Monday, November 28, 2011

Drawings from the Skyline Drive, and a Visit to the National Gallery in Washington

Erik Koeppel Sketch of Monticello (back view)
On Black Friday, while many Americans were tearing down the walls of retailers for Christmas shopping deals Lauren and I were sketching on the Skyline Drive near Charlottesville, VA. This stretch of highway in the Shenandoah National Park runs along a beautiful ridge with countless views in every direction. We didn't have our paints with us so we did a number of quick pencil sketches from the various vistas, and then found some great spots to just take in the sunset, and afterglow. Our goal in pencil sketches like these is to capture the gesture and placement of the mountains, and get an idea of how we might compose them in a painting in the studio. If I go on to paint any of these later, I'll use principles of light and atmosphere, combined with imagination to fill in the missing information. Lauren asked me not to post her sketchbook pages, but here are mine:

Erik Koeppel, Sketchbook

This was such a spectacular place, and I can't wait to go back with paints!

On the way home, we went to Washington, D.C. to the National Gallery and  the Portrait Gallery to check out the Hudson River School paintings and other masterpieces therein. We looked at tons of fantastic work, but also sneaked a few photos of things that we don't already have pictures of in our art-book collection.
Thomas Cole, Arcadian Scene

Thomas Cole, detail from Crawford Notch, NH

Corot detail from a very large painting


George Inness
I thought this Inness tree detail was well suited to our imagined tree drawing workshop discussion
It was a very inspiring trip, and we're excited to be back in the studio painting away!

Thank you for reading.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Studio Workshop: The Imagined Landscape Part 1

An Imagined Landscape by Erik Koeppel   
Some students got together to hire Lauren and I for some studio landscape painting lessons. We both do invented/imagined landscapes all the time, and thought it would be fun to teach the big principles of landscape painting by having the students work from their imaginations by our instructions. I've always felt that working from the mind without references is a great way of testing your knowledge of a subject. After developing a body of guiding principles in the studio, you can take what you learn outdoors with a more clear understanding of what you're seeing. Likewise, the studies you do outdoors will enhance your imagined work.

Here's the schedule:
Day 1 (today):
-Erik taught Tree Drawing Principles
-Lauren demonstrated Sky Painting Principles with the transition of land from background to foreground, while the class follows along. 
-Homework: Practice Tree Drawing, and sketch an invented tree into the sky painting
Day 2 week later
-Erik will demonstrate the principles of Tree Painting by painting a tree into the sky composition from Day 1. The class will add their trees too. 
-Lauren will demonstrate a new Sun Painting while everybody follows along.
Day 3 week later
We'll both teach glazing, highlighting, and general re-working on the two paintings, and propose a method for continuing this process for a resolved multi-layered painting.

Here are some pictures from today:
Erik's Imagined Tree

Student Imagined Tree

Student Imagined Tree

Discussion of Harmonic Proportions within the Tree, distribution of foliage, and gesture.

Discussion of Tree Design and principles for subdividing the greater masses

Principles for a sculptural description of the main trunks and branch connections, and 'thinking in space'

We observed all of these principles in master drawings (Durand, Claude, Constable, Rembrandt, Gainsborough, etc.)
Then Lauren began the Sky painting:
Student in progress, and Lauren demonsrating

Lauren Demonstrating

Student in progress

Student near completion of day 1

another student near completion

It was a busy day, but everyone was very happy to use their imaginations combined with solid principles for a lovely result. We're all excited to add trees into these paintings, and our hope is that the knowledge acquired in the studio will be very helpful in accurately observing the complex and ever changing subjects we find painting outdoors.

Thank you for reading.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Mt. Adams Painting Re-worked

Erik Koeppel, "Mt. Adams" (Re-worked) 32 x 48 inches Oil on Canvas
I like to let my paintings rest in my studio a while before accepting them as finished because I find that little changes near the end of a painting can make a big difference.
After                                                                            Before
In addition to adding more blue to the picture as a whole, to bring out the warm atmosphere of the light, I also made a structural change to emphasize space in the painting. I had studied the ridge-line thoroughly, and new from my drawings the way that the mountains were layered in space.

Mt. Jefferson                           Mt. Adams                               Mt. Madison

Before re-working I had chosen to emphasize the ridge-line over the layering of the mountains to enhance the light effect, but it occurred to me last week that the mountains looked too flat. So I added a lot of atmosphere to Mt. Jefferson (left of Adams) setting it back, and added atmosphere to Mt Adams setting it behind Mt. Madison. This opened up a nice conduit in the center of the picture that I drew further attention to by sharpening the contour of Madison against the sky (sharpening one thing to make another look softer).

After                                                                Before

I feel that taken at a distance the composition has more power as it is now: opened in the center with a nice volume of light-filled space. I don't know if the painting is fully finished, but it's getting there. In my opinion, these little things can add a lot of depth of feeling. Design is important.

Thank you for reading.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Making a Studio Painting of Mt. Adams

Erik Koeppel, "Mt. Adams"  32 x 48 inches, Oil on canvas

I'm almost finished with this studio painting of Mt. Adams in the White Mts. of New Hampshire. This was a breathtaking spot to see the sun go down, and with Mt. Washington (to the left under clouds) constantly experiencing severe weather it also shows incredible light effects.

Even though I didn't do any outdoor painted studies from this vista, I didn't use photographs to create the studio painting. Instead I chose to draw the location very carefully several times in pencil. By making a number of careful studies of the ridge-line, I set out to combine those with knowledge of light, color, and atmosphere that I've acquired from studying light effects like this many times (sun-beams bursting through clouds). I also modified the foreground quite a bit to improve the design. My main concern while painting the picture was to capture the beautiful memory of the light effects I witnessed while drawing there. Below are the sketchbook pages of Mt. Adams, as well as one of many studies I've done of sublime light effects.

Koeppel, NH Sun-beam Study from life

I always enjoy looking at historic precedents of the subjects I paint. Here are some 19th Century paintings of Mt. Adams courtesy of

Samuel Lancaster Gerry's Mt. Adams
H. H. Howe's Mt. Adams
Alvan Fisher's Mt. Adams
Thank you for reading.