Jackie Paints Aspens in Taos / Part 1 and Part 2
On a beautiful overcast day, Jackie chooses a colorful grouping of aspens on the Taos Museum property behind the Nicolai Fechin studio, right in the heart of Taos, New Mexico. Although she mistakenly calls them birch trees, they are the high desert aspens prevalent in the New Mexico landscape, displaying the brilliant yellow leaves of fall. Even though her subject is in front of an unprepossessing administrative building, she envisions her painting by eliminating elements that detract from the design and then focuses on the qualities she finds beautiful.
Thinking simply, she starts with a neutral color to lay in the shapes of the trees. Once she moves out of a monochromatic palette, she exaggerates the color harmony she sees, bringing in elements from other parts of the grounds to create a beautiful painting.
Jackie explains her process every step of the way as she lays down juicy paint. When the ground and the trees are established, she starts putting in the sky with thick brushstrokes, emphasizing the use of sky holes to help determine the value of the white aspen trunks. The poetry of her vision is apparent as her painting develops.
Beginners will enjoy how slow and deliberately Jackie works, allowing the viewer to follow every brushstroke she makes. Starting with the glass jar, she captures the warm transmitted light, keeping the glass darker on the light side. She then adds a spectacular highlight to complete the illusion.
Part 1 of this demonstration is an excellent demo for those wanting to learn to paint still life, complete with tips on setting up your arrangement. Jackie’s simple way of capturing this challenging subject makes painting roses seem simple, and as delightful and transparent as Jackie is.
Admitting that she has become too visual to accurately choose her words, Jackie continues to explain how she develops the painting. It is a balancing act that Jackie pulls off as she starts to add the yellow leaves on top of the darker ones initially established to give depth to the subject. She extrapolates from what she is seeing to add in extra trees to make the painting more interesting. She also adds details in the tree trunks for added visual interest. This is artistic license in action!
Since she rarely adds a green pigment to her palette, she almost always mixes her greens. By mixing these hues she is able to capture the subtlety as the leaves reach for the sky and cool toward the tops of the trees. She also demonstrates how sky holes are always darker than the sky value. As she develops the tree trunks, she also keeps them darker than the sky. This kind of value control is necessary in order to master landscape.
As the final touches, Jackie softens edges between the sky and the leaves, successfully melding the two together without losing the powerful design of dark shapes against light. She puts reflected lights into the tree trunks and adds branches for increased interest in the painting. She puts on the final strokes as the weather becomes increasingly colder and Jackie feels she achieves the essence of her visual concept.