Thursday, May 21, 2015

Sometimes you just have to stop and watch the lightning ...


Road Trippin’ II: Skirting the Storm  © 2015 Karen Mathison Schmidt
12 x 12 x 1½ inches • oil on 1.5" deep cradled Museum Series GessobordTM
private collection • Athens, Texas

I love driving under storm skies through the desert. As long as the storms are not directly upon us, that is! My mom loves to tell of the time she and my brother were driving through the desert on their way back from a trip to California and the lightning display in the clouds along the horizon all around them was so spectacular they had to pull over and get out of the car just to watch the glorious show for a while before continuing on their way.

My favorite part of painting this one was the abstract feel of the clouds and the surface of the highway. 
Here are my work-in-progress photos:

1. Here’s my reference photo, with grid lines added so I can get my composition just right when I sketch the scene onto my Gessobord.

 2. Here’s my sketch, which I did with a soft graphite pencil. You can see where I started with the car just a little bit too high. After I got the mountains and the road in I realized my mistake. Notice that the horizon line is a good bit below center, to emphasize the vastness of that stormy sky.

 3. My underpainting, using my oils paints mixed with Turpenoid Natural to make transparent washes. At this point it looks sort of like watercolor.

My palette for this painting:
Dioxanine purple
French ultramarine
Cerulean blue
Caribbean blue
Viridian green light
Cadmium yellow pale
Cadmium yellow medium
Naples yellow
Cadmium yellow deep
Cadmium red medium
Rose madder light
Permanent magenta
Permanent rose
Persian (Indian) red
Yellow ochre
Titanium white

 4. Painting the clouds, using mostly diox purple, ultramarine and white, with cerulean blue and just a few touches of rose and cadmium yellow deep (which is really orange-y) mixed with white. I wanted a slightly abstract feel for the sky, so I had to remind myself the whole time not to over blend.

I also started working on making the distant mountains grow lighter as they move farther away, darker on the left, moving to lighter on the right, as they disappear from view behind that orange hill where the road curves out of sight.

Below is a close-up view of how I made the distant rain on the mountains. I took my clean, flat brush and while the paint was still wet I just made one light stroke from the top of the purple area on that lowest rain cloud, down through the cerulean strip, into the white, stopping just at the mountain top. Then cleaned my brush by swishing it in my Turpenoid and wiping it off with my rag (a paper towel in this case), before making another stroke the same way beside it.

I repeated this for just one or two more strokes. Just a SUGGESTION of distant rain … didn’t want to overdo it! This is a detail that the viewer wouldn’t notice right off, but maybe after a few seconds of looking at the painting: Oh, look! it’s raining over in the mountains!

 5. Developing the desert colors and working on the road. The shiny part, where the asphalt has melted in the desert heat and then hardened, was fun, like some sort of abstract calligraphy. I tried not to control it too much, just enough to make it look fainter and skinnier in the distance and larger as it moves down to the foreground.

I saved the car until last.

6. I got to this point, declared it finished, and signed it, but something about the colors was just a little off balance for me. I couldn’t put my finger on just why that was until after I had studied the painting on and off for a whole day. Then I realized what it was that was bugging me: the reds in the desert and in the rocky area on the right were just a little too warm for the stormy color scheme. So I layered on just the teeniest touch of magenta on those reds to cool them down a tad -- you can see it in the red area to the left of the car in the close-up picture above, which is from the final version, below.

A subtle, barely noticeable change, I know, but it did the trick for me, and now the painting seems more cohesive, color-wise. 

Oh, and I also warmed up the yellow dividing lines in the road by layering on a little more cadmium yellow medium. And I extended that dark area between the two stripes go a little farther up before the two yellow lines seem to merge in the distance. 

And NOW I’m done!

1 comment:

Susie said...

Oh goodness, thank you!
Seeing how you start and build up to the finale is a real treat.
I've wondered how you do it......
It gives my own painting I have of yours a whole new feeling.

Um, will you ever be offering online classes? Or a video or two of you while you paint?