Monday, May 13, 2019


In one of his excellent newsletters John MacDonald outlined an exercise that intrigued me very much.
(July/August 2018 issue: link)

He combined the color scheme of a painting with the values and subject information from a photo. This struck me as fascinating, and a very valid pathway to an interesting final image. I decided to try it and started working on this painting last fall.

This past Saturday in class I finally finished it. (It lay dormant for many months – I'm not that slow.)

My source photo was one I took in Oregon a number of years ago. I am fairly sure it was in the area of Salt Creek Falls. I liked the forms of the hills rolling away into the distance, but the sky was blown out (as often happens in photos) and offered no color or value information to draw from. What the photo is lacking made me think I'd have to look well beyond it to make something out of it.

source photo taken in Oregon

My source painting was LaSalle Street at Close of Day by Alfred Juergens:

I found it in a book of art relating to Illinois put out by the Illinois State Museum in Springfield. (The book is Chicago Painting, 1895 to 1945 by Wendy Greenhouse. The painting is actually on the cover.) I believe I chose it because it's a color scheme I've never painted with. I suppose I am not a huge fan of violet, and this is all violet, blue, and orange. Regardless of that, I do love the painting, so something there was attracting me.

I did a handful of quick sketches on toned paper to move things around and help me better imagine a painting:

I also decided on a limited palette of Hansa Yellow Light, Quinacridone Red, Cobalt Violet, and French Ultramarine Blue. My assessment of the Juergens painting led me to believe I could get the colors he did with this palette and it worked out fine.

Here's the final image:

oil on panel, 11" x 11"

I further decided (to get me out of my comfort zone) to apply color in a broken, impressionistic manner (except in the lower right shadow area).

I am fairly pleased with this final painting. I would not have normally chosen this palette. The violets and oranges seemed to push the scene to a late-in-the-day, golden light kind of thing, so I went with that. All in all, a great learning experience, and one that I have suggested to my students to get away from an overly straightforward reproduction of a photo in paint.