Improving The Past

Many years ago I read an article about wildlife and landscape artist Ralph Oberg in Southwest Art magazine. I was impressed by a statement Ralph made about comparing painting to juggling. To paraphrase, he said a juggler can only juggle so many balls. When he keeps adding more balls, at some point he will drop one. Likewise, an artist needs to remember composition, value, color temperature, aerial and linear perspective, variation, edges, eye movement, and more. At some point, it’s easy to drop one of these “balls” and the artist needs to pick it up again and continue.

I was reminded of this Ralph Oberg article when I was painting Chamisa Yellow. I thought I had finished it and at first I was satisfied with the painting. But, as it sat on my wall in the “look at” stage, I felt something wasn’t quite right. I was about to ask for a critique by another artist when I realized the problem with this painting. I had dropped a painting ball. I didn’t direct the viewer’s eye and I didn’t vary the yellows. My yellows were all the same across the painting. With the sameness, the viewer doesn’t know where I want their eye to rest.

I went back to work on the painting to vary the yellows. I made the yellow chamisa blooms on the bottom left darker than the yellows in the upper part of the chamisa. I made many of the yellows more intense in color. I also made variations in the stems, adding more dark areas and light areas. I felt the blue mountains in the distance needed some adjustments too. I added a bit of muted red violet and intensified the blues.

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