Tag Archives: contemporary impressionist

Little Stone Church, Provence – demonstration painting from photographs

Little Stone Church, Provence, France – final. Acrylic, 12 x 16. As you can see, I made the sky more interesting and edited the road a bit, too.

I thought I’d share another lesson from the class that I’m teaching about painting from photographs.  Frankly, this process can be as complicated or as simple as you want to make it.

Little Stone Church, Provence – original photo

In this example, I have a real photo – you know, the printed kind – from a biking trip that I took through Provence, France many years ago.  I like to browse through the old photos and inevitably I see a new subject that I overlooked before.  In this case, I remember exactly how I felt cruising through the olive groves when I passed this old stone church one morning.

Little Stone Church cropped.

The original photo included more subject matter than I wished to include in my painting so I cropped it to fit my canvas size.  This is easy to do if it is a digital photo, but in this case with a real picture, I used paper L-shaped pieces to manipulate the photo (not shown here.)  I don’t usually need to do this anymore since I’ve been painting for so many years but it’s a good hack for new painters.

For the purpose of the class, I actually scanned the photo and used these images to demonstrate.

Little Stone Church – photo divided into thirds. The center of interest – the church – is at the intersection of one of the thirds. Also, notice how the road leads the eye into the painting and points towards the church.

I divided the selected picture area into thirds each way and then placed the church on one of the intersections.  This generally makes a nicely balanced composition.

NOTAN Here I changed the photo to black and white, then pushed the contrast to the extreme. This helps one get a better idea of the basic shapes. Notice how the stone church (center of interest) also has the greatest contrast with the trees framing it.

The prior week we had discussed NOTAN – the theory of making your image extreme black and white in order to seek balance in the composition.  Here, I manipulated the image by computer to show a high contrast in black and white which is essentially NOTAN.  Here is a link to a very good explanation of NOTAN by artist Mitchell Albala.

A black and white image of the same photograph. This helps the artist gain a better handle on values, lightest to darkest. The same effect can be achieved by viewing the color photograph through a piece of red gel. See a prior post on the subject at the link.

I then showed a regular black and white photo to the class so they could get an idea of the values.  Again, you can use the trick of a piece of red gel to get the same effect.  (Click here to see an earlier post about using red gel.)

The next step was to demonstrate to the class my procedure for painting the scene in color.  In oil or acrylic, one usually starts with the darks and works towards the light.  Watercolor usually proceeds the opposite way with laying in the lights (or reserving the lights) and adding more and darker color as the painting progresses.  There are several demonstrations of both of these methods under the tab Artworks at the top of the page.

The takeaway here is that composition can be enhanced for using old photos as painting materials by manipulating the size and shape of the photos, taking care of the placement of the center of interest, and selecting pleasing balance and contrasts of lights and darks.

Little Stone Church, Provence

Way the Wind Blows – a quiet painting

Way the Wind Blows, acrylic on wood panel, 8 x 10, original painting, Kit Miracle

With the nasty weather screaming through the Midwest the past couple of weeks, I’ve been surfing through old photos and files for subjects to paint.  I came across some images taken on a visit to New England to visit family.

This is a painting of the cupola on the 200 year old barn at my brother’s home in New England.  Made of red oak, the original timbers inside were marked with Roman numerals for assembly at some time in the past. I was attracted to the late afternoon sun as it caught the weather vane on top.  One wonders at the history this barn has seen in its long existence.  These old buildings always make me reflect on life as it was back then.

Although the subject of the painting is not one of the more complex that I’ve painted, I just enjoy the peace and calm of the scene.  Very plain.  Which just demonstrates that a one doesn’t need a lot going on in a scene to make compelling painting.

Painted on wood panel in a contemporary impressionist style, this small painting will fit in many spaces.

Way the Wind Blows, framed. Sometimes framing a painting makes all the difference.

When the wind is in the east,
It’s good for neither man nor beast.
When the wind is in the north,
The old folk should not venture forth.
When the wind is in the south,
It blows the bait in the fishes’ mouth.
When the wind is in the west,
It is of all the winds the best.

