Nature can be a confusing jumble of elements that need to be simplified and organized if you want to create a successful painting. To help me in this simplification process, I rely on a system of threes—three shapes, three values and three colors. That is, I start by reducing the land mass to three shapes, plus the sky, which I limit to three values. I then develop the image with a palette made up of a warm and cool variation of each of the three primary colors. This system allows me to create strong, clearly focused landscape scenes that cut straight to the heart of my subject.
First Light, Zion (oil, 11×14)
Once the three major values are in place, I begin adding variations in value. As I build these variations, I simultaneously model the forms. Again, it?s easier to model forms by limiting yourself to three values, with one being dominant. In order to be accurate, I must get the first value right. Then I can use it as a point of comparison for the values to follow, piecing the painting together much like a puzzle. To avoid getting stuck with all midtones, I may first put spots of my darkest and lightest values on the canvas. This lets me to make more accurate judgements. When modeling a form, I?ve found it?s important to keep the values within that form close together to avoid fragmentation. I use high-key color notes as the highlights and low-key notes for accents. I also may shift color temperatures with a form to add visual interest and increase the illusion of dimension.
The Color of Winter (oil, 11×14)