Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Painting Winter's Wonderland

We get a lot of snow!

I live in northern Ontario Canada where Lake Superior, the largest of the five Great Lakes, empties into Lake Huron. Lake Superior has over 80,000 sq. miles of water surface and is up to 2,000 ft. deep in places. It's always very cold water, rarely freezes totally over and has a great impact on our weather. The cold north winds kicks up tremendous storms and in the winter they contribute to "lake effect snowfalls" where we get , what we call, a good dumping. One year it snowed for 3 days straight dropping almost 5 feet of snow on our city.

As a Canadian you tend to get use to Winter but I also hate the bitter cold so a lot of my winter painting is studio work. I do like painting winter scenes though and want to share two recent works with you. 

The first one is called "Just a Dusting". It's a bit of a tongue-in-cheek saying up here when one of those good snowfalls happen and we just laugh it off as a "dusting". Mother Nature has a way of bringing out the humour in us! Here the storm has just passed, the sky is clearing and the new snow sparkles in the cold air.  
"Just a Dusting" by Warren Peterson 16" x 20"  
This second one is called " A Quiet Day". The time just after a snowfall it can be very quiet. No wind, the sun peaking out and maybe a Chickadee or Blue Jay calling out as they hunt for food. This painting is a more intimate scene with a large rock face looming up in the background, over looking the lake that is just beginning to freeze over and has a light coating of snow in places. Such scenes are common here, offering you that feeling of wonder and awe that goes with nature's beauty!

"A Quiet Day" by Warren Peterson 8" x 10" 
More of these will be coming so so stay in touch by subscribing to my blog.

You can also see recent work on my Facebook page, Warren Peterson Fine Art, or connect via my web site www.warrenpetersonfineart.com

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Drawing Inspiration - From Thumbnail Sketch to a Landscape Painting

Using thumbnail drawings to work out an idea.

I've been thinking about this blog for a while now as is evident from the time since my last one.

We've all heard about the importance of drawing skills but sometimes you just have to doodle to get to an idea for a painting or to work out a suitable composition before you commit paint to canvas. Now doodle, in this case, is more correctly named thumbnail sketch. I use this term since it is one that I was taught in my advertising and graphic design days as a way to work through many creative ideas in the least amount of time.

I sometimes paint landscapes from memory but in order to stimulate a final composition I work out the idea in my sketchbook within very small squares. This scan from my sketchbook show the start:

Thumbnail Sketch for Golden Hills by Warren Peterson

As you can see I divided up the page into a number of squares and started to place landscape elements in a number of variations. Funny thing here is how close I came to my final idea at this stage. Come back to this picture later to see which one made it through!

As I work out these ideas I am always trying different placements, horizons and scale within the composition:

Thumbnail Sketches for Golden Hills by Warren Peterson

You can see in the image above how I tried out different types of trees, right or left placement and how much background I wanted to reveal. I knew I wanted a Fall painting and I also knew that in order to create depth the background hills needed to take on a larger roll while the foreground trees led the viewer into the picture.

Thumbnail Sketches for Golden Hills by Warren Peterson
Here you can see that I strayed from my original composition as I tried out a broad vista view ( top right and middle left thumbnails) but quickly moved back. All through this process I am looking at each element's position on the picture plain and its scale in relation to the foreground, mid ground and background. I also keep an eye on their relation to the edges of the "canvas". These thumbnails took about 20 minutes to do.

Once I got my general idea down I work out a scale drawing with the major landscape elements giving careful attention to the overall composition. I'm not worried about representing the trees etc. in a realistic manner as this is not meant to be a fine drawing of the scene. Here's the thumbnail worked up into a 8 1/2" x 11" drawing:

Drawing for Golden Hills by Warren Peterson

Now I usually draw Pine trees a little more realistic than what you see here but my main concern was their placement against the background and the left edge of the canvas. I transferred this composition to the canvas and got to work on Golden Hills:

Golden Hills by Warren Peterson -  18" x 24" acrylic on canvas

As I worked through the final painting I felt that bare rock in the foreground was too stark so I added some new growth to illustrate renewal in contrast to the dead tree truck overhanging the water on the island.

