Saturday, April 30, 2011

Landscape Design Exercise

Everyone did a great job on the tree exercise last week.  A reminder that we decided to take it outside and try a tree from life next week, April 4th, by painting a tree in the parking lot.  The sidewalk in front of the gallery is in shade all morning so we will set up there.  I believe everyone discovered last week how little color you can see in a photograph.  So, we will look for more color cues from life this week.  A 9 x 12" Canva-paper will be fine.  I'm working on a handout that discusses the planes to look for on a tree (sphere) in a double light source (sun and sky).

The following week, April 11th, we will shift gears and move from color in landscape to landscape principles.  Again, look for a photo to work from that has information in the foreground, background and mid-ground.  If you have found any, bring them in this week for me to vet.  I've attached some photos that you are free to use, courtesy the WetCanvas Reference Image Library. I am not worried about composition in the photos, the artist provides that.

Even if you don't use one of these photos, print them out to practice doing B&W comps in a sketchbook.  We will practice with them in class over the next month.  A few are difficult because they have very little information, but there was something that attracted me.  A few are difficult because they have too much information.

Monday, April 25, 2011

May Syllabus

The theme for the current session is landscape. The first project is a tree study exercise with two parts. 

First, find a tree or shrub that is roughly spherical in shape. Do not choose a tree that is feathery or wispy.  It should be in your yard or close to home and accessible from different directions because you will return to this tree numerous times over a period of weeks (or even seasons). Choose a small format.  I suggest dividing a 12 x 16" Canva-paper sheet into eight 6 x 4" rectangles.  

You will paint a series of quick (20 minute) studies of the tree, painting it in as few color spots as possible for the light situation. The purpose is not to paint a realistic tree. We are studying color temperature and light theory. What colors and values do you see in sun, fog, morning, evening, backlit, side lit, etc.  You should paint as many studies as various situations you encounter. These studies will become a reference library when you work larger landscapes from photos - so that you begin to see the color, temperature, and value that may not show up in a photograph.

We will talk in class about different light and temperature situations.

Second, on Wednesday, 4/27 and 5/4, we will do several tree studies from photographs that I provide.    In this case, the purpose will be to understand the structure of the tree and paint a detailed study of that variety of tree. Over the next few months we will do several of these in-class studies ... of an oak, eucalyptus, palm, etc.  Use 9 x 12" Canva-paper for these studies.

The rest of May will focus on discussing landscape principles (ala Carlson) and designing and painting a studio painting.  I will bring some photos in or you may use a photo of your own that I have approved.  Start bringing in photos now and I will take a look at them. The photo should be of a landscape not an urban scene and have useable information in the foreground, mid-ground and background.  Don't worry about a perfect arrangement of the elements in the photo - we will solve design problems in the comp phase.

Don't forget, this Wednesday, May 27th, I will be doing a landscape demo from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m.  Pack a sack lunch so we can get right to it!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Spring Landscape Session

Oil Painting (Session 2)
Wednesdays, 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
4/27,  5/4, 5/11 and 5/18
$140 for four classes

We will explore color in landscape with a series of studies of the same tree in different light situations.  The principles of landscape painting will be introduced, as well as the principles of design and composition, as each student designs a landscape painting from black and white comps, to color studies, to a completed studio landscape.  Lectures, demonstrations and critiques are part of the class. The instructor will work with you at your level.

There will be two landscape demos during this session: Wednesday, 4/27 and 5/18, from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m.  These are free of charge to students enrolled in this session.

To enroll in the class contact Mary through the email posted in the Profile of this blog or through her website.

Reference Books for Landscape Painting

I recommend the following books about landscape painting.  Start with Kevin Macpherson's books for your first foray into the subject.  

by Kevin Macpherson
Start here, this basic book covers the basic building blocks of painting - seeing color, mixing color, light and shadow and seeing shapes with a focus on small plein air studies.

A follow-up to Kevin's first book takes plein air sketches into the studio for larger works.  A masterful breakdown on the creative process and design.

A classic must-read, but not an easy read.  This book is dense on text, short on illustrations and requires attentive reading.  For the serious artist, but well worth the effort.  You will find something new with every reading.

A compilation of the best from many good books on the subject of landscape painting, including technical and equipment difficulties.  The author accurately sets up the challenges of painting light with pigment.  If you didn't know what you were up against as a painter, you will once you read this book.  The solutions are what your journey as an artist is about.

An excellent study of design and composition with a focus on landscape and still life.  The leap from "a painting is a picture of things" to "a painting is the abstract design behind the shapes" is a difficult concept to grasp.  This book will move you from making pictures to creating paintings.

A classic by one of the greats of the golden age of landscape painting.  Text-dense and a challenge to read.  Don't tackle this until you are well into the subject.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Mulvihill Cheat Sheet - Post This on Your Easel!

Squint !!!
First Pass – Cover the Canvas

To mix a color for each color spot, squint and ask:

Is it warmer or cooler?
Is it brighter or duller?
Is it lighter or darker?

Second pass - Relate or compare color spots that are next to each other in terms of hue, value and chroma.

Third pass – Relate within the entire canvas. 

Compare like hues.  Of all the blue shapes, which is the warmest, brightest, darkest? Of the reds? Of the greens?

Compare like values.  Of all the light values which are the lightest and darkest?  Of the mediums?  Of the darks?

Set the chroma range.  On the entire canvas, which color spot has the highest chroma?  Which the lowest?

Set the value range.  On the entire canvas, which color spot is the lightest?  Which is the darkest?

Final pass - Only when all of the relationships are correct:

Push the focal point by manipulating relationships

Add Details

Edges (hard versus soft)

Highlights (lightest lights)

Accents (darkest darks)

Copyright Mary Mulvihill 2011

Monday, April 11, 2011

3rd Annual North Park (San Diego) Plein Air Event

North Park
California Art Club cosponsors North Park Plein Air Event. Text and photo from 
CAC newsletter.
3rd Annual CAC/SDAI North Park Plein Air Event  

WHEN        Monday, April 18
                        9:00 a.m. - Paint-out
                        12:30 p.m. - Lunch
                        2:00 p.m. - Critique led by Carolyn Hesse-Low

WHERE     University and 29th/Kansas Street
                        North Park, San Diego

EVENT        3rd Annual CAC/SDAI North Park Plein Air Event

COST            CAC Members: $10 for 1 entry and $20 for 2 entries
                        Non Members: $20 for 1 entry and $30 for 2 entires

AUDIENCE       All CAC members and friends
CONTACT        Marjorie Taylor at  

Street parking is available on the side streets and
                        residential streets throughout the neighborhood.
                        After painting, we'll grab a quick lunch at the Mission,
                        located at 2801 University Ave, followed by a
                        critique led by Carolyn Hesse-Low at 2 p.m. at the
                        San Diego Art Department, located at
                        3830 Ray Street. If you would like to enter your
                        paintings in the 3rd Annual CAC/SDAI Plein Air
                        Competition, you can register for the event at the
                        San Diego Art Department at 3830 Ray Street
                        anytime between April 4 - May 9. You can have as
                        many canvases as you want stamped, and the cost
                        for CAC members is $10 for one entry or $20 for
                        two entries. Download the prospectus for details at