Monday, February 11, 2019

Painting Smog — Six Secrets for Creating Atmosphere

(Link to YouTube)

It's time to paint that parking lot in Kingston, New York. It was a nice clear day, but I added warm, smoky air to add more atmosphere and depth.

Six tips for creating depth
1. Face the view into the sun.
2. Limit values to: a) light areas (sky and highlights), and b) dark areas (everything else).
3. Save darkest dark to a few small areas in the foreground. 
4. Raise the value of the darks. 
5. Gradate the color of the darks from warm colors near sun to relatively cool colors at edges.
6. Eliminate detail in the dark silhouettes. 

The paint is casein in a Pentalic watercolor sketchbook
Richeson Travel brush set:  
Canon M6 (time lapse, video, and stills)

Video tutorials and books:


nuum said...

So Simple.8P
James, What a about a book about "The basics of painting" ?

So many people needing one from you...

scottT said...

I love your backlit smoggy paintings. Well done again. I've thought about the extent to which modern photography has conditioned us to accept its limitations as representative of particular its narrow value range. For sure, painting value is limited vs. real outdoor light as well, but in photography you usually have to make a choice between detail in the shadows and washing out the highlights, or detail in the highlights and opaque shadows. Even though I'm not sure the human eye necessarily works that way, we have come to expect the same choice is what makes a painting successful as well.

James Gurney said...

ScottT: Photographer Jed Anderson commented on Twitter: "My inclination as a photographer with a scene like this is to immediately go monochrome and focus on the values, due the lack of hue. But painting gives one so much more room to suggest colour in a restricted context. I need to use my gouache more."

It's great to hear from a photographer, because I'm so inspired by Atget, Weston, Frank, Winogrand, and so many others. What I like is what they can do with the limited receptivity of the film stock. The problem with our eyes is that we see too much information, so we need to consciously simplify what we see.

Mark Martel said...

James, I suspect you're working toward a bigger project like Painting Atmosphere and Mood. One part of that that intrigues me are nocturnes where the values compress the other way from "smog." I've got a folder with examples like Briggs, Cornwell, Schaeffer, Whitore, even the usualy sunny Sundbloom.

Photoshop levels and curves let someone try quick transformations into many moods and lighting conditions.

Here in Hawaii our plein air group paints up and down the coast and you'd think that would be sufficient. And a lot of nice work comes of it, but generally the cool lighting is pretty consistent from 9-noon unless you inject some warm underpainting, or invent some reds. Otherwise it's blue sky, blue/green water, green plants and grey lava. It's when I get out and paint at dawn or sunset or imagine a nocturne that the results stand out.

Another wider project I can see might emerge from your travels: using local palettes. Some western artists sell dried up, muted colors like "sage." In Hawaii I had to widen my gamut with the most intense cool lemons, aquas, and pinks. In Ohio the greens typically have a lot more red. I'll try to observe that more on our next trip there.

Aloha, Mark Martel

Susan Krzywicki said...

James, you are just sooooo cool. Love the end of the video with the flip-out panels.

miniPau said...

Beautiful painting!!!!