Going Big Just Makes Sense
Jeremy Lipking shares his size-conscious approach to painting landscapes–showing us how to simplify and increase the power of any composition with large masses that are built on until the last deft highlight is put in place. Take his process and see how it can work for you!
Start with a Study
My process for painting landscapes is much the same as it is for painting the human form. Spring Waterfall is based on a scene I’ve painted many times, yet I find that this place never grows old or fails to entice.
I started with a 8 x 10 study painted en plein air. While I was sitting in front of this cascade of water frothing everywhere, I focused on one thing: analyzing the light on the rocks and the movement of the water, recording what I saw for later use in the studio.
Back in the Studio
Back in the studio I sat with my study, looked at photos I’d taken and then began a series of sketches with vine charcoal on plain paper. These are very simple abstract drawings that I use to work out the big shapes and the movement within the painting. I ultimately chose the top right composition..
See how I took note of the large shapes of the rocks and the water. Seeing these two elements as standalone masses helps to order movement, positioning and the overall feel of what would eventually become my painting.
I toned the canvas with burnt sienna and ultramarine blue, and blocked out the light-and-dark pattern. Working with a big brush, I make big strokes and keep an eye on the big shapes. Size matters at this stage!
At this point I began painting at the top of the waterfall, finishing each section before I moved to the next. Because I’d planned the whole painting with the color study and sketches, I could see the finished work clearly in my head. All I needed to do was put what I’d envisioned onto canvas.
Changing the Game
I deviated a little from my vision by slightly adjusting the shapes and sizes of the rocks. Small sketches don’t always translate perfectly when you blow them up, although I remained fairly close to my sketch and the initial block-in. Studies and sketches help, but my most important tool is my memory.
With the addition of some thick paint in the foreground whitewater, I completed Spring Waterfall (oil, 30 x 40).
The Artist & Additional Resources
An artistic atmosphere surrounded Jeremy Lipking from his earliest days, as his father worked in a home studio as a professional illustrator. Jeremy himself broke into the contemporary art scene in 1996, when he sold his first paintings (watercolor landscapes) at $500 each. These sales provided an unexpected windfall for the 24-year-old who was juggling art studies, work and family responsibilities. Winner of numerous awards, Lipking felt success hit home in a different way last year at the Los Angeles Art Show when Barbra Streisand confided to him that she was familiar with his work and counted herself an admirer.
Discover more about Lipking’s process in “Drawing Out the Riches” by Louise B. Hafesh in this past issue of The Artist’s Magazine.