Just south of the art town Carmel lies Big Sur, probably the most majestic meeting of land and sea in California.  It’s been painted by many artists over the past 100 years. Unfortunately, it’s also been scared by the recent fires this summer.  I don’t know what the area looks like today, and am a little hesitant to go back.  How’s it changed?  if you live in the area, chime in, let us know…

This painting presented a number of challenges. I needed to represent three areas of distance: foreground, middle ground and distant background. This required careful control of values and color, especially hue intensity and temperature. As objects recede, a number of things occur, and you generally need to push each of these aerial perspective principles a bit to get your image to read well in the two-dimensional space of canvas. First, colors change, generally getting cooler (as the layers of moisture in the air add blue), but they also change by hue, getting less intense.  The level of intensite is different, depending upon the color: Yellows drop off first, followed by red, then blue. In addition to getting cooler then, they also loose hue intensity in that order (yellow, red, blue).
The second big change is values: values come closer together as space recedes.  Even so, you must keep your light and shade areas distinct, ie, all objects in light must be lighter than all objects in shade, and vice versa.

Given these general principles (follow or break them to meet your needs–do what works for you), the color of the ocean was particularly challenging. It was very intense, so more difficult to show recession in space.  As you can see, the blue of the water here is the most hue rich of everything else in the painting, and yet I needed to represent both foreground and distant water surface area.  The distant area is slightly lighter and duller, in this case. I’m not sure it reads well as distance, but let me know what you think.


Big Sur – Oil on Linen – 11×14



4 thoughts on “Big Sur

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