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Category: Art

Flood Reflections at Rutherford-Sayre Park, Chicago

Flood Reflections at Rutherford-Sayre Park, Chicago. 24 x 24 inches, acrylic on wood. 2020

I finished this painting and I’m feeling pretty good about it. The goal was to paint 2 foot square acrylic version of the very small gouache painting I made last year (below), using only the painting as a reference rather than the original photo reference. I’ve hung it up in the house to spend some more time with it. It’s got a great presence.

Next up I’ll be trying this scene again, same size, but directly from the photo (with some new restraints). My thinking on that here.

Flood Reflections at Rutherford-Sayre Park, Chicago. 7 x 7 centimeters, gouache on paper. 2019
Studio mess.
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What am I trying to achieve?

As I was reflecting on the work I’m doing right now and my painting plans for this year, I became very certain that my primary goal is this: I want to learn to make mid-scale acrylic landscape paintings with a process and outcome that represent my sensibility.

The most important thing about framing the goal this way is that it prioritizes exploration, experimentation, and learning over outcomes. In other words, this is not strictly about making landscape paintings that Ben likes, or somebody else likes or wants in their home or whatever—this is about making paintings in service of discovering how Ben makes landscape paintings.

I want to learn to make mid-scale acrylic landscape paintings with a process and outcome that represent my sensibility.

In light of this realization, I’ve decided to spend one or two more sittings with the current painting and call it “done” because i’ve learned about everything I am going to learn from that painting. My next plan was to do a different scene with the same process, but I’ve changed my mind. My next painting will be the same scene, but with different constraints:

  • shorter painting sessions
  • limited overall time
  • limited brush sizes (not too small)
  • paint direct from photo source (as opposed to painting source)

Know what? I’m excited.

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Tree woes

One of the challenges in making this painting based upon the 7x7cm landscape I painted is that there are times when I need to use my imagination to add detail in service of the painting, rather than solely base my painting from the small source. I went into this tree with some measure of caution, but quickly got wrapped up in the detail and went way overboard. In the second image below you can see that the bare tree in the foreground lost it’s definition, particularly where it overlapped with the green tree behind it. As much as i would like each painting session to perfectly portray my vision, this didn’t. So late last night I went back in and started blocking out limbs and putting definition back into the tree. The trickiest parts will be cleaning up limbs that intersect the sky—i’m going to do as little of that as possible. The next pass will be focused on the underpainting of the green tree, then repainting the black limbs where they need to be cleaned up.

7. improvements
6. tree limbs and general overworking
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Soren in the cactus

Popped into the Oak Park Conservatory, which is a nice little place to lose yourself among the plants, say hello to the birds, and warm up from the cold in the winter. I really like how my sketch turned out.

Seed puff lifecycle, all in one photo.
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Larger landscapes (process)

I’ve been planning to do larger, acrylic on wood versions of some of the smaller landscapes I did earlier last year. The idea is to use the small painting as the source rather than the original photograph. Below are the first three sittings. I like where it’s headed.

1: sky and reflection underpainting
2: tree and tree reflection
3: bringing more color into sky and reflection
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Indonesia

Indonesia. 7cm x 7cm, gouache on paper.

This subject comes by way of my old friend Vineetha. When we met up last summer I asked her what the best place she ever traveled to was. Answer: Indonesia. After looking it up I was inspired to make a painting—I hope to go there some day.

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