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Celebrate the Beauty of Nature in Oil Paintings

A Sunny Day
Fond as I am of all sorts of weather, my creative process begins with a sunny day. I gather up my camera and take a long walk in the woods. I'm particularly interested in the glorious contrasts created by bright sunlight. As I walk slowly I pause and take many photos of small wonders found along the way.

Return to the Studio
The photos I have taken are downloaded to my computer where I spend a great deal of time studying each image. I look for slendid contrast between light and shadow and gorgeous colors. I look for a portion within each photograph that forms an excellent composition. The colors should delight, the composition should provide both movement and a place for the eye to rest. When I am satisfied I isolate my subject by cropping the photo. Displaying the photo on my computer, I do a sketch on my canvas using acid-free watercolor pens. Now the fun really begins! Laying out my palette for my underpainting is far less time consuming than it will be during the more refined stages of painting. The purpose of my underpainting is to refine my sketch and clearly establish light and shadow. Typically I use more turpentine during this step of the painting than any other time.
I always listen to music while I paint. These days music by Deep Forest, Secret Garden, Chris Spheris, Seal and Annie Lenox fill my ears while my brushes make the canvas dance. Canvas does dance and that experience brings me joy.

Roughing In
Having refined my sketch and established light and shadows in my underpainting, I move on to "roughing in". Typically I will devote about a half hour to laying out my palette every day until the painting is completed. I use a chiffonier top as my palette. Paint is laid out directly from the tubes around the border of my palette. I premix my colors before I start to paint. Some days I will prepare a full palette including all the various colors needed for the painting and on other days I will prepare a partial palette mixing only those colors for a specific area within the painting. It is not unusual for me to have more than 60 colors mixed on my palette. A blob of Liquin is added to my palette to be used as a medium. Liquin is used sparingly at first, if at all. On subsequent days more Linquin may be included to adhere to the oil painting rule: "Fat over lean". During this stage of the painting process I will alter colors, remove twigs and other changes. I refer less and less to the photograph as the work continues. I work in layers slowly building the painting towards my vision.

Knowing when to stop
A painting may take a week or several weeks to complete depending on the complexity of the composition. Layer upon layer I have built my colors, refined my lines, given drama to the light and shadows. At last comes the day when I know that further work on the painting would primarily just be "fiddling around with the details" and not significantly improve the painting. It's time to sign it. I prefer not to sign my paintings in such a way as to make my signature obvious. I prefer to make my signature a part of the painting itself. I've had to hunt around to relocate a signature on a painting I did years ago but that pleases me. During the course of my work I became lost with in the beauty of Nature. My hidden signature symbolizes that blissful state of being in harmony with Nature.
The painting is then allowed to dry completely so that I may protect it with Damar varnish.

Direct Correspondence to: Harlan

Holly, MI
USA 48442
  Artists for Conservation Group
Email: maiee@comcast.net
Home Page: http://www.intimateforest.com
 Harlan  Harlan

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Member of the Artists for Conservation Foundation www.natureartists.com.