Change is Good (Part II)

In my last post I explained how I go about making changes to a previously completed painting that may need some minor tweaking to improve it. Today’s post deals with more drastic measures. This still life isn’t really that old, but almost since its completion I felt I wanted to do something different to the background. Both the shawl on the left and the angles on the right bothered me, as did the color combinations as they related to the foreground. All of these elements served to distract more than enhance the still life arrangement. 

Still life, version I

Still life, version I

So, after sanding, scraping and oiling out (as described in my previous post) my first thought was to create a very simple dark background, which is a classical approach to still life painting employed by a lot of painters through the ages. I also got rid of the awkward angle in the lower right portion of the table cloth, and carried the horizon line straight across.

Still life, version II

Still life, version II

I actually liked these changes, though without the background distractions it really brought out how evenly divided the painting was by the bottle of forsythias, making for not-so-interesting negative space on either side, only accentuated by the plain dark ground. The dark color also really brought out the remaining texture underneath, even when the paint layer was built up. So, I decided to play with it a bit, knowing I could always come back to the simple dark background if I really wanted to.

“Forsythia and Delft Blue”, Oil on linen, 20x24" ©Jennifer E Young (click the image for details)

“Forsythia and Delft Blue”, Oil on linen, 20x24" ©Jennifer E Young (click the image for details)

What I arrived upon felt to me to be both whimsical and old world at once. It almost reminds me of an antique screen or stage set of a decorative painted sky. The “clouds” served to break up the background space, and the softer, happier palette made me feel happier too. It can be a little scary to make these kind of changes but I’ve come around to the idea that  if the painting is nagging on me, the benefit of change can outweigh the risk. Have I ever “ruined” a painting doing this? Yes indeed. Occasionally my over-zealous scraping can poke a hole straight through the painting. Other times my changes may fail to satisfy me and I end up scrapping the whole thing entirely. But if I’m not satisfied with the painting as it is, it’s probably worth risking it. In any case, if I’m lucky, I have miles of canvas to go before I’m done. 

A Happy Thanksgiving Video Card!

Happy Thanksgiving friends! Here is a little start-to-finish video demo of a recently completed studio piece entitled "Snowfall in Ashland". May this painting video of my hometown bring you cheer as you prepare for your own festivities celebrating the blessings of home, family, and friends. 

Studio oil painting landscape demonstration from start-to-finish by Jennifer E. Young. See Jennifer's complete catalog of available paintings at www.jenniferyoung.com

From winter to summer, in one post!

It is good to be back to painting again. It has felt like such a long time since I have been able to stand at the easel and wipe all the cares away and just focus on art. Maybe for this reason, this painting came together fairly fluidly. This piece was inspired by a challenge from Gallery Flux, to create works for their upcoming show all about SNOW! So I thought I would experiment with a few different compositions in this theme in hopes that I'd have some good candidates to offer up for the show, and oh what fun it was! I painted from reference photos I took last winter in my neighborhood, which has its share of beautiful stately and Victorian homes.

"Victorian Winter", Oil on linen, 20x24" ©Jennifer E. Young

"Victorian Winter", Oil on linen, 20x24" ©Jennifer E. Young

And now that I have you hankering for some hot chocolate, I carry you back to summer again, with a new online auction. This plein air painting is a little larger than my prior auction listings; it's an 8x10" piece on linen-mounted MDF panel, with an opening bid of just $200. I painted this little gazebo on the dunes just in front of the beach house where my family has been staying the last several summers in Kill Devil Hills on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. I love the way the light hits the dunes right around dinner time, when the sun gets lower and the shadows get nice and long.

"Dune Shadows" Oil on linen, 8x10".  SOLD !

"Dune Shadows" Oil on linen, 8x10". SOLD!

Life in the Meadow; Start to Finish

Today I thought I'd share the  progressive steps for my newest painting of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. (My usual disclaimers and apologies about the quality of these in-progress photos apply due to lighting conditions in my temporary work space.) This view is near the little B&B where we have stayed on a couple of occasions while visiting Bedford, Virginia.

I'm starting as usual with a sepia-toned sketch thinned with Gamsol to work out the main elements of my composition. This is very loose and general, but it helps me to determine placement. At this early stage I am not overly obsessed with exactness of the forms. Unlike with watercolor, in oil painting I like to carve and refine shapes as I go along. 

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In the next steps I concentrate on massing in areas in the shadow family. This doesn't take too long because in contrast to my prior painting of the Blue Ridge which was predominantly in shadow, this new painting is predominantly sunlit, with a light source that is nearly overhead.

work-in-progress-jenniferyoung

Next steps are massing in the meadow and the rest of the tree shapes, as well as the distant mountains

work-in-progress-Jenniferyoung

Followed by the sky

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With the canvas nearly covered I work out the finer details of my primary focal area (the horses). 

LifeintheMeadowDetail_jenniferyoung

At the final stages I add some suggestions of wildflowers to the field. I also add highlights and soften edges here and there, until I achieve the illusion of depth and light I'm after. 

Voila! The final: 

"Life in the Meadow", Oil on linen, 20x24" ©Jennifer Young

"Life in the Meadow", Oil on linen, 20x24" ©Jennifer Young

Last Light on the Orchard

We are in mid-construction here trying to convert the garage to my new studio space, so I am staying close by and working in the studio, as time and interruptions permit. I am preparing for a June show at the Cabell Gallery in Lexington, Virginia as well, which is proving a challenge in my chaotic state. Nonetheless, I'm  having a bit of fun mining my photos from various plein air trips I have made to the mountains in last few years.

One most memorable trip was a beautiful long weekend trek I made solo to Crozet, Virginia. I stayed in a sweet little country cabin and explored the area with my paint kit. The orchards and wildflowers were blooming and I was in heaven. The plein air pieces I did during that trip have long since sold but through my reference photos and photos of the work I did there I developed this large studio piece:

"Last Light on the Orchard", Oil on linen, 24x36" ©Jennifer E Young

"Last Light on the Orchard", Oil on linen, 24x36" ©Jennifer E Young

A few years ago I had worked out a 30x40" painting of this same scene, but I really wanted to try this again now that my style and color sense has evolved. I rather prefer the 24x36" format to accentuate those long slivers of sunlight that are spilling across the mountains and the grass, righ before the sun takes its leave for the day.