Monday, November 26, 2012

Q & A Techniques of the Hudson River School DVD

(click here to order)
I've recently gotten news from Eric Rhoads the Chairman of Streamline Publishing that my DVD, Techniques of the Hudson River School Masters is the company's top selling DVD. So thank you to Eric, and to everyone who has purchased the DVD for sharing the news that this is a very helpful way to improve your paintings, as well as informative for anyone interested in 19th Century landscape painting methods.

I thought I would take the occassion to share some of the questions and answers that have come up since the release,  and also some testimonials.

I'm interested in your dvd mostly in terms of color. Does it show the palette while mixing colors and naming those colors?
thank you for your interest. The palette and painting were both filmed throughout the demos so it switches from the palette to the painting a lot, and goes at a slow pace that you can paint along with. The colors (and paint tubes) are listed, and spoken about very specifically before I start painting. I think you'll find a lot in the DVD about how I use color to capture light and atmosphere too.

Hi Erik, sorry to bother with the business side of things - I am trying to order your dvd through arc but it looks like Streamline publishing only accept PayPal? That is awkard for me, I would prefer to use my credit card, any suggestions?
I would call them, 561-655-8778 I'm sure they can take your order over the phone. Thanks for getting in touch, Erik

Q: (from email sorry about the">>")
I was going to buy the DVD today but first I have a question. On
>> "average"
>> how long would it take an intermediate level artist to paint the demo
>> painting that will be painted from the DVD lessons. I understand that
>> everyone has their own pace but a ballpark time would be sufficient.
>> Having watched the DVD preview and seeing that you use small brushes
>> leads
>> me to think that this style of painting may be so labor intensive as to
>> make it not feasible to paint very many paintings in a year. Hours,
>> days,
>> weeks?
A layered process allows me to give
> a lot of time and thought to each painting while having a number of
> paintings going in my studio at once.
> There are I think around 550 min. on the DVD, but that includes two
> outdoor studies (one quick and one longer) and one indoor studio painting
> that takes the most time. There are also some demonstrations of glazing.
> I've had a lot of positive feedback that the DVD goes at a slow pace that
> one can follow along easily, so I would say, probably a few days of
> painting and 'pausing' would provide a clear introduction to my technique
> (which might take a lifetime to master.) All of the demos were
> painted/filmed in one sitting with a lot of instruction from me about what
> I'm doing. I typically do public demos in 1.5 hrs. with very solid
> results. Although it looks like it takes a long time, part of the 'magic'
> of this process is that it all comes together quickly once mastered.
> I hope you enjoy the DVD, and please keep in touch with feedback and
> questions. 
Mr. Koeppel:

My name is Bill Smith and I live in Sugar Land, Texas (a suburb of Houston). I just wanted to write and say how much I appreciated your efforts in producing the 2 disc CD on The Techniques of the Hudson Valley School. I received the set about 2 weeks ago and have been reviewing it constantly ever since. My wife was gone last week to visit her sister up in Morristown, NJ so I had a lot of time to digest your excellent video. I’m now working on my second painting by carefully following your Hudson Valley pallet and instructions on color progressions and can already see improvement.

I’m not from Houston originally but grew up in Utica, New York…….not far from the Munson-Williams- Proctor Institute where I was first exposed, at an early age,  to the works of the Hudson Valley School when I saw Thomas Cole’s  (4) painting allegory “The “Voyage of Life”. Even as a young boy I was amazed by Cole’s ability to produce such fine paintings full of minute details. I’ve been painting as a hobby most of my adult life (I’m 63) and have always marveled at the atmospheric effects the Hudson Valley painters achieved…..Church, Cole, Durand, Bierstadt, Gifford…….and have wondered how they did it……..your CD’s have helped explain how. I have used glazing somewhat over my years of painting but with your help will now be able to use it more effectively.

Anyway, thanks again for your careful explanations and thorough analysis of the HV technique………I’ve been in Sales & Marketing all my life and know how rare feedback can be and that “atta-boys” are few and far between. Like me, many others may have likewise appreciated your efforts but perhaps haven’t taken the time to tell you so.

I am a big fan of ARC and that is where I first became aware of your work. If you ever decide to produce another video sequel to this one I will be sure to buy it!

I do have one question for you: in your video you quote Gifford a lot…..are there any books that you can recommend that will elaborate even more on the HV techniques?  