Link to painting on Etsy.  

Beeches – Painting Beyond the Photo

Beech Trees in Winter, snow scene, original painting, 16 x 20, Kit Miracle

Photographs are a wonderful tool for artists and have been used for well over a century.  I’m teaching a class on painting from photographs and wanted to create a demonstration of how a photo can best be used.

I would guess that most artists who paint in a realistic manner use photos at least some of the time.  I know that I have boxes of photos from years past when film was developed.  Now, with digital cameras and phones, we have thousands of images available to us.  Digital photos are also easy to use on a computer and crop or change as needed. I use an old laptop in my studio for this purpose.

For some reason, some artists seem to be ashamed of using photos but I consider them just another tool. I always paint still lifes from real life but might take some photos of flower bouquets to save for future reference.  And I love plein air painting so most of my landscapes are painted from life.  However, I take plenty travel photos for later use.  I also participate in life drawing studios which is great for building hand/eye coordination, but many figure paintings are from photos.  And it goes without saying that I only paint from my own photos; never from commercial or other pictures which could violate copyright laws.

Beeches, original photo. It was too wide for the format I planned to use so I cropped it to a more pleasing composition.

We haven’t had much snow here yet this winter but we had a couple of inches a few weeks ago.  I took the dog for a walk in the woods and the snow made the beeches really stand out.  Beech trees are native to this part of the country but we don’t have many on our property.  They make pretty good firewood and were chopped down long ago (before our time).  However, we’ve noticed a resurgence of beech trees since we moved here over thirty years ago.  They hold their leaves over the winter so the orangey color contrasts nicely with the snow.

Beeches cropped photo.

As you can,  my original photo was wider than the format I chose (16 x 20) so I cropped it to a more interesting composition.  I divided my canvas into thirds each way (nine squares) and drew directly on canvas with a brush loaded with a darkish color.  The canvas had been primed in red.

I usually start with the darks and then add the midtones and then the lights, starting at the top of the canvas.  As I was painting, I realized that the painting was a bit drab with the overcast sky and muted shadows.  Although the beech trees gave it some color, I want to put more oomph into it.

Therefore, I decided to make it a sunny day and added some sunlight streaking in from the right, with a brighter sky and some clouds behind the distant trees.  This defined the path through the woods much better.  I added some sunlight on a few of the trees to bring them out more.  Ah, it’s great to be an artist and to change the world to suit myself!

Beech Trees in Winter, detail 1. This is the road through the woods. I probably made the snow look deeper. And I’ve learned over time that white will often look brighter with a little yellow thrown in than just plain white. It certainly catches that sunlit feel.

Beech Trees in Winter, detail 2

Beech Trees in Winter, detail 3, notice the clouds in the blue sky behind the distant trees

The point here gets back to what I said at the beginning of the post.  A photograph is a tool.  It’s the artist’s job to use what we can, to add more or to change whatever we want.  I certainly think the sunlit painting has much more appeal than the original photo.  What do you think?

Dreaming of Rabbits

Dreaming of Rabbits. Border collie painting, 18 x 24. Acrylic on canvas. Contemporary impressionism. Kit Miracle

This is a rare quiet moment of my dog Mikey.  Anyone who has ever been owned by a border collie knows that they are power plants of energy, always ready for a walk, a ride or a new adventure.  Mikey spends much of his days chasing squirrels, birds, rabbits, anything that moves, really.  Here you see him in one of his other favorite pastimes.  He climbs up onto a patio chair and takes a nap, even if no one else is around.

Artists who paint in a realist fashion are always advised to paint what you know.  This is what I know.  Just a common, everyday scene.

Painted on canvas in a contemporary impressionist style. Check out the muted colors of the shadows and the impatiens flowers.  The lovely, soft colors are so easy to love.

Yes, for sale here:  KitMiracleArt.

