Sunday, March 29, 2015

Double Overpass - Urban Art - Street View Oil Painting - Cityscape - Freeway Art - Bridge Painting

"Double Overpass" | 8" x16" | Oil on panel
Available at

A while ago a very talented painter friend of mine, Terry Miura, wrote an excellent post on his blog about painting tonally. Click here to read it. After reading it I realized that I had never tried using any of the methods he described. With his permission I decided to share his lesson with my students. First however, I needed to paint using one of the approaches he detailed in his blog post.

I have a mix of beginners and more advanced painters in my Monday night studio class and I decided to go with the simple approach Terry described using three gray values mixed with black and white. I chose a violet hue for the overall color scheme and added various amounts of that color to the three gray values I started with. This way of working allowed me to add more or less of blue and red as needed to each mixture while still keeping the overall color harmony going. It was amazing how easily the whole painting came together and of course it was primarily because I was painting in value with subtle hue shifts.

How did my students enjoy the lesson? Many of them struggled through it and there was a lot of grumbling about their paintings looking "too gray." It was a challenging lesson for them but one that I hope taught them how important value is.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

What's Your Sign - Urban Art - Street View Oil Painting - Cityscape - Freeway Art - Bridge Painting

"What's Your Sign" | 16" x 20 | Oil on panel
Available at
©2015 by Kim VanDerHoek

I've been working quietly in my studio lately, painting small studies, working on more urban and architectural subjects, trying out new ways of applying paint and removing paint. During this process I've fallen hard for night scenes. It started last year when I painted a nocturne during Sonoma Plein Air (click here to see that post).

Since then I've realized that I love the muted color at night and I enjoy making my own choices as to what colors I want to keep or change instead of faithfully trying to record what is actually there. Color is very seductive. When I paint a landscape there is so much color and there are many choices I must make in the painting process related to hue and chroma (as well as value) that it's easy to be overwhelmed and to let color overwhelm the painting itself.

With a night scene the dark dominant value structure makes a strong graphic statement. Also, I am finding that by keeping the color simplified and harmonized I have more control over the mood and focal point.

It's been quite a learning process with a long road ahead still, however, I feel that I'm heading in a new, exciting direction. Not that I'm going to abandon landscape painting anytime in the near future, this is just an added enhancement to what I do.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Morning Mist Laguna - Original Oil Painting of Laguna Beach California - Living Room Art - Family Room Art - Beach Decor - Crescent Bay

"Morning Mist, Laguna" | 9" x 12" | Oil on panel
Available at
©2015 by Kim VanDerHoek

Laguna Beach, California is a beautiful place to find views to paint. This painting was created on location overlooking Crescent Beach.

The clouds kept moving in and out of the background that morning, one moment obscuring the hills behind the palm trees and then a short time later revealing them. The color of the diffused light created by the clouds was really beautiful and I knew I only had a very short time to capture the effect on canvas before it was gone. I quickly put up my easel and went to work painting that section of the painting first and then working on the surrounding areas. Fortunately, I was able to capture it in time because in just a few hours the clouds rolled back in and completely obscured the hills and ocean behind the palm trees, changing the view dramatically.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Southern Stroll - Original Oil Painting of the Beach - Crystal Cove Beach Painting - California Beach Painting - Beach House Art

 "Southern Stroll" | 10" x 8" | Oil on panel

With all the experimenting I've been doing in my work lately I took a break and went out to get in some plein air at Crystal Cove State Beach. The light that morning was constantly changing with clouds moving in and out, hiding then revealing the sun then hiding it again. I stuck with the general overcast feel of the morning since that light seemed to be the most consistent and I liked the color of the sky in the distance behind the last bluff. The wet sand and incoming water created a nice lead into the painting punctuated by rocks strewn on shore. People are always walking along this stretch of beach and I had to add a couple of them for interest and scale. This is a beautiful beach and one of my favorite places to paint. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Contemporary Windmills - Original Oil Painting of Windmills - Desert Windmill - Contemporary Art - Energy Art - Modern Home Art

"Contemporary Windmills" | 9" x12" | Oil on canvas panel
Available at
©2015 by Kim VanDerHoek

This one had me stumped for a few months. I blocked it about six months ago with a colorful underpainting and then got sidetracked by plein air painting events and general life stuff. So, this one sat around my studio for a while and each time I passed it I'd think, "I've got to finish that one before I forget where I was going with it."