Regards, Bill Smith
Thank you Bill, it was really nice to hear from you. It's great to know the dvd has been helpful, and I always love to meet new Hudson River School enthusiasts. A lot of the Gifford references came from a 19th article someone gave me a photocopy of from a reporter who interviewed, and hung out with Gifford while he was alive. I think it was called American Painters volume (3?), but don't recall. There's lots of good info out there, and I particularly like books with actual letters/journals from the artists themselves (of which there are many available).

All the best,



"Hi Erik,
I thought you would be interested to know that I found your DVD of significant value and feel it should be a must for serious landscape collectors without a painting background. -David Grey (of the Grey Collection)"

"Susan Engle Budash, Artist: I just wanted to write and tell you how much I've enjoyed your video. While I've had painting instruction, beginning when I was 9 years old and years later followed up with earning degrees in Printmaking, I was never taught to paint in a limited pallet. In following your pallet, I've been able to portray landscape painting in its much truer and convincing state than I had ever anticipated and am now thoroughly engaged in creating several landscapes depicting the Niagara region of NY State. I've been painting in the Indirect methods for almost 12 years now and sought out the methods on my own and the results have been so rewarding. Thanks again for creating your wonderful instruction video on the Hudson River School methods."

Dear Erik
I just finished your terrific DVD
Thanks for putting so much time and thought into it
I found it to be  inspirational and educational
I have purchased numerous art instructional DVD's over the years and I would place yours on the top of the list
You were clear, concise and thorough.
In fact I hope to watch it again and paint along with you, to further explore the technique
I also enjoyed the interview aspect of it, very unique, and interesting it was a nice deviation form the standard instructional
Kudos to both you and Mr Rhoads
Bruce Gherman

....and many more.

Here are the images of the paintings created on the DVD (click here to order):

Studio Demo

30min. Cigar box demo

Outdoor Demo

Thank you for reading, and please feel welcome to share any questions/comments on the DVD.

Erik Koeppel Studio
P.O. Box 325 
Jackson, NH 03846
ph: 603-383-7062


  1. Hi Erik,

    I bought your DVD's and they have provided good answers to questions I had about this technique. However, I have noticed that on a few of your paintings you used a much more saturated green than you did in the DVD's.


    What two colors besides white do you use to get this brighter green and still be in harmony with the rest of the painting.

    Steve McArthur

    1. Hi Steve, the painting "The Return" which you referred to is an older painting, and I believe the photo is a little over saturated. But that said, the sense of 'green-ness' in the painting is increased by the use of Scarlet Lake (if I recall correctly) in the reddest reds in the figures clothes.

      I find that in most cases when I want brighter greens with a limited palette, I can achieve them by doing an underpainting with the standard DVD palette, then once it's dry glazing the greens with Prussian Blue to bring up the intensity. After that if you'd like to move some green areas towards a more yellow-green, try dabbing a little naples yellow deep extra or ochre in the lights. It usually sings very brightly next to the glazed Prussian. Also remember that if your studio lights are very yellow colored it will dramatically decrease the appearance of intensity in yellow-greens. If this is the case, take the painting outside and see what it looks like in daylight, or get some full-spectrum bulbs. Thank you for your question!

  2. Thanks Erik for your quick response, I'm going to experiment with the Prussian Blue and Naples Yellow.

    Also, I noticed in the videos the reflection of your hand in the hardboard panel. Could you explain how you achieved this reflective quality in your board? Did you use Gamblin Ground and/or Gesso?

    Thanks again,
    Steve McArthur

    1. Hi Steve, I buy pre-prepared archival panels that are very smooth (preped with acrylic gesso) for outdoor work. I believe it's the smoothness of the surface, and the consistency of the medium (as well as a thin/smooth application of the paint) that result in a glossy reflective quality, as well as the use of warm transparent shadows.

      When I use canvas it is also prepared to be very very smooth with acrylic gesso. If you want your drawing to be as sharp as it would be on a piece of paper, than the surface should be as smooth as a piece of paper.

      Try the ochre in the Prussian too, it feels more saturated in the mid-tones to shadows, where the Napless makes a stronger green in the lights.

      Thanks you for all your questions!

  3. New Q & A by email:

    Hi Erik,
    Your DVD is great. I am learning a lot.
    Regarding your medium.
    What is meant by 'standard oil' ...
    Does that mean Liquin or ... Linseed oil ...?
    Please let me know what is meant by 'standard oil'

    "Stand Oil" is a kind of Linseed oil. I find that the Utrecht Brand of "Stand Oil" works well for my process. I mix %40 Stand Oil with %60 Gamsol (mineral spirits solvent), to make the medium.

    Although I prefer the mixture above, Liquin may also work fine, though it should be spread very thin to work the best. I tried Liquin about ten years ago, but wasn't incredibly fond of it.