Working out painting or any other idea through thumbnail sketches is an efficient use of time and materials and is a great way to stimulate new ideas or to explore a theme.

I have a painting demonstration on my web site that shows you how I take the rough outline on the canvas to a final painting. It's a quick read so come by and click on the Demonstration tab at my web site.

Here's the link:


Friday, 5 October 2012

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Painting on Commission

Be true to yourself...and your client!

I like to think of myself as being a pretty flexible artist and business person. Being married for 35 years has taught me to be accommodating, compromising and a good listener although she may argue a bit with the last point!

Listening to your current and potential customers, whether through social media, at shows, via emails or face-to-face is an all-important skill that I learned from my sales and marketing management days. You can't go wrong being a good listener. After all over 70% of effective selling is listening... to what your customers want and need... not giving them what they want to hear!

I am a small business person first and an artist second. Many would argue that we artists need not worry about the "business" since sales will come if our art is good...and accepted. Well that may happen but nothing is sold without a maker and a buyer getting together to close a deal. 

My product, the art, is unique to me in that I made it! Think of it! We create, find a market, communicate its availability and our product (hopefully) sells. Nothing could be better!

I get asked from time to time if I will create a painting from reference that is not mine but holds special meaning to the potential client. Firstly I ask if it is their own reference photo. If not I usually ( unless I have something similar) pass. I also can go to the site, do plein air sketches and take my own reference shots.

One recent commission happened by chance. A Facebook friend saw one of my posts about a new painting I did and inquired if it was for sale. Unfortunately it had just sold but I offered to paint a similar, not the exact, scene as a commission. I sent the reference shot off and it was accepted with my caveat that I can take creative license which was agreed along with the 50% down payment. They loved the sky reflections and the ripples in the water. The dramatic sunrise was inspiring for them. It was to be a Christmas present. I listened.

I completed the painting in about 2 weeks and since it was for a local collector I hand delivered it to their home and even helped with suggestions, as asked during negotiations, on its placement in the home. The client was thrilled with it and after a leisurely coffee together I made my way home with the final payment. 

Funny thing happened that evening. My client couldn't wait until Christmas to give it to her husband so she gave it to him that night!  I like to think that she was really happy and excited about the painting! So was he!!

Here's the painting:

"One Summer Day" by Warren Peterson. 16" x 20" acrylic on canvas
I've learned a lot of lessons in my 40 some odd years of painting, selling and marketing but the key one has always been that there is nothing like a happy customer. 

Remember that the best advertising is Word Of Mouth, so be true to yourself as a business person and artist while being true to your customers. You can't go wrong with this lesson.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

A Visual Feast

Renewing your faith in colour

Fall is the time of year where we, as artists, renew our faith in colour and just let it out - loud and bold!

I use this time of year to reflect on why Fall is important to me as an artist - great scenes with strong light, high drama and cool, clean crisp air with that distinct smell of fallen leaves. Nothing better than walking down the path in the woods shuffling the leaves under your shoes!

Here's a new Fall painting. I was driving home from our cottage on Lake Superior when I saw this passing storm and the sunlit hills. It left an indelible mark on my memory, just like the smell of fallen leaves!

After the Storm by Warren Peterson 12" x 12"

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Two Paintings Can Go A Long Way!

Letting Your Babies Go!

Funny how things just come together sometimes! The collector who purchased the two paintings in my previous post just bought one more based on an email that I sent out! Here's the painting.

"It's a Good Day" by Warren Peterson - 16" x  20" 
In addition a new collector contacted me to commission a sunrise painting based on the one above! That painting is in the works.

I had a solo show this past July and also had a jury select me for inclusion into the Queens Walk Art Show in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. New works were shown including:

"One Spring Morning" by Warren Peterson - 16" x 20" 
 "One Spring Morning" is a departure for me in that I was more interested in the tonal effects vs. a panoramic landscape. This painting has been submitted to the Northern Ontario Art Association jury show.

"Nature's Paintbrush" by Warren Peterson 5" x 7" 
"Nature's Paintbrush" is sold as well, to local collectors who also have one of my works. They saw it at the Queens Walk Show and called me a few days later to purchase it. This painting is one of my smallest works and I really like the way it turned out so more are in the making at this size. For example, here's...

