Sunday, July 7, 2013

Daily Sketches Weeks 23-27 - Landscape Painting class

So this semester at Concept Design Academy I tried and failed to get into Environment Sketching with Ed Li (I was about 10 minutes too late to the signup website and it sold out). In a last-minute panic I signed up for Landscape Painting with Leighton Hickman instead. I have never painted in oils before, and I've NEVER painted outside. I was very nervous, and rightly so, because boy have I churned out some stinkers. BUT I actually think it was a blessing in disguise, for reasons I will go into later...

The teacher, Leighton, is a visual development artist at Dreamworks. This is one of his paintings that he had laid out on the first day for us to look at. Isn't this an amazing painting?

 The man himself, painting at our first location. You can see his subject right to the left of his head there.

For this class I bought a pochade box (this one, in fact), which attaches to a tripod for plein air painting. I also bought water-soluble oil paints so that I didn't have to deal with turpentine (I use gamsol for thinning and cleaning).

We started off painting in 5 values, using only titanium white and burnt umber.

June 5 - Week 1 homework. My first outdoor painting, in my neighborhood. Wooooof.
June 8 - Week 2 in-class painting. Double woof.

June 9 - Week 2 homework. Cheated a little and painted indoors this week. But it was my first painting that actually looked like what it was supposed to look like.

June 15 - Week 3 in-class painting. Even *I* don't know what it's supposed to be, and I painted it.

June 16 - Week 3 homework. The view from the top of my building.

At this point in time I was feeling very frustrated with the class and unsure of why I'd even tried. Everyone calls oils a "forgiving medium," but I will debunk that for you right here and now. Oils are extremely expensive, messy, and difficult to get used to. You try to use too little and it won't even take up 1/3000th of the canvas. Then you try to mix more and you can't mix exactly that same shade again. The paint glops up on your brush and you try to put some on the canvas and it ends up taking previously laid down paint OFF the canvas instead and you are just like "Paint, WTF, why you gotta hate."

HOWEVER - I got some unexpected time off that week and was able to go out for a second homework session, which I think of as my first successful painting session. With the whole day ahead of me, I was able to slow down, find a spot I liked, and take my time, and I think that made all the difference.

June 21 - semi-success at Griffith Park.
photo of my subject
A second painting to use up the rest of my paint. Not as successful but still not terrible.

Photo of subject #2. I'd love to tackle this again actually, I love the composition.

In week 4 of class, we started color!

June 22 - Week 4 in-class painting. Same palm I drew back in Viscom 1 class last October.

Our homework that week was to do a master copy - not worrying too much about the style or brushstrokes, just trying to match the colors. I decided to do this painting by Edgar Payne. (What a beautiful painting, don't you think?)

I tried to knock this out one night after work - painting under a plain old yellow lightbulb instead of a daylight-temperature lamp. See for yourself (this is what it looked like in the morning under natural light).

June 24 - COMPLETELY off colors.

In the hour and a half I had before work, I kicked it into high gear and tried to fix the colors. Leighton pointed out that the bottom half of the cliff is way too high in value, and he's right - I definitely got tunnel vision on the cliff and heightened all the color and value variations in my head. I've had trouble so far juggling both value AND color in my paintings.

June 25

Last week we were at Vasquez Rocks, in 100˚ heat, with no shade in sight. I had to leave about 2/3 of the way through class because I felt really faint. So I mostly worked off of a photo for this painting.

July 5 - Week 5 in-class painting AND homework.

photo from Vasquez

We're halfway through the ten-week class now, and I have to say, as frustrated as I was at first, I'm really happy with my progress. I still don't feel totally comfortable in oils, and it's CRAZY annoying to lug all my painting supplies all over Los Angeles and stand out in the summer heat, getting all sweaty and squinting at my subject and squinting at my palette and wondering what I'm doing wrong. I don't think I'll do too much landscape painting after I'm done with the class, or really much oil painting at all. I hate setting up, AND cleaning up. It really makes me appreciate the ease of a pencil and paper, or digital painting. And I think I have more of a mind for drawing than for painting. They're definitely two different things.

But BECAUSE of all that, this class has pushed me SO far outside my comfort zone that I think I've made new strides as an artist. Painting outside forces you to stop and really LOOK at what you're trying to paint and really THINK about how to accomplish that with paint and a brush. This has sunk in to the point where I'm starting to approach all of my art this way - not just paintings. And as a result, I think my two most recent pen-and-marker sketches have come out better, and more painterly. See for yourself.

June 11

June 20

I think I've already mentioned this, but just in case, if you'd like to keep up with my daily sketches on a more, y'know, DAILY basis, you can follow me on instagram, where I post everything that eventually goes on this blog. You may get some wayward non-art-related posts, but for the most part, it's all sketches and paintings.

WHOOF - that's all for now. I'll try not to have it be so long before my next Daily Sketches post. In the meantime though I've got tons of potential entries lined up in my "Stuff to Blog About" folder! So stay tuned...

© Gina Florio 2013


  1. Spectacular work, Gina! Very inspiring to see all our hard work and your progress. Keep them coming.

  2. Very interesting update. I am glad you stick to the course. I like this version of the palm tree. Beautiful. Thanks for sharing this!

  3. Beautiful, so excited to see your work changing!