Lake Como W.I.P. & Demo

I mentioned in my last post that I had a new painting in the works, and I thought I'd attempt a little demo with this one. I say "attempt" because my laptop finally gave up the ghost, and these days I tend to do a lot of my writing via my mobile. Not only am I "all thumbs" (literally) but I have to sneak it in before my phone gets snatched away by the chubby little hands of my daughter who wants to "see pictures" whenever she sees it emerge from my pocket. This will be a painting of the beautiful fishing village of Pescallo. Pescallo is a tiny, sleepy  little place that sits just down the slope from Bellagio (also very beautiful). In fact, I could see Pescallo from the balcony of my Bellagio hotel, and the drama of the light as it poured over the mountains and harbor beckoned me to take a stroll down there many mornings before we started the day's touring.

I begin by sketching out a compositional plan that is also a value plan for the painting. I do this using light, middle, and dark value gray oil paints in my sketchbook. I often do a similar thing with Tombo pens (the grayscale ones), but mostly when I am painting outdoors as a way to quickly hone in and get a handle on my composition (in an environment that is bombarded with stimuli). But it is a good practice with studio work too. The oils are mentioned in Kevin Macpherson's book, "Landscape Painting Inside and Out," and I have long wanted to buy these paints so I could give it a try. They are Portland Gray Light, Medium, and Deep, by Gamblin. Hey, if it's good enough for "KMac", (as my husband calls him) it's good enough for me!

notan sketch

The point of this is to see if your painting has a strong underlying structure with a unifying value plan without getting bogged down in details. This is really supposed to be more of a notan sketch at this stage, which is a very simplified thing and addresses more of the armature of the painting rather than the pinpoint accuracy of objects and shapes. It's been a while since I've done this kind of study, and I realized at some point that I had not allowed much for the fourth value I was working with, which was the white of the paper. Oops! So I had to amend my sketch a little and add in some white for the lightest areas.

Still, I feel that my plan is solid and I'm ready to move forward by sketching out a line drawing on my 24x30" canvas.

oil sketch lake como painting by Jennifer Young

For this I am using burnt sienna (Winsor Newton), thinned with Gamsol mineral spirits. I don't much use this earth color in the rest of my painting stages, and while I could mix up  a good earth for such a job using my standard red, yellow, and blue, it is more of a convenience for me to use a premixed paint at this preliminary stage. I also like it because it lends a nice warm undertone to the canvas as I go along, and it doesn't bleed into my other colors (especially the light ones like the sky) when I move beyond the sketching stage.

Now that I have a plan, I am ready to start painting with color! I'll get into that in the next post .