 

Wings, a beach scene

Wings – final, acrylic on canvas, 18 x 24. Kit Miracle

I was looking through some old photographs for subjects to paint which I haven’t visited for awhile and came across the inspiration for this painting. Sometimes the subject doesn’t grab me for several years until I revisit the pictures but this photo was only from last summer. I love the beach scenes by Sargent, Sorolla and Zorn, particularly the ones involving children.

For this painting, I decided to work slowly and do plenty of preliminary work.  My last post included several sketches, some Notan studies, and one painting study of the central figure. The latter is actually larger than the figure in the final painting.  See the sketch for this painting.

The title comes from the focus on the little girl with her water wings and the flapping wings of the seagulls.  Sargent did a wonderful painting of Neapolitan Children at the beach and one of them is wearing a contraption of bladders for floating, similar to today’s water wings.

To learn more about this painting, check out my step-by-step page here.

Preliminary work

Beach girl, color sketch. 16 x 12, acrylic. Kit Miracle

I often have mixed feelings about the importance of creating preliminary sketches and paintings.  Sometimes I just want to grab the brush and dive right into a painting.  This is especially true of my plein air painting although, usually I at least do a few value sketches before I put any paint to the canvas.  Usually.

Beach girl, pencil sketch. 18 x 24, Kit Miracle

On the other hand, I know from experience that when I want to create a large piece, results will normally be better with more planning.  Preliminary sketches and paintings basically create a road map for a painting or work of art.  If you think about it, you wouldn’t build a house without a plan.  Probably wouldn’t take a vacation without a map.  So it makes sense to do some support work before you begin a major piece of work.

Notan sketches for beach painting.

I’ve been working on a large beach scene lately.  First I started with some sketches for the layout or composition.  Then I did a few Notan sketches in black and white.  Sometimes I’ll add a middle grey value but usually not.  Next I did a large pencil sketch of the main figure.  This helps me to address any problems and get to know the scene.  Finally, I did a fairly quick color sketch (acrylic) of the little girl.  This was, in fact, much larger than the final figure in the painting which is not necessarily how most people would work.

I’ll post the final painting and more sketches next Sunday.  I really like this preliminary color sketch but I’ll let you be the judge.

As an aside, most famous artists of the past spent quite a bit of time and effort to create their masterpieces, including numerous sketches.  This is still quite common for artists who practice classical education in ateliers.

To learn more, check out the work of John Singer Sargent, Joaquin Sorolla y Batista, Anders Zorn, Cesar Santos, Norman Rockwell, or Juliette Aristides.

Lucky Red #6 – White Elephants

Lucky Red #6 – White Elephants, acrylic on canvas, 16 x 20, Kit Miracle. This is another painting in the series which depicts many symbols of good luck.

This is the sixth painting in my Lucky Red series.  There are more symbols of power and good fortune in this set up.  The still life arrangement plays off the many shades of whites and reds with a little green for eye relief.  I love the way it glows.

Lucky Red #6- detail 1. Here you can see the various treatments of white. White alabaster elephant, white satin background, white bone and pearl necklace. I also love the red pomegranate and apples for contrast.

Both of these white elephants are relatively new acquisitions.  The alabaster elephant on the left has a creamy glow and its upraised trunk portends attracting  good fortune.  The white elephant on the right has a lowered trunk which symbolizes leaving good fortune. Elephants also symbolize strength and power (not a surprise) in addition to honor and stability.  These all seem good qualities to me.

Lucky Red #6 – detail 2. More close-ups of the second elephant, pearls, and apples.

Again I have placed a pomegranate in the painting.  This symbolizes fertility as do the apples in addition to knowledge.  The martini glass is just for fun.  Of course.

The pearls in the necklace also connote many positive meanings: sincerity, purity, good luck, wealth, integrity among others.  Plus, they were fun to paint.

Lucky Red #6 – White Elephants. This is the set up as I had it in my studio. There’s a lot of eye/hand coordination when painting a still life, or anything from life actually. Mostly, it’s a matter of practice, practice, practice.

I can’t vouch for the veracity of the good fortune that any of these items will bring, but I love to create still lifes that are a little beyond just pretty pictures.  This series of Lucky Red still lifes  features good luck symbols and the color red at least somewhere in each painting.

