Trout Pool-ACEO

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What is ACEO?

Trout Pool is an ACEO collector card. I’ve explained what they are in detail in this post. Basically, they are collector card sized paintings (3.5”x2.5”) with a following of collectors worldwide.

Trout Have it Made

If you are very observant you might catch the similarity of this painting to another, larger oil painting called Forest Stream I. I enjoyed creating that painting so much I decided to repurpose it as “Trout Pool ACEO” so I could write a bit about how Nature’s surface beauty usually veils far more than meets the eye.

The occupants of this trout pool beneath the small waterfall for instance, are blessed with ideal surroundings. Insects from the upper canopy are blown into the water by the wind or rain. And in certain seasons insects hatch on the forest floor and even beneath the water. They emerge and drift about, some landing on the surface of the trout pool. Where they are promptly taken as sustenance.

So, aside from having a delightful cold water habitat, trout have their food served to them from Nature herself. Their only adversary being humans, and their location usually being somewhat to very remote, they pretty much have a good life. All that veiled by the beautiful flowing water and scenery taking center stage. Likewise for lizards, salamanders, frogs and good ol’ worms. They are there, we just don’t notice.

A Studio Piece

Forest Stream I is currently available and hanging in the studio. So it was easy to reference it to paint Trout Pool ACEO. Using a large reference painting to paint an ACEO collectible card can be a challenge due to the huge difference in size.

To make it easy to transfer the image I used the ages old grid method with a modern twist. There is an app called “CopyIt” available for iPad and Mac that loads a pic of any painting upon which you want apply a grid. You then lightly pencil the same grid (only proportionally smaller) on your blank ACEO card.

Now you have easy reference from the large painting as it relates to the grid and the small painting as it relates to the grid. This makes it simple to transfer the rough sketch to the ACEO card.From there I painted in watercolor washes to get the rough layout down. Then followed that with gouache (opaque watercolor) to finish the little painting. Painting with gouache is similar to painting with oils, only in the finished result. The techniques and methods are very different. Gouache being much faster to dry and allow layering. It’s a really fun and handy medium once you master it.

Rather than purchase a set of gouache paints, just purchase titanium white and zinc white gouache and use your existing watercolors to mix your colors. Titanium white will give you absolutely opaque colors. I use zinc white to develop steam or fog passages since it’s semi-transparent. Here’s a good example of a zinc white mist effect with titanium white opaque used in the waterfall and stream in another ACEO painting.

Gouache is truly versatile

Whether you’re painting en plein aire, sketching in color or working in the studio, you will find gouache readily adapts to the situation. With a very simple watercolor kit and a tube of titanium white and zinc white you’re all set. Watercolor sketchbooks or paper are ideal for gouache since its water based. Hand Book journals make a nice outdoor format for either sketching or formally painting gouache landscapes outdoors. Likewise for Moleskine watercolor journals.

I like the non-watercolor Hand Book Journals for sketching in watercolor and gouache. Even though the paper is thin, it takes lightly applied wet media well, and when dry, buckling is minimal. If you’re going to be heavy with the water the go with the watercolor journals of either Hand Book or Moleskine.

I really like the portfolio size Moleskine watercolor journals because they are larger. Watercolor blocks are also a great option indoors or out. Arches watercolor blocks and paper are hard to beat for wonderful handling of watercolor and gouache.

By the way, all these links are products I use daily and I’m not an affiliate to any of the vendors. They just happen to be the best prices I’ve found and provide great service and products. They are my go to suppliers.

Alpine Stream-ACEO

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Colorado Alpine Stream

This is an alpine stream scene from an area in Colorado known as Paradise Divide, near Crested Butte. There is a beautiful headwater alpine stream that runs through the narrow valley and eventually feeds into the Gunnison River. This alpine stream piece was done on site and is an ACEO collectible card. Read more about ACEO art by having a look at this piece when you’re done here. I explain about the genre there.

Painting Outdoors

I’ve come to enjoy painting outdoors in nature. Alpine stream scenes like this offer a lot of different angles and viewpoints for setting up your equipment. Several paintings can be sketched out or even completed without having to move everything to another location via the car. At worst, you just have to walk a bit upstream or down to reconnoiter another good view. And let’s not forget the fishing license and light equipment for a little change-up in the day’s activity to take care of lunch or dinner back home.

What Inspired Me?