At the time I had a clear idea of what I wanted to do to it once the underpainting was dry and I even painted a small sketch which I was happy with, but in the end my sketch didn't translate into a larger piece. In my ongoing quest to experiment, I tried painting the sky orange to see if I could get a warm color to work in that area. Unfortunately, the orange sky dominated the painting and not in a good way. Sometimes I need to break the rules though just to see what happens in this case I'm glad I gave it a shot even though it didn't pan out. What it left me with was an exciting underpainting and I really like how it peeks through the sky now.

The windmills also went through some changes. Starting out a light gray and looking too white and bright with the orange sky behind them the windmills appeared disconnected from the sky and lacked atmosphere. I tried softening their edges and streaking my brush through them which helped but still didn't solve the problem. In the end I needed to change the color of the windmills but only after I had painted in the new yellow/blue sky. Instead of their original light gray I changed their color to a light yellow with a hint of blue in it to integrate them into the sky. Their hard edges had to be softened again and I liked the sense of movement I got the first time around when I streaked my brush through them so I repeated that effect.

The other areas of the painting didn't change a whole lot from my initial sketch, although I did keep the drips on the right side of the painting because it's one of the few times I've gotten them to work. A lot of edges were softened throughout too. It was quite a ride painting this piece.

As someone obscure master painter somewhere in an exotic European country once said long ago, "There is a lesson in every painting," or in this case, more than one.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

A Place to Sit - Post Workshop - Original Oil Painting of an Interior - Art for the Home - Art For Sale - Living Room Art - Living Room Decor

"A Place to Sit" | 12" x 9" | Oil on canvas panel 
Available at
©2014 by Kim VanDerHoek

If you read my last post about the workshop I took with artist William Wray then you know I learned a new approach to painting. In the workshop I created a painting of a gas station that William helped me a bit on by making adjustments and suggestions when I got stuck. I finished it with about an hour to spare before the end of class. Painting time is very precious to me since I have two kiddos at home that need a lot of my attention and I wasn't about to give up the chance to get started on another painting while I had a peaceful studio space to work in so, I started the painting you see here.

In class I only managed to get the initial drawing done before it was time to pack up. I'd hoped to get William's input on it but he was busy helping other students. I took it home and worked on the rest of the painting there.

I am including my reference photo which is a friend's living room. As you can see, the finished painting is very different from the reference and that is a huge lesson I took away from the class. You can see I omitted a lot of information, paring things down to what I felt were the important elements like the chair, window, sofa and coffee table. During the painting process I had a couple of other elements like the door behind the chair in the painting and a picture on the wall behind the lamp but, they were distracting and I removed them.

I choose a specific color scheme based on something William said in class which was selecting colors that are opposites on the color wheel. Orange seemed appropriate since the sofa is that color which meant blue would be the opposite I would use in the painting. I knew I wanted the light in the window to be my lightest value and it needed to frame the chair which allowed me to keep the wood parts of the chair very dark. It also helped me decide to keep most of the values a bit darker than what you see in the photo to add to the feeling of brilliant light in the entering the room.

Another thing I tried was working on a dark gray toned canvas, something I rarely do that helped me key the values I was after. An added bonus is that you can see the gray peeking through some of my brushwork.

It was a fun exercise that I would approach a little differently if I had it to do over again, which I may or may not do, but I did learn a lot in the process.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

William Wray Workshop Recap - A New Approach

"Easton Gas Station" | 12" x 9" | Oil on panel | NFS

In early November I had the opportunity to be a student once again. I've been teaching painting for a few years now and haven't taken a class or workshop in a long time. I was lucky enough to be on FaceBook just as artist William Wray posted the announcement for his workshop. Knowing it was a rare opportunity to study with him and figuring the class would fill up in minutes, which it did, I quickly signed up.

