It was a humbling experience! 


I had very specific aspects of this painting that I wanted to delve into: the atmospheric perspective, his use and variation of color 'dabs', the light within the painting, the shimmer on the water, the lost and found edges, and the feel of looking down. I did not get a copy of the painting...I got an education.


The biggest lesson learned: Now matter how little cadmium lemon yellow you use, it's too much. 

Titanium White, Lemon Yellow, Cadmium Yellow Light, Alizarin Crimson, Viridian Green, Burnt Umber, Burnt Sienna, Cobalt Blue, Ultramarine Blue, Cerulean Blue.

My objective for the next two paintings is to study the way these artists achieved their sense of atmosphere, depth, and perspective. Because I have painted Natural Bridge in Virginia numerous times, I am fascinated by the way it was portrayed (and the area around it) more than 100-200  years ago.

First preparatory sketch. Not even close to what I need...

Second preparatory sketch. Getting there...

Third preparatory sketch. Here I came closer to the scale needed.

I worked on this from 10 am to 2:30 pm. When I compared my 6x6" study with the original on site, the study was way too cool, so I added more brown into the grey mixture. Looking at the photo I realized that I had lit up too much of the foam in the water (compare mine to Bannister's). This should be an easy fix, if it really matters.


I never did feel comfortable with the yellow mixture I made up for the water highlights. Raw Sienna really didn't seem to work; I tried several other combinations, and finally ended up using (I think!) Cad Yellow Light and Indian Yellow, with White. It looks like Bannister added white, and a lemon yellow, on top of the moon later. It is so bright and opaque I wonder if it isn't Flake (Lead) White. I have some, and I might try to use it, just for giggles...with great care, of course (because flake white is made with lead). It also looked like there might be just an edge of warm yellow/orange outside the moon.


I had to keep reminding myself that this was NOT about 'matching' or making a perfect copy. It WAS about how he made the moon the star of the painting, how he lit up the sky, how he used the reflected light of the moon to light up the painting from within. The paint around the moon looks deceptively light. It is a bit darker than what I painted. The warm light of the moon is countered against the cooler temperature of the sky, and  the sky getting darker as it is moves from the area of the moon affects the viewer's attention as well. 

Sunday, October 16, 2016   12-4 pm

Working with  "Natural Bridge No. 1" (c. 1820)  by Joshua Shaw (English American)—influenced by Claude Lorrain [that is how they are spelling his name now].

Watch my progress here! (and on Facebook)

Monday, October 17, 2016   12-4 pm   

Working with  "Natural Bridge " (c. 1877)  by Jervis McEntee (American)—of the Hudson River School.

Watch my progress here! (and on Facebook)

Moonlight Marine,

by Edward Bannister

American Collection, VMFA

33x41" oil on canvas

Monday, September 5, 2016   

I studied and copied  "Moonlight, New England Coast" (1907)  by Childe Hassam—

Watch my progress here! (and on Facebook)

My objective for THIS project is to compare how these two artists achieved the same 'late night' effect with very different palettes and values—or are they? 


Both can be reproduced with Burnt Umber, Burnt Sienna, Ultramarine Blue, White, Cadmium Lemon Yellow, and one yellow I am not sure of, maybe Raw Sienna. With Hassam I also used Cobalt Blue. I will find out more tomorrow as I paint. This little 6" square study was done to better understand the composition, the movement of the waves, value relationships, and the lighting of the sky. Now I feel ready to work with the REAL one. A photograph just does not do it justice

my version

Painting at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

Wednesday, September 28, 2016   

Working with  "Moonlight Marine" (1895)  by Edward Bannister—

Watch my progress here! (and on Facebook)

This light, this light—what drama! This is the lesson to be learned. This is only 7x5", so there's a lot packed into a very small package. A little gem of the Hudson River School.

This is a chronicle of my studies done of paintings at the VMFA. In all instances none of my objectives include rendering a truly faithful 'copy'. Rather, for each painting there is one or more lessons I hope to learn, and here I talk about those.

My version.

It was not just the light that was the problem witht this painting, it was also the dark. Trying to get the colors dark enough, and still see the color (especially the dimness of the museum), seemed to be a problem in the light of day. What I will really need to do is photograph it again in front of the painting to see how close I really got. After I got home it still seemed too light. 

My palette was a bit different with this painting. I added Virdian Green and Cerulean Blue. There seemed to be so many suggestions of violet. When I got home, it seemed so much lighter, I painted the shadows darker, but I don't think they were dark enought. It seems I still struggle with fear of making my shadows too dark. 

