Painting Experiences Rather Than Things

Impressions of the Sunset. 5x7, oil on linen panel. 2016

Impressions of the Sunset. 5x7, oil on linen panel. 2016

Despite the obvious challenges, I really enjoy painting from less-than-perfect references. Having to bring something extra to the easel makes the result feel more like a personal statement than a slavish copy of an image.

Here, I filled in the blanks in a grainy cellphone photo with my memory of the experience of a walk on the clifftops at Discovery Park. I'm always amazed at the feeling of the vast sky over Puget Sound, and the sunsets viewed from the cliff tops are extraordinary.

A useful tip on technique: when painting against the light, don't paint the clouds as things, paint the light instead. What I mean is that it's better to put down some kind of flat, thin gray for the clouds, then paint the blue and orange light directly on top with thick paint. It gives you much more control over the edges and automatically lends a flow to the light.

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