I first heard about Wray in 2007 when I was in the very early stages of learning how to paint. He was slated to demo. at a local art organization I belonged to at the time. He had also just released a book full of his paintings titled Dirty Beauty. His focus back then was gritty urban scenes. I became an immediate fan as soon as I saw his work.

Click here to see William Wray's work and a movie about his process. Fair warning, if you are easily offended and overly sensitive, skip the video.

Not everyone understands why a painting of a shopping cart in a parking lot or an old mobile home would be wall worthy art but, what many painters know, is how challenging it is to create something beautiful out of a mundane and humble subject. Wray handles the mundane with aplomb, elevating the ordinary into something with grandeur.

Over the years his work has evolved, which has been fascinating to watch because he's pushing the limits of his representational painting, loosing details, painting fewer "things," focusing on shape and value, loosing edges and taking his work into the realm of abstraction.

In the last year I've been doing a lot of thinking about my own work. Asking questions about the direction I would like to go. I've always viewed Plein Air landscape painting as a necessary part of my personal learning process but never a means to an end. Now that I have a lot of time behind my field easel and I've put a few miles on my paintbrush I'd like to explore territory beyond what I know how to do.

I hoped William Wray would teach a different approach in his workshop and he did. Here's a recap.

Day 1
Wray painted a quick demo. explaining what he wanted us to focus on that day while we were out in the field. Unfortunately, we were painting Plein Air. I was really hoping to work in the studio because I thought I'd be able to push the limits in my work more in the studio and that I'd have more one on one time with Wray, but, I paint a lot en Plein Air so it wasn't totally out of my comfort zone. He told us he wanted us to work small, like 3" x 4 1/2" or so. He also said we could only use 3 values in our studies and that we needed to think carefully about color harmony. He said that most of us wouldn't grasp what he was talking about right away and it did take me some time to figure it out.

Here are my first four for the day before his edits -

What I misunderstood was the local color lesson and the color harmony thing was also pretty tricky. I struggled to find compositions that worked in 3 values. Below are Wray's edits -

You can see he lost a lot of the edges in the first three and changed the colors by intermixing them creating a better harmony. He caught me off guard by telling me he didn't want to "mess up" the last one with the figure and that he was hesitant to edit my work because he felt I was more advanced. I've felt that way myself with my more advanced students when I teach but I really wanted him to show me firsthand where I was going wrong so, I pushed him and let him know I wanted him to rework the studies.

Here are my next four. I was playing around with going totally abstract. Not that he told us to do that, I decided to break the rules (there is always one in every workshop, right) and play for a while.

Wray only edited the bottom left. The others weren't worth the time and it was noon so, we all headed off to lunch.

Here are my last four from day 1 - 

I felt like I was beginning to figure out what type of subject this approach works well on. Below are Wray's edits.

He killed more edges and created more color harmony.

Day 2 was more of the same. We went to downtown Pasadena with it's wonderful architecture and plentiful shade. I spent a ton of time wiping off my little studies trying to get something to work. A couple of these are sideways. Sorry, they are all iPhone photos.

Wray made a few edits here and there to these by changing a few shapes. I felt like I was grasping the lesson and I could see the potential for creating future paintings using this approach. I looked forward to day 3 when I could apply this lesson to a larger, more finished painting.

Day 3 was in the studio. Wray finished the demo. he'd begun on the first day, showing us how to take our studies to more of a finish before turning us loose to work from our own photo reference.

The finished Wray demo. painting -

Below is my photo reference. This is an old gas station in Easton, Maryland that I shot during a painting event.

Here is my finished painting.

You can see it's very different from my reference and that was what I took away from the whole experience. Now I know a way of working that frees me from simply rendering what the subject is and allows me to be more expressive and make decisions about what I want to say in a painting. It's really opened up a whole new world for me. I've created a number of paintings since the workshop. Some have been complete failures, while others are more successful and a couple are downright exciting (to me anyway).

In case you are wondering the "Easton Gas Station" painting is not for sale because it's going into my own personal collection. I need hold onto it to remember what I learned when creating this painting, plus, I really couldn't sell is as my own work because even though I painted most of it, Wray made a number of critical edits. Most importantly however, it's also a souvenir, an enjoyable moment in my life as a painter I want to remember.