My canvas was not the same ratio as the original (it was 14x11, the original is 7x5), so I had to add a bit to the sides of mine. 

I painted for 3 1/2 hours in the museum, and an hour more at home. Then I tried to darken the shadows.

I used a limited palette for this one, based on what might have been available in 1820. Cobalt Blue, Yellow Ochre, Terra Rosa, Alizaron Crimson, Terre Verte, Naples Yellow, Burnt Umber, White, and a substitute to Realgar (I used Cadmium Yellow Deep). He would have had Prussian Blue available to him, but I ddn't have any with me in the gallery.

I was really interested in getting the same sense of distance and height as in the painting. The sense of looking down was especially challenging. Even though Shaw use a small brush to get the feel of distant trees and leaves on the trees, I tried to achieve the same effect with a palette knife. 

The figure was added in a bit later, the 'black' created by Burnt Umber and Ultramarine Blue. I probably should have have used Black, but the combination is my go-to, and forgot!

I worked on this for 3 1/2 hours in the gallery, and 1 1/2 hours later at home.


My version

Gray Day, Jersey Coast

by John Sloan

McGlothlin Collection, VMFA

22x26", oil on canvas

My version

Thursday, Nov 10, 2016    10-1:30

"Gray Day, Jersey Coast" (1911) by American artist  John Sloan

Watch my progress here! (and on Facebook)

I love the colors in this painting, but the lesson I wanted to learn was the drop behind the sand dune—how to capture that feel of going OVER the edge of the sand and then the water beyond. 


While painting, I realized there is also a great lesson to learn about composition and color:

1) The dark spots that moves the eye around the canvas are essential; take out any one of them, and your eye could get stuck or lost. The black hat on the man and mass of the boat on the left is balanced by the bucket on the right; if you remove the bucket, your eye gets 'stuck' on the left side of the painting.

2) If you think of the sand as 'orange', then this is a painting done in all secondary colors; the sky is purple, the water is green, and it is all tied together with gray, or a mixture of all the colors.


I painted for 3  hours in the museum, and then an hour more at home. 

A Sportsman's View

by William Merritt Chase

McGlothlin Collection, VMFA

26x36", oil on canvas

Vineyards in the Snow by Claude Monet

Mellon Collection, VMFA

23x32", oil on canvas

Field of Poppies, Giverney by Claude Monet

Mellon Collection, VMFA

24x29", oil on canvas

Natural Bridge

by Jervis McEntee

American Collection, VMFA

7x5", oil on canvas

View from Natural Bridge, No. 1

by Joshua Shaw

American Collection, VMFA

10x13", oil on canvas

Moonlight, new England Coast

by Childe Hassam

McGlothlin Collection, VMFA

26x36", oil on canvas

My focus of study for these 3 paintings was atmosphere, scale, tone, and texture. While I would have been able to (and did) study these from images in books and online, it was not the same as being able to walk up to the painting. The subtle changes in color of Chase's grasses were breathtaking. The bravura brushstroke of the trees and the sky he painted over the trees was a delight to behold. 


What surprised me most was the pointer. This was a man who knew his dogs. 


Monet's "Vineyards in the Snow" was very complicated. All the textures, spots of whites, and suble lines of movement that lead the eye winding down the hill to the vineyards, the change in color intensity that suggested great distance--what a challenge to try to meet. I don't know that I was very successful, and I did not finish that day. Instead, I decided to internalize some of what I had observed, and continue later. Originally I was going to work on "Poppy Fields, Giverny" the next day, but it was even more complicated, and my thumb was irritated from all the painting I had been done. It will done at a later date.


I would love to know how long it took Monet to finish these! We know that he painted the snow painting from his home, looking to the Mill at Orgamont. This was a snowfall that occured in February, 1883. 

A side note: in between 1819 and 1821 Shaw travelled up and down the east coast to paint scenic, iconic views to be etched, handcolored and put into 6 folios 'Picturesque Views of American Scenery'. Money ran out before he finished, and this painting never made it to print, but during his edeavor he complained bitterly of spending so much time SELLING subscriptions that he had no time to sketch and do the ART end of the business. Good to know times have not changed.... 

Tuesday and Wednesday
March 14 and 15, 2017    

12:00 to 4:30 pm

"A Sportsman's View" (1895) by American artist  William Merritt Chase
"Vineyards in the Snow" (1873) by French artist Claude Monet
"Field of Poppies, Giverny" (1885) by French artist Claude Monet (to be done at a later date)

Watch my progress here! (and on Facebook)