"Taking the Long View" by Warren Peterson - 5" x  7" 
I think I will try this size plein air!

My solo show generated a lot of publicity and two of my favourite paintings sold, both to new collectors!

This one, "Standing Guard, Agawa Canyon" can be seen from start to finish in the Demonstration page in my web site here http://www.warrenpetersonfineart.com/demonstration.html

I have my "special" ones and this is one of them:

"Standing Guard - Agawa Canyon by Warren Peterson - 9" x 12" 
I do a lot of plein air painting in the Fall and one of my favourites, "Sand River Rapids" was also sold at my solo show.  This was bought as a gift to the purchasers' son as a new house warming gift. They love the painting! Here it is:

"Sand River Rapids" by Warren Peterson - 10" x 12" 
Next up -  From Doodle to Painting! How to take an idea to a completed landscape painting.

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Monday, 16 July 2012

Getting Intimate With Nature

New Works

I chose the title to help convey a very real feeling I get every time I put brush to canvas. It's hard to describe but if you can get outdoors to sit, hear, smell and taste the great outdoors with it's clean air and natural sounds you'll know what I mean. These new paintings are intimate "portraits" of those special moments. 

I've been busy preparing for a new art show and here's a few pictures of some new paintings that will be in my upcoming jury entrance only Queens Walk Art Show in Sault Ste. Marie, Canada. 

Belleveu Morning 16"x20". Our local park on an early morning walk

The Long View 5" x 7"
Island Hopping 5" x 7"
"One Of A Thousand" 8" x 10" - One of the thousand or so islands in the Thousand Islands

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

"The Landscape Art of Warren Peterson" solo art show is now on!

25 Paintings on View July 1-31, 2012

I haven't blog for a while and this is why! You can now view the largest selection of my paintings in one place from July 1-31 at the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.

All are for sale and a portion of every sale goes to support the CBHC.

Some of my largest and smallest works are on display including a selection of my plein air works that I am selling. Here's a few that you can see live!

"Fall on the Goulais" 10"x12" plein air

"Fall" -  9"x12" 

"Hanging On" - 9"x12"

"Storm's a coming" 24"x36"

" The Wild One" 18"x24"
"What a View" 24"x48"

Monday, 4 June 2012

New Collectors for Warren Peterson Fine Art

A short intermission from my regular blog.

I love it when a new collector comes forward and wants to buy one of my landscape paintings.

But when one comes forward and wants to buy two I want to make some noise!!

So here's my " Yahooooo!"

Lake Superior Sunset and I'm Not Moving are destined for Ottawa, Ontario, Canada to an old acquaintance and her husband.

Congrats to the new owners. I appreciate your business and love for my work!

I'm Not Moving by Warren Peterson
36"x24" Acrylic on board
Lake Superior Sunset by Warren Peterson
11"x14" Acrylic on board

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

A Little KISS Goes A Long Way

Nature's canvas.

All you could ever ask for in a painting is right in front of you when you're painting "en plein air". Keep It Simple...

Let loose with all your visual soul when painting outdoors. But first smell the air, hear the wind, birds, insects all around you. Give yourself up to the experience and you will be exhilarated in the immersion with nature. Sit and contemplate what is in front of you before you start. Take your time. Enjoy it. This time out before you paint will prove to be valuable later on as you rush to capture the light. Your time "seeing" is well spent. Never, ever rush that time. Drink it in and translate that into paint on canvas or board. The memories of the scene will be with you for a long time, helping you when you're back in the studio. Try it.

The Old One -  10"x12" Plein Air Sketch  at
Pancake Bay, Lake Superior by Warren Peterson

Monday, 28 May 2012

Simply Put, Plein Air Rocks!

To KISS or not to KISS.....that is the question!

I'm going to post a few short examples of plein air work to illustrate how important it is to think shapes, light and values when painting outdoors.

I'm sure most of you have heard of KISS ( no, not the band) but in case you haven't it means - Keep It Simple Stupid. It's something that I try to subscribe to, especially when I paint en plein air. 

