Sunday, December 15, 2013

Snowy Evening Road

The first snow of the year falls across a country road as evening stretches across the land. Streetlights illuminate the snow and add a holiday spirit to the scene.

Acrylic painting: 14" x 17"

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Sweetgums by the Bay

In Down's Memorial Park, old sweetgum trees turn shades of orange and crimson by the edge of the Chesapeake Bay. The autumn breeze scatters leaves in the low sunlight.

Acrylic painting: 14" x 17"

Sunday, November 3, 2013

New Trees in Fall

I've been attending tree planting events at Patapsco State Park for a number of years now, and this weekend was the one for this year. Here, we see a few of the new trees in their fall colors planted in a field near the Visitor's Center, while older giants stand quietly in the background.

Acrylic painting: 14" x 17"

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Patapsco Waterfall in Autumn

Patapsco state park has a small, rocky water fall not far up the hill from the Swinging Bridge. The waterfall, while small, drains into a cluttered rock pool before splashing down a cascade of rocks into a small stream that enters the main river. This scene is inspired by that waterfall, though idealized - the actual waterfall rarely runs this dramatically and the pool has been cluttered with fallen trees in recent years. Here, we see what can be - the little waterfall running strong into a deep pool of cool water under the golden leaves of autumn.

Acrylic painting: 14" x 17"

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Labor Day by the River

Here in the U.S., this is Labor Day weekend, a celebration of the working class and all the effort they have put into building this nation. So, it seems to me to be a good time to go for a walk in the woods to enjoy the meandering river and the late summer sun beneath the trees and on the drying grass. Work can wait for another time!

Acrylic painting: 14" x 17"

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Broken Moon

The last of a recent patch of sci-fi paintings, here we see a watery, temperate world from the perspective of its ring system. The rings were formed many thousands of years ago when the planet's moon, once in a long decaying orbit, finally crossed the Roche Limit and was broken apart. The end result is a beautiful ring around the world and many small meteors that light up the sky as the debris slowly rains down.

Digital painting created in Photoshop Elements 10

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Fireflies on Lost Lake

Fireflies dance around the grass and over the shallow waters of Lost Lake, a small pond located in Patapsco Valley state park. This is an idealized version of the lake, without the various small fishing piers and other features that would detract from its simple beauty on a night full of fireflies - enjoy!

Acrylic painting: 14" x 17"

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Life on a Gas Giant's Moon...

So what would life be like on a world similar to Earth, but which is merely a large moon around a huge gas giant? This digital painting explores that possibility. Here, we see a cold world, not unlike Earth during an ice age, orbiting its parent gas giant. Such worlds would have massive tides, impressive auroras, and regularly solar eclipses. The concept of day, night, and seasons would be different with an additional element introduced since not only does the moon rotate and go around the sun, but the moon goes around the parent gas giant as well. Worlds like this one almost surely exist - we have found gas giants large enough to theoretically have moons as massive as Earth - all that is needed is for them to have enough water and exist in the star's habitable zone.

Digital painting create in Photoshop Elements 10

Sunday, June 23, 2013

An Earth-like World...

Another of my space art creations, here we approach an Earth-like world, though with one interesting distinction from our own planet - most of this planet's land is fused together in a large super continent that dominates part of the southern hemisphere. Verdant temperate and tropical zones exist along the edges of this realm, though the interior is a scorching desert. Vast storms rage across the planet's single, huge ocean, causing havoc if they do make landfall.

Digital Painting in Photoshop Elements 10

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Another Storm Rolls By...

As summer heat spreads, thunderstorms go with it, rolling through the lands and bringing gusty winds and welcome rain. This is nothing new on this old country road, and the gnarled old sycamores catch a bit of afternoon sun before the next storm passes through.

Acrylic painting: 14" x 17"

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Approaching a Swampy World

Just to change things up a bit, here's one of my more recent science-fiction space paintings.