This painting was a fun challenge to paint with so many shades of white and red, reflections and shadows.

Purchase painting here. https://www.etsy.com/shop/KitMiracleArt?ref=l2-shop-info-name

High Noon, a street scene

High Noon, acrylic on canvas, 24 x 36, Kit Miracle
cityscape, landscape

I had the idea for this painting rolling around in my head for some time. The middle of the day is not my favorite time to paint as the shadows are often small and the colors are too washed out. However, I wanted to try this back-lit village scene with the street, buildings and cars.

High Noon, detail 1, showing the contre jour lighting and impressionistic brush strokes, Kit Miracle

There weren’t really any people around at the time that I took the reference photos for this painting which is surprising considering all the cars that were there.  I decided to add some people to the landscape to give it more life.

The challenge for a painting like this is, first, to get the perspective correct.  Perspective can be conveyed not only from the actual drawing but distance is also indicated by the shading. The farther away the objects, the lighter the shading. The second challenge is to ensure that the colors are right, that enough details are included without being too focused on details. It’s all a matter of balance.

High Noon, detail 2.  Adding people to a street scene makes it come alive but you don’t need to include every detail. Let the viewer’s eye fill in the story.

I added more color to the street to “lay it down”, that is, to make sure it didn’t appear floating.  This is where having a lot of experience in plein air painting helps.  Photos often make the darks too dark and the lights too light.  Copying a photo exactly often gives unsatisfying results.

Overall, I liked the challenge of this painting.  It has been on display at a local gallery and many people have recognized the scene and commented on it.

Lucky Red #5 – Red Robe / Black Dragon

Lucky Red #5, Red Robe / Black Dragon, acrylic on canvas, good luck symbols, 20 x 16, Kit Miracle

This is the fifth painting in my Lucky Red series.  There are many symbols of power and good fortune in this set up.  The still life arrangement is a little unusual but I’ve been wanting to work the red satin robe into a painting for quite some time.  I love the way it glows.  Red is the sign of strength and power.

An unusual composition, the red satin robe brings all the elements together in this Lucky Red still life.

I can’t recall where I acquired the black iron dragon but it usually guards my desk. Another symbol of strength and power, it can also represent danger.  Hummm…  The cluster of white/clear quartz crystals is a new acquisition from a neat rock shop that I visit sometimes.  They’re all just so beautiful.  This crystal is from the Arkansas quarry which apparently is in a vein of 170 miles long!  Quartz is a very hard crystal and is supposed to amplify the powers of other crystals, especially healing.  The mandarin oranges represent good fortune and the sun and are often given as gifts for the new year.

I can’t vouch for the veracity of the good fortune that any of these items will bring, but I love to create still lifes that are a little beyond just pretty pictures.  This series of Lucky Red still lifes all feature good luck symbols and the color red at least somewhere in the painting.

This painting is a vertical view, the first such arrangement in the series.  Painted in a contemporary impressionistic style, it brings peaceful contemplation to the viewer.

Lucky Red #5 detail 2, showing the various shades of orangey-red in the robe. Very difficult to capture on the computer monitor.

Lucky Red #5 detail showing the black iron dragon, quartz crystals and mandarin oranges

Buddha and Pomegranates Still life


Buddha and Pomegranates, still life, Lucky Red series, good luck symbols, acrylic on canvas, 16 x 20, Kit Miracle,Vitarka Mudra

This is the fourth painting in my Lucky Red series.

Detail of Buddha and Pomegranates painting, acrylic on canvas, Vitarka Mudra

The sitting Buddha represents Vitarka Mudra or the teaching Buddha. The circle made in the right hand stands for never-ending flow of energy.  The pomegranates stand for fertility, abundance and marriage.

Pomegranates, lucky red symbol, fruit, symbol of fertility, abundance, marriage

I like the slight smile on Buddha’s face along with the contrasting colors of the fruit and plant.  Painted in an impressionistic style, this painting brings a quiet, reflective mood to any setting.

Yes, of course this is for sale.  Click here.