Second Beach

Second Beach, Newport by Worthington Whittridge: Session 5


e-floyd-20130517-whittridge-6:: my setup in the gallery ::

At the end of the last session, I had left off finishing the bottom left-hand side of the sky.  This is because I like to work on important edges with everything being wet, and the edge between the sky and rocks and hills are VERY important edges.  The edges of the hills and the large central rock vary in quality, some are soft, some hard, and some were laid down with pigment and medium that eventually lends a bit of transparency to the edges after the painting is fully cured.


Even though I knew most of my attention for this session would need to focus on how the sky meets the land, I spent the first hour of the day, going back and refining the large cloud masses first.


Once I felt the values and cloud formations were close enough in the upper sky, I began the task of working on the lower left-hand clouds and how the landscape connects with the sky.

As clouds recede in the distance, the whites actually get warmer in color where when land recedes the landscape gets bluer, so a lot of warm yellows were used for this portion of the sky.  And for this painting I have been using a lot of yellow ochre, Old Holland's Gamboge Lake Extra, and Venetian Red.  Colors that are not regularly on my studio palette, but colors I have really been enjoying with this painting.


The sky got to where I wanted it to be for the time being, so I began to move forward with the middle field landscape.  Working the large central rock and the adjacent slope and the hills.

The day was almost over when I realized that the central rock was too big and a bit too dark in value.... errrr, I hate it when I realize a mistake like this, and I only have a few moments to fix it before the end of the day and the time to start packing up is looming over me.


So in the last fifteen minutes, I scrapped down the top part of the central rock, blocked in the corrected mass, and lightened the value some and reworked the clouds some where they "touch" the rock.

For the next session, hopefully the central rock will look correct enough, that way I will not feel the need to work in that area of the painting, because I want to move onto the water and beach areas.   I would like to get the entire painting covered with this first "refined" layer, because I know this painting will require another layer of refinement.



Second Beach, Newport by Worthington Whittridge: Session 1

Second Beach, Newport by Worthington Whittridge: Session 2

Second Beach, Newport by Worthington Whittridge: Session 3

Second Beach, Newport by Worthington Whittridge: Session 4

Second Beach, Newport by Worthington Whittridge: Session 4


After finishing the third session on this copy, I went home and thought a lot about this painting and how I wanted to proceed for the next session. Between the painting sessions, I spent time thinking about how I would begin my next session and also trying to figure out how to accomplish the soft and layered quality of the sky.  When it was time to came back to the gallery, I arrived with an action plan. With the beginning of the fourth painting session, I pulled out my oil cup and poured out the first medium I planned on using for this layer of the painting.

e-floyd-20130405-whittridge-1 :: Status at the beginning of the day ::

My goal was to get through the first "refining" pass through of the sky.

I wanted to begin to introduce the more soft and subtle effects of the sky and clouds.  I also needed to shift the colors some and lighten the values also, so while I was working on the clouds I was also laying in a new sky color, so the entire area of the sky got a new coat of paint.


Occasionally I will lay in a big splat of paint in a location to help me key my values correctly.  This is what the large white square of paint is doing in the photo above.


:: Further along in the day ::


The clouds are full of colorful passages.  Pinks, purples, yellows, and muted oranges are all present in these clouds, however I am constantly striving to lay them in softly, like Whittridge did, where my tendency is to hieghten the contrast when painting skies.

e-floyd-20130503-whittridge-3 :: At the end of the day ::

I did not get the entire sky complete, I left the lower left-hand clouds untouched because when I work those, I will also need time to work the rocks and hills also.

Second Beach, Newport by Worthington Whittridge: Session 2


20130201-second-beach-newport-session2-1{halfway through the day}

When working on a copy, the thing I am constantly being reminded about is that painting with oils is a process, one that needs to be thought out and the sequence of steps planned for.

With Worthington Whittridge’s Second Beach, Newport, this is something that I have had to just accept and try to figure out how to plan the sequence of actions.  During the first session, I realized that this painting for its seemingly direct sense, was in fact a very developed and multi-layered composition, where Whittridge used many layers of paint, with different textures, and often mixed with medium.

Armed with this knowledge, the first thing I did during my second session at the NGA was to get out a palette knife and squeeze out a lot of paint. I needed to add an under layer of texture to the water area. I laid in paint heavily with the palette knife to create a sense of ripples with the paint that would set up for when I return for the third painting session.

20130215-second-beach-newport-session2-3 {detail of the thick textured layers trying to emulate ripples in the sand}

I anticipate that when I paint over this sculptural layer some of the ridges will become subdued with the successive paint layers, and hopefully will resemble the effect of rippling sand under water.

20130215-second-beach-newport-session2-4 {building up texture in the clouds}

For the sky area I also worked to build up texture where the cloud formations were. For both areas I used some of my precious Old Holland Cremnitz white (because a big tube is more than $100.00 from DickBlick) because it gets so thick and sets up faster than the Blue Ridge Cremnitz white that I now predominately use.  (as an aside, Old Holland is still the zenith for Cremnitz white because the more you work it, the more creamy is becomes, but it also sets up fast.   I liken it to being stiff like cold cream cheese at first, but as you work it, is becomes smoother and more malleable,  but once you lay the paint down, and if you leave it alone, it will set up and become stiff again, back to how cream cheese is when still from the block.  So you can lay paint on top of it in a few hours, and this is all without using any medium or additive).

I needed the areas that were laid in during the morning to be stiff enough for a second round of building up the texture later in the afternoon. You see, this is where the process of planning is so important, by making decisions on how to proceed in the morning that would affect my ability to do certain things in the afternoon. This is where also understanding your paints is also very important because it allows you to be able to plan and in your mind work out problems that may arise.