View on approach to a warm, soggy world covered with shallow oceans and vast tidal estuaries. The world has little geological activity, and slow erosion has reduced the planet's land masses to swamps and low-lying hills. Vegetation covers the landscape beneath the perpetual fog banks and slow rolling, drizzly cloud formations. While rather hot and soggy, this planet is full of life and worthy of exploration.

Created in Photoshop Elements 10:

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mist and Storms in the Mountains

As summer approaches, thunderstorms roll through the mountains of Appalachia and drive a thick mist into the valleys before them. The warm sun illuminates the clouds as the cool winds pick up and the first drops of rain begin to fall.

Acrylic painting: 14" x 17"

Sunday, April 21, 2013

April Showers and Flowers

Spring is here, and with the change in weather comes the first thunderstorms of the season. Last Friday's rain-soaked evening inspired me to paint this scene, where a flowering crabapple tree stands against the windy evening rains. I don't typically paint rainy scenes or ones with streetlights, so this landscape was an interesting challenge - the illuminated rain drops near the lights combine with the rain streaks and splatters on the road to give the illusion of falling rain.

Acrylic painting: 14" x 17"

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Jefferson Memorial Cherry Blossoms

This was a bold painting for me, as I don't normally paint buildings or national monuments such as the Jefferson Memorial. Early every spring, the cherry trees around the Memorial and all through DC are covered in pink and white blossoms. It has been a cold start to spring, with snowfall in late March, so the cherry blossoms have been delayed - for now, enjoy an ideal view of them on a sunny day with the crowds nowhere to be seen.

Acrylic painting: 14" x 17"

Sunday, March 17, 2013

March Snow in the Woods

It has been a reasonably cold winter this year with a large number of small storms passing through the region, though most of them produced nothing but flurries or chilly drizzle. The exception came in late February and early March, when a modest snowfall coated much of the area as a surprise reminder that winter was not yet finished. The day after the snow is depicted in this painting - already, the sun is glowing through the trees and melting the snow away.

Acrylic painting: 14" x 17"

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Can this old painting be saved?

Over the past weeks, I've revisited a couple of my old paintings and shown how they can be vastly improved through better use of color, lighting, and detail work. Overly dark shadows have been eliminated, the illusion of distance has been added, and more natural shapes and color harmonies have been created.

This week's revisited painting presents an additional challenge:

This old painting suffers from many of the same problems as much of my earlier works: the excessive use of black in the scene despite the clear sky and supposedly ample lighting, the lack of color harmony - even if this is an oak forest in fall, there is still way too much red everywhere, and trees placed in a fence-row pattern in the background.

The bigger problem is the questionable composition: the distant trees present a dark and ominous barrier to the eyes and stop rather sharply at the edge of the sky. The foreground tree, meanwhile, draws too much attention in a negative way with black branches slashing across the scene. We've all taken photos like this in the woods, where random tree limbs get in the way of the picture, but that doesn't mean one should paint the scene that way.

The composition problems make it much harder to fix this painting. First, I had to push the background trees further away and break them up a bit so they didn't feel like a solid wall. This was achieve through "negative painting" - adding in misty sky holes with Cerulean Blue and Titanium White. Secondly, the foreground tree, while dramatic, still feels like a dark, dead shadow. I had to tone down the excessive darkness of the tree and add some colors to better integrate it into the scene. I also added some leaves to it to avoid it looking like a gnarled snag.

The river was a problem as well - it was barely visible in the original painting and thus the shoreline had to be tweaked to offer a clear view of the water. Finally, the run-away red was corrected so the scene has a more natural feeling. The grass in particular needed to stand out with its own colors vs. blending in with the trees. The bushes were the same way - they never should have been red in the first place since they certainly were not small oaks.

Final result - acrylic painting, 14" x 17"

Despite the vast improvement - the greater light, more realistic colors, and improved sense of depth - there are still limits to what could be done with this painting because of the compositional mistakes made at the beginning. When painting forest interior scenes, such as this one, solid walls of trees must be prevented from the start. Add in sky holes, push the background trees into blurry shapes much further away than the eye would see - whatever it takes to avoid that solid mass of singular green that can take away a painting's interest. Similarly, while close-up trees are interesting, the one in this scene is still in an odd location and the heavy limbs that cut up the painting still lurk beneath the sun-speckled leaves. Unless you're painting a portrait of a tree, never overuse tree limbs close-up - the end result will be distracting and draw attention away from the rest of the scene.