When you're outdoors at all kinds of different locations and weather it is doubly important to think KISS. Why? Because your time is valuable and light doesn't care about your time, so you need to learn how to get your impression of the scene down quickly, accurately and with your emotive response to it in paint. 

Fall on the Goulais - 8"x10" by Warren Peterson Fine Art

This small work is a good example of getting it down quick but with emotion and clarity. It shows the light direction, various species of trees and has a foreground, mid ground and background. The idea is to get the general shape of the hills and tree colours down fat while holding onto that first emotive response to the scene -  the OMG what a view! Here's another one.

Off Ranger Lake Road - 10"x12" by Warren Peterson Fine Art

This sketch is one of my favourites. It has all the elements of a good painting with delineated focal point and a simple handling of the background to keep the foreground trees etc as the focal point in the picture plane.

You can't replicate a fine fall day in Northern Ontario in paint but you can try to get that first emotion down while transferring what your eyes sees to what you feel on the board.

More to come on this.

You can see a whole range of plein air and studio woks on my web site, connected via "About Me" on the right hand side of this blog.

New Work

This is one of my new paintings. It's called " What a View". 24" x 48" on gallery wrapped canvas. It is currently available for purchase. Contact me for details.

"What a View" 24" x48" by Warren Peterson Fine Art

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Optimizing Photo Reference in Landscape Painting

To Crop Or Not To Crop! 

I take a lot of landscape photographs. Panoramic, far, near, close-ups, it doesn't matter. I'm a photo junkie. Just ask my wife who always complains that we have more shots of trees than relatives when we travel!

I paint from life en plein air and I also paint from photographs as I noted in an earlier post. When I shoot a scene I try to compose the best shot in the viewfinder so that any future composition is "ready made" but there are exceptions to this and they have to do with cropping a photo on your computer.

I look at enlarged shots on my computer screen to not only see details but to see if there is another picture inside the larger one just waiting to get out.

Making the best use of a photograph.

Using a simple photo editor I can crop out select areas of a photo to see if it makes a good composition. For example in this photo I took a small area, cropped it and then enlarged.

From photo by Warren Peterson, Warren Peterson Fine Art

It has the makings of a cool painting -  single focal point, good use of negative space and a strong foreground. It so happens that the original photo is a much broader shot. It has a lot of character and unique elements and the two photos are good subjects. Here's the full shot.

Photo by Warren Peterson, Warren Peterson Fine Art

Judicious cropping can solve a number of composition issues. Let's say you really like a possible subject and take what you think is a great shot of a great looking tree, as shown below but on review there is to much detail on the right side of the photograph and the composition is lop sided.

Photo by Warren Peterson, Warren Peterson Fine Art

In this crop I looked for the opportunity to tell the story of the main tree while getting some flavour of its setting. Here's what I did.

From photo by Warren Peterson, Warren Peterson Fine Art

The tree trunk here is now a small landscape unto its own! It would make a great 18"x24" painting and I would even consider taking out some of  the background trees.

Be picky!

Artists train their eyes to see the possibilities in a scene and in landscape painting training your eye to edit out too much information is very important for you to grow. Landscapes are rarely all made up just perfect for an artist. You need to be selective and learn how to edit a landscape, either while painting en plein air or in your studio using photo reference since reproducing the details in paint can drive you crazy. Some artists revel in this challenge, others like to let your eye fill in the blanks.

In this shot you can see a great looking waterfall with the fast flowing river descending into the foreground.

Algoma waterfall, with permission from Eric Peterson, Photographer

There's at least two other compositions in this shot. One is a close-up of the foreground.

Algoma waterfall close-up, with permission from Eric Peterson, Photographer 

The other is a close-up of the background.

Algoma waterfall close-up, with permission from Eric Peterson, Photographer 

Three paintings in one! Always edit from their original raw or largest dpi state to get the best results. Reduce their size by choosing a percentage lower than 100 before cropping so you can see the whole photo.

Get personal.

