A Blog About Oil Painting

Embracing Tonal Impressionism

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Sunset over the Olympic Peninsula by artist Simon Bland

Sunset Over the Olympic Peninsula. 12x12, oil on linen panel. 2016.

There are some beautiful light shows to be had in autumn if you're prepared to get out in the early evening. This painting came about from a walk just before sunset, armed with a camera.

A mix of simplification, mood, and light can be used to produce an effect called tonal impressionism. That's a fancy way of saying that it's mainly about the dark/light shapes and also has some color. This style of painting works best when it's done into the light (because it enhances the value contrasts) and when there aren't strong color contrasts in the sky (because the light unifies the colors). All of which makes a fairly easy recipe for turning almost any landscape into a more dramatic painting.

The thing I particularly wanted to go after here was the contrast between the orange light and the mass of blue shadows; this painting isn't about much else other than that. I used the trees as visual props to make the painting more interesting, the third one from the right took the lead role as center of interest, but any other object might have served equally as well for this purpose.

I revisited the painting a few times to make changes in the foreground - mostly these were just small tweaks to the temperature contrasts - until it started to come together as a whole.