This demonstration is from “Familiar Sights That Never Were” by BJ Foreman in the July/August issue of The Artist’s Magazine.
“Autumnal Tonalities” By George Shipperley
I base my landscapes upon years of observation of the natural world, but the particular scenes I depict come from my imagination. For the painting that would be Pathway, I saw in my mind a dense forest with a path going straight through.
1. Draw horizon line: Generally, when I paint a landscape, I establish a basis for the composition by first determining the horizon line. I did this in a dark color, ultramarine blue, and then added lines indicating a path.
2. Mass shapes: Still using ultramarine blue, I began massing in the shapes. I used the same color for the sky, tree, and ground masses so I could establish an overall tonality.
3. Add darks: I increased the darkness and density of the tree and ground masses, adding black to the ultramarine blue. This created a contrast with the sky and added depth to the trees. Many artists in other media avoid using black, but I find it very useful with oil pastels.
4. Blend with medium: Here you can see that the linear markings in the sky, trees, and ground have begun to disappear because I rubbed those areas with a Scott paper shop towel moistened with Winsor & Newton Liquin Light Gel medium. This blending of the marks introduced more tonalities.
5. Add trunks; subtract darks: I added the trunks and branches, which I thought of as directional compositional elements rather than as trees. I was working with an arrangement of negative and positive spaces as I established the more important, solid tree trunks. Besides drawing in the trees, I also rubbed out some of the dark mass with medium to give the appearance of light coming through the trees. In the image you see me blending the sky color and softening the edges of the trunks and branches with a shop towel. I also added some gray tones to the path.
6. Begin foliage; harmonize colors: I then introduced the ochres and yellows, making this a fall scene. At this stage I was setting the overall pattern of foliage, taking the fall colors all the way to the ground, which established how much foliage I’d add and where I’d place it. This step also helped me determine where I would put the highlights and other tonal variations. Notice that I still let quite a bit of the blue sky show through. At this stage I also began adding browns to the trunks to make them more harmonious with the foliage.
7. Add values: Applying stroke after stroke, I increased the sense of depth with additional color values—two or three different shades of the ochres and golds and yellows. At this point, much of the sky had disappeared, although I was careful not to cover all the blue; we see the sky through the trees, no matter how dense they are. I also began the tree shadows.
8. Harmonize colors; soften edges: I continued to work with the foliage. I also made the ground color and trunks more harmonious with the colors of the forest and then blended the edges of the shadows, thus finishing Pathway (oil pastel, 20×23).
In the midst of his 30-plus-year career in industrial sales, George Shipperley and his wife, Lois, opened the Henrich Art Gallery and Custom Frame Shop in Aurora, Illinois, which they ran successfully for 34 years before closing the operation in 2011. Shipperley wasn’t able to focus on his own art until he retired from sales in 1994. He’s taken classes at the Art Institute of Chicago and studied under Ruth Van Sickle Ford and Marianne Grunwald-Scoggin. He’s the first artist to have been awarded signature membership in the Oil Pastel Society; he is an award-winner in The Artist’s Magazine’s 2011 Annual Art Competition and 2014 Over 60 Art Competition. He’s also a 2014 inductee into Illinois’s Fox Valley Arts Hall of Fame. Edgewood Orchard Galleries (Fish Creek, Wisconsin), Maggie Black gallery (Galena, Illinois), Proud Fox Gallery (Geneva, Illinois), and Artisan Gallery (Paoli, Wisconsin) represent his work. He also teaches classes and workshops. For more information, go to www.georgeshipperley.com, and be sure to order your copy of the July/August issue of The Artist’s Magazine.