Getting close to your landscape subject is near impossible for some scenes unless you have eyes like a hawk or a telephoto lens. I don't have either so I rely on a few clicks on my laptop to see what a scene may look like. Then again some scenes are best left alone. For example, we all have seen some incredible sunsets and are overwhelmed by their beauty, but try to paint one to capture that fleeting moment. In this cropping I was looking for a section of the photo that would give me the drama yet not so detailed as to start to look too busy. I cropped it like this:

From photo by Warren Peterson, Warren Peterson Fine Art

A little plain looking at first but it has some great colour and the sky is the hero. The original shot is one of my favourites, taken one early fall evening at our cottage on Lake Superior. And yes it was really like this!

Lake Superior Sunset by Warren Peterson, Warren Peterson Fine Art

Get cropping! 

Whether you have a great selection of landscape photographs or a tired collection and little time to add to it you can jump start your painting by looking at them with your artists' eye and an editing function on your computer. Try some out. Play around with the editing settings and give your photographs a new chance to become a great work of art from your artistic interpretation of the scene.

Who knows what's lurking in your camera or photo file just itching to get out.

Happy cropping!

Friday, 4 May 2012

I'm a tree hugger!

A funny thing happened to me on way to becoming the landscape artist I am. I became a tree hugger! I love trees. Any kind of tree but especially Pine trees. Their hardiness, diversity and character all speak to me as an artist and naturalist.

I live in a part of the world where pine, cedar and spruce trees are common and if I drive a few hours north just about all I will see is pine since I live close to the edge of the Boreal Forest, where deciduous trees begin to make way for coniferous forests.  The White Pine is my favourite.

Pines dominate the landscape
It grows to a great height (up to 100 meters or about 300 ft.) and mature specimens can dominate the landscape vistas as seen here in these pictures. It's a great tree to paint in that it's branches look like out-stretched arms embracing the sun and the land below.

They offer shelter to birds and forest animals. One close to my cottage studio on Lake Superior has a Bald Eagle nest and the adults come back every year to raise their young.

It's not a hard tree to paint but it takes some finessing when you get down to details to help bring out their individual characters.

Detail -  The Wild One

To paint pines I like to start with a solid foundation that will either present itself as a forest or an individual tree. For this I use a mixture of Hookers Green, Dioxazine Purple and Burnt Sienna. This gives me a nice warm dark that suits their basic structure and will provide the shadow areas for the tree branches or masses.

Here in this detail from "The Wild One" you can see how I blocked in this mixture over the sky. I kept it very loose and transparent.

The Wild One

I don't worry about details at this point as all I am concerned with is getting the overall shape of the forest area and individual trees on the right down. Over this I rough in, with very loose brush strokes, a light green using Ultramarine Blue, Cadmium Yellow Light and a touch of Cadmium Red Medium and Yellow Ochre to grey it down. I mix up a number of pools with lighter to darker values of this mixture on my palette. I pay close attention to the way I want the branches to lie and the dappled sunlight hitting the highlight areas. I have an old watercolour brush with a slanted edge that I use for this. I virtually stab the paint onto the canvas to get this effect and look for happy accidents.

Detail - Rocky Mountains
Here you can see the stabbing effect over the darker base. I treat this almost like stippling with the brush, rapidly moving over the area to give it some semblance of randomness that you see in forests and trees from a distance. The eye fills in the blanks!

The detail below is from a 9"x12" painting. Here you can see the darker base area with the overlay of lighter green to highlight the sun lit edges.

Keep it loose but be sure of your shapes and the direction of the tree's branches to keep it life-like.

Detail -  Standing Guard, Agawa Canyon

This very old White Pine, is located in the Agawa Canyon Park which is about 
a 3 hour train ride north from my home town of Sault Ste. Marie. Every year thousands
of people travel to the canyon for a few hours and a few decide to camp out there. 
This area was made famous by Canada"s Group of Seven artists during their trips 
here in 1918-20. 

 Here's the paintings for the two 
previous detail shots to show you
how it looks at full image

When you're out and about sit 
down a really look at trees.
And while you're there take
deep breath and hug
a tree since without 
them we wouldn't be alive.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Brushwork Through Thick or Thin.

There comes a time in a painter's life that the brush seems to take on a life of it's own, especially when painting en plein air. Lots of practise and many mistakes imprint themselves over time, making your instinctive handling of a passage look easy to some but all those maddening and wonderful mistakes add up to confidence with a brush especially when chasing the light outdoors.