The motive for painting this painting was the depth of field provided by the distant mountain and conifers that are common alongside alpine streams like this. I also liked the somewhat shallow angle of the shoreline rock slabs and the coloration of the plant material growing on the varied surfaces. It was overcast that day and I conjured up a thin fog in the distance to add to the sense of depth. Little solutions to problems such as uninteresting overcast light can simply be overcome with artistic license and a little imagination.

It’s All About Illusion

Interestingly, I struggled for many years with the idea of utilizing artistic license in the creation of artworks. My professional career background was in design engineering which involved technical drawing and the communication of precision and specific dimensions. There was no artistic license. Whatever was on a drawing was precisely what was going to be made by someone or many someones. It had to be right, approved and free of error.

So the idea of tweaking an alpine stream landscape to improve its beauty or communicate a feeling or sense of place presented great conflict to my career training. It was a foreign concept for me. I wanted to capture every leaf and the precise shapes of mountain profiles and trees, exact color matches to what I thought I was seeing. Precision, precision, precision.

Frankly, difficult to do without tremendous patience and time. Not to mention how those restrictions I thought so necessary actually killed any chance of spontaneity and artistic expression. I was a frustrated soul trying to figure out how to create landscape art that I enjoyed creating! An alpine stream scene like this one was a perplexing undertaking for me back then.

Studying Other Artists

It wasn’t until many years ago, I saw a life-sized oil painting by John Singer Sargent at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC, that everything clicked in my mind’s eye. Up close, abstract, bold brush strokes of color flooded the canvas. Seemingly making little sense as to why they were there. What purpose was held in that twisted stroke, that straight one, that clipped one? But I stepped back twenty feet and that painting turned into an almost photographic unified piece depicting the personhood and persona of Mr. George Washington Vanderbilt, the man who commissioned the building of the estate.

In another room, a portrait of Frederick Law Olmsted by Sargent described beautifully the lifelong commitment of Olmsted to creating beautiful, natural landscape spaces of worldwide renown. Again executed such that up close, little sense could explain the “why” of many of the brush strokes. But from twenty feet, Olmstead appeared to be emerging from the very landscape he had designed as though alive on the canvas. Several other portraits by Sargent were also there, Richard Morris Hunt the architect of the estate, and several of the Vanderbilt women. I studied them carefully in amazement to what they revealed to me about painting in general, regardless of subject.

From then on I realized painting was a loose process, not a tight and restricted one as in the technical and engineering drawings in which I was steeped. I was a free man! I began my journey toward enjoying the wonderful blessing of creating landscape art in the open air of the great outdoors.

Forest Waterfall I-ACEO

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Forest Waterfall Series

A few months ago I decided to paint a series of ACEO cards with a forest waterfall or other natural forest scene that included moving water. (The link above explains what an ACEO card actually is.) This scene is from a favorite place I like to visit up on the Grand Mesa in Colorado. In the spring this otherwise small creek swells and roils with snowmelt water, making it an interesting study in how water moves.

Painting en Plein Aire

I enjoy taking a sketchbook and watercolor box along when I visit with Nature. I’ve also found that stuffing a few blank ACEO cards in my kit allows me to have a more spontaneous approach to capturing scenes like this should I decide to create something a little more refined than a pen or pencil sketch. Painting outdoors (en plein aire) builds ones skills far better than referring to photos.

Sketching on site has the same effect, but at times a sketch and a reference photo or two are all that time allows. So I’m not knocking photos at all. They are valuable references for painting in the studio, particularly for larger, formal pieces. One just has to realize their limitations compared to painting on site and not get stuck with just copying a photo.

This forest waterfall piece was done en plein aire and is actually a compilation of several scenic elements that exist there at the creek. I generally take artistic license with any landscape or nature scene unless there is a need to capture an accurate sense of place, such as a monument or well known location. Niagara Falls or Mt. Rushmore comes to mind. Artistic license then is a tool used to refine the painting into a cohesive communication of what I’m feeling and sensing as I paint a forest waterfall. It’s not about copying a scene precisely.

The Motivation

My aim with a scene like this is to capture the movement of the water and the steadfast resolve of the boulders and rocks to impede that movement. Of course that’s a perception and I realize boulders and rocks don’t actually possess “steadfast resolve”. However, that is the feeling such a forest waterfall scene evokes when I ask myself why I’m drawn to it.

