I wanted to explore, rather than the selecting one sketch. The next three blogs will look at how these 5x7 pastel mini paintings varied the design slightly.

Exploring the Diagonal Composition

What drew me to the series of plein air notan thumbnails was the strong diagonal composition of each. But the series of very similar drawings explored subtle placements of a counterbalance smaller grouping along the diagonal lines. My interest in this series sprung from my curiosity to see how the movement and size of the counterbalanced elements might effect the whole painting composition. To my surprise, as the series progressed, other composition designs began to pair up nicely with the diagonal design.

The above is one of five thumbnails done outside in a recent Brown County Park visit in Southern Indiana. In one of the upcoming followups I'll show you all the drawings. The trees were bare, the grass was not green but the shapes were there.

Creating the Throw-away Art

After painting with such great plein air painters as Mary Ann Davis, Corrine Hull, Donna Short, and others last April at the IPAPA First Brush of Spring. I learned quite a few artists consider the first painting at an event to be a throw away. It often is not a throw away, but going into the first painting, accepting that it will be takes the pressure off.

That bit of advice has helped ever since. Knowing I wanted to do this series, I used that mentality to create the first image above. Another thing I learned about painting in the midwest was that green dominates most representational paintings and is a horrible color to use for a dominate color -- so I picked it to be my dominate; afterall, this first one was going to be the throw-away, so why not add an additional challenge.

As you can see green is the predominant color at the top of the color wheel. I decided on a harmonious color scheme so I picked four colors and blocked in the sketch, rubbed it out with my pipe insulation. Then I to work on using the colors to create some depth since the horizontal line of trees would be dictating my middle ground, foreground and background.

Blue greens were the far right and of coarse red is the complement. These were laid into the darker areas first then the greens were over those.

What I learned

  • Green still is a horrible color to use as the dominate color

  • Breaking the diagonal line as I did with lights in the top image didn't work as well as I wanted. I thought at the time I could break it with light and darks to move the eye through. Now I think it segmented the flow of the line moving across the canvas.

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