Hopefully, this post will be of use to budding landscape artists who can benefit from seeing the compositional  mistakes made by others and thus avoid them on their own.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Dusk's Last Embers - Revisited

Almost 20 years, I painted the original painting shown below. While it was decent for its time, I've learned a lot since then. The original scene is far too dark, with stiff trees carved completely out of black paint and out-of-place white highlights scattered around. The sky is leaden and lacking interest, aside from the fiery colors, and the forest in the distance is also overly dark and heavy.

Original painting:

On the plus side, the composition is interesting - standing on a cliffside amid gnarled old trees while watching the sunset in the valley beyond is a great setup for an exciting landscape painting. The original scene, while flawed, worked well as an underpainting since the excessive darks could be built upon with a lighter and better mix of colors.

The scene was adjusted with the addition of more interesting clouds to the sky and properly colored reflections in the water to match them. The trees have been brightened up with the low-angle light, and the forest has been pushed further into the distance to stand against the improved glow of the setting sun.

Improved painting: 14" x 17"

The end result is a far better scene that captures the drama and strong colors of the moment in a way inspired by some of the great landscape paintings of previous generations. Much like the other times I've improved old paintings, hopefully this post will be of use by providing solid examples of what to do and what not to do when trying to bridge that gap between a novice landscape painter and an experienced one.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Letchworth Park Cliffs - Revisited

Now and then, I'll go back and improve an old painting in my collection that has a solid foundation marred by technical problems. These paintings have the potential to be good landscapes, but they are lacking in certain areas that can be improved upon. This painting is one such example that illustrates both good and bad points, which is common for an artist halfway between still learning the hobby and having a good idea what he or she is doing.

The original painting was created back in 2004 and was based upon a visit my brother and I took to upstate New York. The end goal of this roadtrip was to see Niagara Falls, but on the way there and back, we stopped at several sites of interest, including the stunning river gorge in Letchworth State Park. It was a warm day in early September, and a summer thunderstorm had just passed, leaving a cloudy sky, haze in the air, and sunlight just streaking through the parting clouds. This painting was an attempt to do the scene justice, but my reach far exceeded my grasp at the time. Here is the original painting:

The painting has some points in its favor: the composition works reasonably well as it snakes back into the distance, going from right to left to right-center where the distant hills are, and the subject is interesting - stout trees on cliffsides. However, there are some serious technical flaws with the painting. The clouds in the sky are a muddy color in places and sometimes feel too solid. The trees have very hard edges and feel clunky and droopy - the distant trees in particular look as if their tops had been neatly sheered by a hedge trimmer. Finally, the colors are often questionable - there's no feeling of the warm sunlight here, there's way too much black in the scene, and there's no good sense of distant regression from front to back. Fortunately, these problems are all fixable, as shown in the reworked painting.

Acrylic painting: 14" x 17"

A mist effect has been created to push the distant hills into the background - this also does a good job recreating the humid feel of the place after the storms went through. Sunlight has been added through far better color selection, and the mid-distant trees are now clearly further away then those in the foreground. The sky has been filled with mist and mixed clouds vs. the solid, muddy ones seen before, and the trees have been given a wild feeling and no longer appear like solid-edged rocks.

This painting is a great example of what to do - and what not to do - in a landscape, and I hope this post proves of interest for painters who are struggling to advanced their painting skills.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Sunlight on a Snowy River

Winter is here, and we've had some snow flurries and threats of more significant snowfall already, but few things beat a river in winter for interest and seasonal beauty. Sunlight glows in the evergreens, as the cold water slowly flows past amid the ice and rocks. Here and there, snow falls from the trees as the low-angle sunlight melts it away on a warm winter day.

Acrylic painting: 14" x 17"