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Nature and Wildlife
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Raising a Little Dust
I use a very direct method of painting in oil, starting with the center of interest and growing the painting outward and until it is compete. The size and scope of the painting are sketched very lightly in charcoal prior to starting the painting. I do not sketch in the entire composition before I begin because it allows me to measure and draw as I go. Laying in the foundation values and then applying warm and cool versions of those values one over the other to create vibration.

Raising a Little Dust
As the painting begins to take shape I am not thinking about the subject, only about the most simple shapes and their relative position, value and size to each other. Shapes can be a dark value area (like the that between the head and the ear) or a middle value area (like the head in shadow in this case). I am not concerned with details at all at this point. Though I will throw in a wrinkle or two, just to see the effect and to judge the value of the darks in the light. At this point measurements are critical. I spend hours measuring and remeasuring, correcting large errors now while the shapes are large and simple. It would not do to try and correct those errors later when the paint is starting to dry and key areas are completed. Imagine a well drawn eye and a tusk out of place. One or the other would have to be repainted.

Raising a Little Dust
As the painting progresses I am thinking mostly about accuracy of shape placement, temperature of values and maintaining simplicity of form. As the main body of the subject comes together I can now begin to apply some detail and highlights. Some areas may have been totally repainted at this point.

Raising a Little Dust
To subordinate the supporting actors (in this case the dust and birds in the foreground and the trees in the background) they are loosely translated with value and temperature sometimes fairly transparently. In some cases areas of the canvas may show through. Even though the birds are forward in the painting, it is not about the birds and they must remain less dominate. Thick paint and key accents and highlights are saved for the very end when pulling the whole painting together.

Raising a Little Dust
When the drawing, shapes, values, edges, and color are close it is time to start thinking of the painting as an object. At this point I will reset my brain and start to related to it as an elephant and birds. Because I wanted the juxtaposition of a large massive land animal against the light fragile nature of the birds I introduced dust into the composition during the early concept phase to support and separate the characters.

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Kathryn Weisberg

  Artists for Conservation Group
Email: kw@kathrynweisberg.com
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Member of the Artists for Conservation Foundation www.natureartists.com.