    I'm glad you enjoy the DVD thank you!

  4. Another Testimonial from Facebook:

    Jeremy Lebediker:" I've watched most of the first disk, Erik, and learned many things I didn't know. I like how you're able to have a verbal stream of consciousness as you paint. It really helps the viewer understand what's going through your mind as you paint. Some painters are unable to do that effectively. You, on the other hand, excel at it."

    Thank you!

  5. New Q&A from facebook:
    Hey Erik, I just ordered a copy of your DVD, just wondering if there are any mediums I should get in the meantime so I can dig in right away

    Do you use liquin, glazing medium, etc?

    Thank you! I use about 40% Utrecht Stand Oil 60% Gamsol Mineral Spirits (from Gamblin). I give the specific brands only because different brands seem to work a little bit differently, and the proportions tend to need adjustment. With these brands 40/60 is the right proportion.

    It's good to have a liner (rigger) brush and some soft synthetic sable rounds (8 to 12), and a 1in. soft flat brush.

    Let me know if you have any questions once you've watched it!

    1. Further info on this:
      Hey Erik, I'm finding the DVD very helpful in so many areas. My wife has been enjoying it with me even though she doesn't paint. I am currently watching the studio painting.

      I just have a question about glazing, I glazed the sky over one of my paintings to get a warmer tone. My medium is 40% grumbacher stand oil and 60% grumbacher gum spirits of turpentine. And I am having a problem, the glaze keeps wanting to separate almost as if its getting sucked up by the canvas too. I lay it on smooth, then a few minutes later its all separated, blotchy and absorbed.

      Here is a photo of what I mean:

      It's like parts of the canvas stay dry.

      And tips or advice would be appreciated! thanks so much, your work is amazing

      Kory Kiewitz

      My medium also gets sticky really quickly (like within 1 minute) and doesn't glide as smoothly as yours does in the videos, should I be adding more turpentine perhaps or would that make it worse since it evaporates quickly?

      Erik Koeppel

      There are a lot of brand related factors that could be effecting this (some stand oils are thicker and stickier, and some solvents are stronger than others). I'm having a hard time discerning the picture you sent, but have encountered problems like this before. Gum spirits is a very strong solvent compared with the recommended mineral spirits.

      I use Utrecht Stand oil (not too thick and sticky) and Gamsol (Mineral Spirits = fairly mild solvent). 40/60 is good with these brands. I've encountered other stand oils that require a lot more solvent and react quite differently. In the long term I'd recommend trying the brands above.

      In the meantime, add more solvent to increase fluidity, or more oil to prevent rapid sinking in. I also notice that you have a textured ground in your image, which would react a little differently than the very smooth ground used in the dvd. I've had good luck with the Ampersand economy smooth panel. Let the painting dry thoroughly before using it though, so you don't lift what you already have. Please let me know if this helps!
      Happy Holidays! Erik

  6. New Testimonial, from Historian and Art Collector, Randall H. Bennett:
    "I've just finished watching your DVDs and want to say how much I thoroughly enjoyed them. Certainly, they should be "required watching" for anyone interested in the Hudson River School."

    Thank you Randy!

  7. New Series of Questions Answered:
    > Hi Erik,
    > My husband bought your DVD for me as a gift this Christmas. He knows how much I enjoy this style. So much so that I applied for the fellowship. I was a bit impatient to see if i was accepted and wanted the DVD NOW! I am not a plein air painter but have wanted to learn for sometime and will be going out this year as a new years resolution. This is my first painting after viewing the DVD but it is from a Disneyworld photo I took not plein air. After doing this, I have a couple of questions:
    > 1. How long should I wait for the painting to dry before continuing to glaze?
    > Answer: Until it's dry! Different climates and weather conditions (as well as paint consistency: thick or thin) can effect drying time dramatically. I find in winter here my paintings take much longer than summer. I usually touch the spot with the thickest paint with my finger to see if it's dry-dry, or just almost dry. Glazes can remain a little tacky even after they are dry, but if you work too soon it can lift some of what you've done. 3 or 4 days is usually good, but sometimes much less if the paint is very thin.

    > 2. When viewing the DVD I could not figure out why you used the small brush. Having tried this process, I love how the paint moves and how you can create a feel of a lot going on in the foreground with little intention. Is this the reason for using the small brush?
    > Answer: I use the small brush to make very small marks and details, and because it's a very small painting. If you like to capture tiny details like elegant branches, leaves, grasses, textures on rocks, and tiny pointy brush is the only way to do it. I prefer the longer-haired 'rigger' because it can hold more paint, and thus make a longer more fluid line (particularly for tree trunks and branches). You can check out some Hudson River School paintings in the museum to see just how fine their lines are!

