Adam Houston

American Impressionist Oil Painter

Trees V

With 141 I finally turned a corner on these trees. I took what I learned about separating the foreground from the background in 140 and flipped it. So now we have this bright light in the background and the tree canopy is keeping the foreground in total shadow.

Another huge thing on this one was that I lowered the water line. The real version had it hitting right where the dark branch cut across and it was confusing. So after fighting with it for a while I decided there was nothing wrong with totally changing it.

The process on this one was interesting as well. I painted the whole thing in Burnt Umber so it was totally painted in monotone. Then I came back overtop of that (after it dried) and barely added paint to the undercoat. Just touches here and there but not thick paint or large pieces of color. Lots of little strokes.

I’m finally happy with one but we are just getting started.

Trees IV

No. 140 is a train wreck but it was exactly what I needed. I was still trying to work out how the tops of the trees were going to translate and had to take it to an extreme to really see what I was seeing. Here I have made a decision that the background trees would be dark and that the foreground trees would be lit. It was a nice idea but clearly does not work.

Trees III

No. 139 was the first step in trying to push the trees and adjusting what was really there to suit the painting. I could not get the values right on the brach that went across the water in either 138 or 137 so I decided to just take it out. I was also starting to process the difference between the foliage in the foreground and the greens that you see behind that.

Also, on this one I painted the whole thing with Burnt Umber and Yellow Ocher and then came back over that with the colors once it dried. Still not great but it felt good to adjust it and see that making the change can help the composition.

Trees II

The first thing I did after 137 was to sit down and sketch out the scene. I was struck by how many little details were in the scene that had just glossed right over. Small clumps of grass, the relation of the water to the trees, the way the light fell on the foreground – lots and lots of details.

This one is better but still a little by-the-numbers. I think it was a good step to slow down and paint what was really there as good as I could.

Trees I

This painting sucks. Royally. But, in the scheme of things it has turned out to be pretty important.

I was tired, out of gas, and out of ideas for paintings when I started this. I knew I needed to paint but was phoning it in. When I finished, I was so mad that I decided something had to change.

At the same time I’ve been reading a book about William Blake, Fearful Symmetry, that has been shaping the way I see things. In the book, Frye talks about Blake’s approach to art and how the artist should see the world. The short version is that your ability to communicate something is directly related to your capacity to perceive what you are trying to communicate. So, the more you look and intensely study the subject you are painting the better the painting will be.

This hit a chord because I had not sketched this scene, barely looked at it in the computer screen and somehow thought I could use that pitiful about of perception to get the painting I wanted.

So, here is what I decided. I am going to paint these trees until I nail it. I am going to study it and paint this again and again and again until it sings. I don’t know what that means or how many I will need to do but I am going to grab hold of this and not let it go.

Gallery Sunlight

No. 136 is the last Cheekwood painting for the year and it’s a little different because it’s an interior. As we were leaving I saw this scene, pointed it out to Chris and was going to walk right by when he insisted that I take a shot. So just like the Bus Stop one from last year it was him making me stop that allowed this one to live.

I was nervous to try this due to it’s complexity and doing on an 11′ x 14′ was both a help and a hindrance. I wrestled with it for several days before finally getting happy. All in all it’s one of my favorites from this year.

This is really the stopping point for what I’ve been doing this year. I’ll start posting a whole new set on Wednesday.

Take a Seat

I was starting to run out of gas with this one. I don’t know what it is but it never felt like it gelled. At all. The blue on the chair is all wrong, the grass is a mess, that grey blob behind the chair is supposed to be a tree. Who knows. You win some, you lose some.

Summer Peaches

No. 134 is the peaches again. Peaches are strange because is certain lights the fuzz makes them look whiter than they are. With 132 I had brought more of the white into it and with this one I wanted to see what they looked like with more of the pure color.

Cheekwood Path

So I think I’m finally back after a little break there. I don’t know what happens in August but it kills my creativity. Last year I hit a bad wall at this time and the same thing happened again this year. Who knows. Thankfully I found a way out of the funk and should be posting (fingers crossed) through the end of the year.

This one is another from that same Cheekwood trip in Nashville. This is a different view and I have a few others to try from that day.