Before studying with Mr. Reilly, my drawings and paintings were as tight as I could make them. By tight I mean the rendering of each and every detail. With the benefit of his teaching, I now paint more loosely especially in the beginning of a painting. I initially use large brushes, thin washes and attend mainly to the larger considerations. No matter how loose the technique, however, there is still one overriding requirement, ‘dead-shot draftsmanship.’
The more ‘Painterly painters’ take advantage of the expressive potential of brushwork. When I paint a nearby rock formation, I’ll probably use heavier paint applied so as to suggest texture, perhaps using a palette knife. I use brushwork to suggest that grass grows up, a mountain lies down and the sky tends toward smoothness. The shadows are painted with thin washes and simplified, keeping reflected light and color close to the value of the initial mass decisions. Most of the painting is done out in the light using thicker paint and brushing with the action of the form but with a variety of directions to avoid monotony. The guide is, ‘thin in the shadow, thick in the light.’ Backgrounds are brushed past the edges of forward forms and then the forms are painted. This keeps the background from seeming to bump into elements in front and the background paint may be used to soften edges when appropriate, ‘Paint back to front.’
Sometimes I’ll under-paint with a complementary color that, in the finish, may be glimpsed in the interstices of the brushwork. A third, visually mixed, color is arrived at with this method. Using visual mixing is only effective if the under-painting and the finished paint are at the same value. The creating of a third color in the eye of the viewer was one of many discoveries made by the Impressionists but, if overdone, the drawing tends to suffer.
In these first plein air paintings the emphasis is on color, vigorous brushwork using complementary, near complementary and analogous color combinations with value and chroma variations and extensive palette knife use.