    > 3. Do you intentionally lay down paint in an area and go back to it after a few minutes because it is more pliable?
    Answer: Yes. If an area is too wet to work in comfortably it's good to let it 'set' a little bit. Over time and practice you'll learn to predict the paint consistency. Spreading the paint very thin will help to avoid gooey unworkable areas.
    > 4. How do you get a smooth surface on regular canvas?
    Answer: I use thick professional acrylic gesso, and apply with a palette knife scraping off the excess, letting it dry and then sanding lightly, and repeating until it's very smooth. Try to wet-sand to avoid breathing dust. For students I recommend Ampersand Economy smooth panels, because they're affordable and work well for this method. That way you can get a lot of them, and spend more time painting and less time gessoing.
    > 5. I am sure that you are a busy person but if you have as quick recommendation on something to try on this painting please do so. I understand if you cannot.
    Answer: The painting shows a good first effort, and solid use of the process of the DVD. I might consider adding something like rocks and grasses, or a fallen log in the foreground to have something that comes up in front of the water. And most of all keep going, and make another painting! I always recommend to my students, that if you can't get out to paint outside (or even if you can) it's better to work from master paintings than from photos. Get a Hudson River School book, and take ideas from the various artists to make improve your paintings. Try not to make a direct 2dimensional copy, but rather use their method of creating space (Example: Such-and-such painting by Thomas Cole has a grassy area, with some ducks coming in from the corner of the painting that sits in front of the water and makes it feel more spatial. He then places a fallen log lifting from the water to make a transition toward the opposite bank. I could use that in my painting!)

    Thank you for your questions, and keep painting! Erik

  8. Erik,
    I am a sculpture student who has recently begun to enjoy oil painting, but only figurative work. I recently started sketching in a local marsh -- and I'd like to try a landscape painting. I have always loved the Hudson River School of painters, so your dvd is naturally attractive to me
    My question is: I am currently experimenting with James Groves DCV Copal Painting Medium, spike lavender or turps, and walnut oil. Will I still find the dvd very useful for me if I use such a different medium? I have used stand oil and turps, and could do so if it would be preferable in this instance...?
    Thanks for your time.

    1. Thank you for your question. I experimented with mediums for a long time, and still do. I encourage giving anything a try that you think will work. What's to lose? That said, I do find that my recommended medium works well for what I'm doing.Best of luck, Erik

  9. Thanks for your quick response! I'll order the dvd and experiment a little... :)

  10. Hi Erik, thanks for such a great resource, the video is excellent. One question about doing a final warm glaze over the entire picture: In your video you mixed a glaze of yellow ochre and venetian red. Why use an opaque red for this glaze instead of something transparent like burnt sienna or alizarin crimson?
    Thanks, David

    1. Hi David, Thank you for your excellent question. I do occasionally use more transparent colors, and encourage students to experiment with all kinds of colors, and color combinations, to more fully and deeply understand the characteristics of each pigment. To answer your question more specifically, I used ochre and venetian red in this case precisely because of there translucent (semi-opaque) qualities. When the pigment mixture for the glaze is at a middle-value (instead of a darker value like a more transparent color) it creates a more atmospheric effect, because the mid-tone will effect the lights in the underpainting in a different way than the shadows. The lights will receive the glaze transparently thus 'tinting' the color while keeping there high value, while the shadows will receive the glaze in a smokey atmospheric way that compresses the contrast within the shadow toward the value of the glaze (creating the sense of a murky warm shadow that the viewer can vaguely see detail within). In my opinion this is a great way to capture the sensation that we actually experience when we look at a bright atmospheric scene in nature. We can also find this effect all over the place in the works of Sanford Gifford, Claude Lorrain, John Constable, William Turner....etc, etc, etc. I would recommend experimenting with all possibilities. Historic paintings were done in many many layers. Try a translucent glaze, then a more transparent one on top once it's dry. This can make a very warm glassy effect. Also watch out that you don't get so much transparent layering that your painting ends up looking like a candied apple :) . Painting into the glazes will help avoid that.

    2. Thanks, Erik, that is great info. I figured there was a good reason for using venetian red in the mix. Your video really helped me understand the glazing process. I can see where it takes a lot of practice and experimentation to fully master glazing. I have a stormy, moody seascape nearing completion and would like to try a final warm glaze over the entire picture, and some of the white is a little too strong in the foam of the main wave. I am looking forward to your next video. . .