NorthWest Still life - Landscape Demo

Philip Howe Fine Art
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One of my favorite areas to hike is the lower elevation around Mount Ranier, in the Pacific North West, USA. It has a filtered light that hits the rocks and gives them a soft glow. We have often sat along side streams that cascade down from the mountain's glaciers and watched the sun shifting the shadows and knew we were in a special place. The NorthWest is rich with color, especially along the alpine meadows of Ranier.
I am strickly a studio painter and photographer but no photo can capture how I feel about a place. I shoot as much slide reference as I can, since slides come closest to the effect of light. I use reference as a loose guide, looking at it occasionally as I move across the canvas. If the scene was before me and my idea to simply copy the scene, I think it would have come out the same since I don't really follow but the local color but search for the simple shadows that make a plane stand out here or form round off there. If you think in this simple process then you begin to realize every form is paintable and holds the same properties under light- figures, faces, landscapes, still life, rocks. Its all how the light falls over form and makes it 3 dimensional. While I have a guide for color and perspective, I am not tied to my reference. Its this step that makes a work individual and keeps me from just copying nature or a photograph of it. Plus, its a lot more fun. When I was younger I learned by copying things, with some effort I taught myself to break away from this habit and enjoy painting so much more.
So this landscape, or Still Life, is my usual combination of realistic interpretation and the light of my memory of the place and time.

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Charcoal drawing on canvas
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Close-up of charcoal drawing on rough canvas
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Solid direct block-in of large areas
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Further block in moving right
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Detail of blocked in area showing heavy paint
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My palette showing brushes used
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Direct painting top to bottom
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NorthWest Still Life final oil canvas 30x40"

Above is the final. Below you can see a swath close-up section that shows the effect of heavy paint laid on with various strokes to simulate the effect of light hitting a textured (rock) surface. With oil paint its easy to make corrections- you simply paint heavier. If the paint is too slippery underneath just scrape it off. About the only thing that bothers me now is to put the paint on thin enough initially that it feels like there is no control or pull from the paint below. This can happen if you use turpentine or other solvent and wash the middle tones on. At least with canvas it has natural 'drag' to pull the paint off the brush. The best surface is a dried oil layer. My goal anymore is to simply paint the wet areas in one pass, with heavy paint, redrawing with opaque strokes as I go. It works for me anyway and the surface, when its varnished, has a beautiful finish that you just can't get with thin paint.

NW_stillife_detail.jpg
Detail showing paint texture

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