Big Mistakes . . . .Again !!

“Above The Rancho”
oil on canvas panel, 8″ x 10″
Uncorrected and Corrected
Two days ago I didn’t post. I had been plein aire painting with a friend in a new painting location that was beyond description. It was high up with a view for miles and miles in all directions. Huge, massive pieces of agricultural land that reached right to the sea. Clusters of dark trees surrounding a few farm houses stuck out and called for my attention. So, I climbed up, set up ‘camp’ and started in painting. I debated about putting up an umbrella because it was windy . . .not bad, but bad enough to say to heck with it. Biiiiig Mistake !!!

I was firing on all cylindars as I painted away . . .stuff was going together on the canvas rapidly. Within 2 hours, I was ready to call it quits, load up the car and head out. So, we did.

Getting to the car, I pulled the painting out to look at it in the shade. Wham !!! It hit me that my mistake was one I should have seen coming . . .in fact, I KNEW BETTER !

I had overdone the darks and mid-tones. So much so, that the dark shadowy areas were nearly black. Areas and shapes that should have been in a dark middle value had accelerated to the dark side, too! When you paint in the direct sun, the colors appear more washed out . . .the painter naturally compensates without consciously seeing that every mark is much darker than they should be. I have done this countless times and cuss myself for falling into the trap again.

The second mistake was not paying attention to color temperature as a means to show light and shadow. Again, I knew better. Instead, I was slamming the darks as pure value tones.

I awoke that night in the middle of the night and almost sat bolt upright in bed . . . .(why do realizations have to appear in mid sleep in the wee hours ? Why ?!!) . . . .I was visualizing what I should have done . . . .I should have used more blues to indicate shadowed areas . . . .cool out of the light and warm in the light (on a sunny day) ! sheeesh! How long does it take to make this a habit ??

The last mistake was to ignore the mistake. This morning I awoke telling myself to ‘git into the studio and fix it!” This little compulsion is the part of me that others call ‘self discipline.’ I don’t call it that. I HAD TO SEE if I was right in my mid snooze epiphany.

I think I was. I won’t again work sans umbrella . . . .and I’ll be more watchful of color temperature instead of absolute value. Clearly, Mistakes are the best teachers . . .if we pay attention.

12 thoughts on “Big Mistakes . . . .Again !!”

  1. Mike , I love that I learn stuff every time I click on your site….thanks……your corrected painting confirmed your “mid snooze epiphany”…..and you hit a home run buddy!….very nice painting!!

    is it just me, or are the word verifications getting longer!!??

  2. I just found you blog today and I marked it as a favorite. I have learned so much from my mistakes along the way as well. As I have grown as an artist, I go back to old bad paintings and finally realize why they didn’t work. Realizing why helps me so much and it is usually value problems!!! Or drawing problems.
    I don’t consider paintings that don’t work a waste of time. They are all part of the process we have to go through to grow as an artist.
    You can see my work at

  3. Yikes, I love the first one for its vitality Mike. Is that wrong to say?I like the gusto and git go. Take a look at George Bellows Maine studies. Pure color BAM! The softer version is a whisper to me compared to the first one. Probably the umbrella wouldn’t have hurt though, you’re right about that! (I wonder how painting with sunglasses would compensate instead of umbrella?)

  4. Not having seen the original location, maybe I am wrong. But I love the first one. The incorrected one. They are both beautiful, but I love the strong bold contrast in the first one….
    I am terrible at landscapes (though I haven’t allowed myseld to work much on them), so I definitley admire someone that can get that feeling of a place in just a couple of hours! Beautiful!

  5. Rob, I just find that there is more to say here than just posting a painting. Thanks for the heads up on length, though. I will watch it. And, thanks for the encouragement.

    I left you a note about your Africa paintings. You are really on to something with those, Rob!

  6. Peggy . . .there is much to say about this lesson. The darx were reading on scene as near black . . .but really weren’t . . .and near the beach, there was a bit of mist in the air . . . .too many contrasts with too much light in which to paint led to an excessively contrast painting.

  7. Katie May . . .Thanks Katie for the encouragement. Your pieces are terrific! Keep up the good work!

    As for liking the first painting, if you had seen it in the flesh you might not have been so positive . . . .it was waaay too edgy and didn’t give the eye any place to rest. Thanks though!

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