Those strokes also seem to take you to another place when you're back in the studio working the sketches up into larger works, so much so that when you stick your nose into the finished work you sometimes say to yourself "how did I do that?".

The Painterly Approach 

Detail -  Man Vs. Wild 
I'm going to spend some time on this blog looking at how brushwork, with a loaded brush or in a thinly painted passage, can add substance to your paintings in the field or back in your studio.

I've taken sections from a few of my works ( you can see the whole paintings in my web site linked via About Me to the right) that in their own right could be assumed to be full works on their own. Click on each image for a larger view.

Look at this detail to the left. After loosely painting in the tree trunk I took my mid value green and laid it on to establish the main masses. This was a nice summer day with some wind so I wanted to highlight the haphazard growth on this old pine and the storm damaged broken top.

Next I took a green on one side of the brush and another lighter one on the other side. Applying the darker side with a sweeping motion laid in a good strong background on top of which I quickly applied the lighter green very lightly to pick up the darker under colour. I moved on to other sections to let this dry. While doing so the light changed a bit, throwing some deeper shadows under the branches. I liked this and added the darkest strokes to capture that moment.

Detail - Breezy Day. Private collection.
You have to work fast at this with acrylics and, as I said earlier, it takes some practise but the sweeping, loaded brush effect can add a lot of depth. Your brain can add in the details.

This is another example and the "thick over thin" method can be seen here. I usually work from background to foreground, top to bottom so I can overlay the various passages. This was a very windy day and I painted the clouds first in thin washes of blue, gray and white for this section. The loose brushwork in the clouds adds movement to simulate the wind direction. After laying in the tree trunk I took a very loaded brush and carefully added the wind-swept branches and needles of this very old pine in the same direction as the clouds. A light, stabbing upward motion with the brush, coupled with holding it horizontal provided some happy notes on the board. I was in the moment.

Detail - On the Agawa. Private collection.
When travelling I usually take about 6-8 colours with me. You never know when one will work better than another. I do have standard palette.

For this painting to the left I only took my 4 basic palette colours as the location, the Agawa Canyon, is located in a very remote area. I had Cadmium Yellow Light, Ultramarine Blue, Alizarin Crimson and Titanium White. This detail is from a painting that was done in about 90 minutes as I had to catch the train back to the city. After laying in the sky and a darker value for the distant mountains in this canyon I went to work on the mixture of hardwood and pine trees. I worked from background dark trees to mid-ground light to foreground dark again. I used a different brush technique on the light green trees by taking a loaded brush, holding it at the tip of the handle and slowly let gravity take over as I gently let it drag from top to bottom holding the brush parallel to the board. I carried the green as a light wash over the distant blue hills to create their treed tops.

Thin and loose. A great combination for distant views

Detail - Pancake Bay
Keeping your paint passages thin, that is without impasto, is a great way to simulate distant places in the picture. These pull you eye back and when combined with receding values give the illusion of depth on a two dimensional surface.

Here you can see how I modulated the background hill with values and various shapes in the brushstrokes to show their underlying structures, vegetation and shadows from the clouds, whose shapes were first blocked in with gray and overlaid with a light white/blue mix. By pushing the clouds shapes around from up-sweeping brush strokes and dabbing semi-white highlights you can get a nice transition between the darker belly of the cloud and the lighter tops. Adding the darker trees at the lake edge further enhances the distance between the lake and the hills.

Detail - Spring Morning Algoma. Private collection.
 Holding your brushwork in reserve is a specific strategy that you can use to ensure that the mood of the painting and its emotive statement is conveyed to the viewer. The detail to the right is from an 18"x24" painting where brushwork was subordinated to colour value and shapes. I wanted a more slick surface in the final painting to give the viewer a chance to set themselves on the shore and look to the distant hills that are too far for details. Your eyes fill in those distant details. The mid-ground shadowed areas act as a foil to draw your eye to the sunny hills and lighter foreground in the finished painting acts as a step into the picture.

You can view the full painting images on my web site via the About Me section at the top right. You will find them in the Plein Air and Archive galleries and can click on them to enlarge.  While there take a look at the Demonstration page to see more of my technique.