That is what landscape art is I believe. A means by which humans communicate the spirit or feeling of a scene or place as the artist experienced it. As mentioned above, it’s not about accuracy or photo realism. It’s about beauty, finding it and expressing it convincingly.

Even a landscape depicting a sporting scene of hunters killing ducks, which doesn’t evoke beauty when worded that way, in reality depicts human friendship, the cycle of life, and the need for food and procuring it in way that is direct rather than far removed. Such a scene removes the innocence we all experience by shopping instead of hunting and evokes the sense of respect a hunter must possess for the prey they take. And those are beautiful human emotions, hidden in the painting yet expressed by the artist with hunters shouldering their shotguns and firing.

All surrounded by Nature’s beauty, the act itself is revealed as beautiful as well. Because of the depth of emotion involved in stopping a life to sustain another. Because of the design and beauty of the sporting guns, clothing and grace of the hunters in using them. And because of the grace of the bird on the wing in its innocence and beautiful lack of a mind that obsesses about its own existence and future, but rather, is mindful of and lives in the moment.

All these reflect the beauty of nature in such a scene if given thought and contemplation. Landscape art is meant to evoke thought and contemplation through capturing all the aspects of beauty in a scene. Particularly the beauty hidden but revealed only by contemplating the scene as a viewer or the artist who created it.

Forest Stream II

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Forest Stream I

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About This Forest Stream Painting

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This painting is available

$765


20”x16” oil on stretched linen.
Varnished for archival protection and ease of cleaning.
Includes frame as shown in image.
Overall framed size is 26”x22”
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The Wonder of a Forest

Any time I venture into a woodland or forest I find a scene that speaks to me the words “paint me”. There is something about being in a forest that brings mystery, perhaps childhood stories like Little Red Riding Hood or Hansel and Gretl ingrained that feeling in my mind. A forest stream almost always gets my attention should I come upon one.

At times I am not equipped to make sketches or paint the scene so I will shoot a few photos with my phone. Over time, I accumulate photos of many scenes that record a particular feature I was drawn to. They come in handy for scenes like this one.

This is a fictional forest stream painting made up of several of those accumulated images mentioned above. It represents the features of the forest I most enjoy. Flowing water, large boulders, rocks and of course the trees, all come together to make a scene that expresses the mystery of the forest.

Often the mystery for me is how long those boulders have been there and how did they get there in the first place. The water isn’t so mysterious. It naturally follows the terrain downhill to join with other forest streams and eventually form a river or natural lake.

The boulders though, had to come from some source higher up in the terrain that perhaps was a mountain at one time. Some force, earthquakes, landslide, glacier or maybe mining from centuries past resulted in their current location. The evidence for their placement was long overtaken by the dense stand of trees, seasonal leaf fall, decaying fallen trees and the under forest thickly covering the floor.

What was I Thinking?

These thoughts tend to flow through my mind as I paint such a scene. As does the nature of the flow of water as it passes over and around obstructions. That motion and flow is something I pay much attention toward capturing in a believable way. I want to help the viewer feel and hear the power behind the water. And I want to communicate the resolve the water demonstrates in finding its way.

A forest stream parallels the ever flowing nature of life itself. The journey from beginning to end. Each path chosen by forces of gravity, happenstance, volition and compromise. At times pulled away from its path by people who need it to serve their own purposes. The water provides a basis for life throughout its journey. And for some of us, we provide a basis of life throughout our journey by creating sons, daughters and working a steady job.

I suppose one would wonder if all artists go through these thought processes as they paint. I think they do. It is part of the “right brain” process of knowing the subject they are trying to capture and how to go about communicating its beauty. The technical side of things also come to mind. Color, composition, how light affects a scene, mixing of colors, brush marks, the use of mediums, even final framing all command thought and contemplation before one can say “this one is finished”.

The Result

In the end, if the painting evokes emotion in myself, then I tend to believe it will do so in others of a kindred spirit. Whether it sells is of no concern to me. It will sell when the right person is influenced by what the painting evokes in them.

Since these are not commissioned paintings there is no guarantee the right person will ever come along. And that is okay. The comments from viewers tell the real story for me. They are worth more to me than the selling of the painting. In my view, should I end up with a room full of paintings that never sold, I would still have a room full of memories that bring back to mind the pleasant experiences I’ve had in the great outdoors. Among them sitting by a forest stream and contemplating how to capture it on canvas.