20130215 second-beach-newport-session2-2 {texture, texture, texture in the underpainting}

However, even with all this mental work, sometimes you just need to jump in and begin pushing paint around… and this is where I learned something new… when I was first working on building up the texture in the clouds, I was having difficulty getting the edges of the texturized areas to blend well with the less textured areas of the sky. At first I was using a large bristle filbert (filberts being my favorite brush shape), but it just was not working out… and as luck would have it, I had a large bristle round with me. So ditching the filbert for the round made all the difference, and now I am wondering where else I can start using rounds where typically I would avoid using them…

Second Beach, Newport by Worthington Whittridge: Background Research & the Drawing Salon


Often when I begin a specific copy I will do some research on the artist I am copying, this involves learning about the specific techniques and color palette he may have used, but it also includes diving into the ideas that informed him as an artist. In the first post about my current copy, Second Beach, Newport by Worthington Whittridge, I shared how he was of the Hudson River School (HRS) of painters, but by the time this particular painting was created the Tonalist sensibility had begun to pervade the arts in America, especially those of the landscape. So this painting, a simple scene, is created within a rich milieu of thought and practice.

Three great references for better understanding this era of American art are 1) William Kloss’ DVD lectures on American Art, 2) the book, A History of American Tonalism, and 3) the book, The Hudson River School… Probably the most entertaining of these are the 30 minute lectures by William Kloss, he weaves in the political and social history of the US and how these occurrences influenced the artists, I especially love how he reads the poetry that can sometimes be directly related to a painting.

Typically my ability to research ends with the books, lectures, and personal observation, however for this copy I am fortunate that the NGA also happens to have a special program, the Drawing Salon, and that this February covered the Hudson River School: Tone, Light, and Atmosphere.

20130207 drawing-salon-1

This program included some lecturing on the important ideas that informed this group of artists and some time to sketch in the gallery.

The main thought that was conveyed was that the artists of the Hudson River School believed in the ability of the American landscape to elevate the viewer, that the emotive quality of landscape paintings had and could inspire the viewers to feel more whole and connected with the potential of the United States.  Thomas Cole, considered the founder of the HRS, wanted to use landscape art to look at the present and into the future, inspiring something more, elevating those who viewed his work and to inspire greatness in their actions.

20130207 drawing-salon-2 {The Lackawanna Valley by George Inness, 1855}

During the Drawing Salon, I chose to sketch the painting, The Lackawanna Valley by George Inness, an artist more associated with the Tonalists than the HRS, so I thought it would be fitting to analyze his painting.  This painting was a commission from a railroad company that wanted to feature the new round house built by the company and to highlight the progress made by expanding the track.  If you look closely, you will see that the foreground field and the middle ground fields are dotted with tree stumps, all cut down in the name of "progress" and George Inness portrayed this as not such a great thing in the name of progress.

20130207 drawing-salon-3 {my tonal sketch of the Lackawanna Valley painting}

I was fascinated at how atmosphere was presented in this painting, the lightening of color saturation and how other than the foreground tree it was only the man-made smoke that had the highest contrast.  Making it totally felt that man had a strong presence in this valley.


Next week I will share how the second painting session of working on my copy, Second Beach, Newport progressed.  Until then, if you would like to learn more about where I started, here is my post about the first painting session.

Second Beach, Newport by Worthington Whittridge: Session 1


In the early 1880s many of the older Hudson River School painters – Jervis McEntee and Worthington Whittridge … were probably the most successful – did try to adjust their styles to the more progressive, broadly painted, and expressive mode, then the rage…” A History of American Tonalism: 1880-1920 (pg 168)

whitridge-second-beach-newport Worthington Whittredge (artist) American, 1820 - 1910 Second Beach, Newport, c. 1878/1880 oil on canvas overall: 76.8 x 127.6 cm (30 1/4 x 50 1/4 in.) framed: 108 x 158.4 cm (42 1/2 x 62 3/8 in.)


Last week I started a new copy at the National Gallery of Art (NGA), it’s a landscape by Worthington Whittridge, Second Beach, Newport. Worthington Whittridge was of the Hudson River School of artists, led by Thomas Cole. However this painting was created around 1878-1880, and incorporates more qualities common with the  Tonalists painters that had begun to be more popular and appreciated for their sense of style.

I chose this painting because I believe it has positive qualities of both schools of thought, and it would be fun to learn how to create a painting that has so much atmosphere along with the fine attention to detail that those of the Hudson River School are renown for.

The last time I was at the NGA copying I was VERY pregnant with Naomi. I stopped going when I was around 30-32 weeks along, so this time back felt like a whole new experience… and the first day back was a bit of a learning curve to get back into the groove.


I started with the drawing already blocked in with vine charcoal, (I did this at home) and brought it in to lay in the drawing with turp. thinned burnt umber. The reason I did not make the drawing permanent with the burnt umber at home was because sometimes photos do not accurately record important features of a painting, and I wanted to be there in person to make adjustments as would be required. After having the drawing reinforced with thinned oil paint, I wiped the grid away.


After that I began to block in the painting, going a little darker for the ocean area of the composition. This portion went pretty fast, now comes the challenging phase, figuring out how to proceed so I too can create an equally sensitive painting that includes the variety of texture and dynamic brush work.


In the afternoon, I began to analyze how this painting was created, and what struck me, was how much texture and the multitude of layers that had been applied. The way some passages are on the canvas informed me that Whittridge would work fast, with medium mixed into his paint, and that all areas seem to have a minimum of 3-4 layers of paint, if not more. There are some very subtle passages of cools being floated or scumbled above warm colors.

In the water area it looks like he used a palette knife to lay paint in, building up texture to resemble the ripples of water. So for my next session, I am going to bring some different mediums, including stand oil, wax medium, and maybe a mixed medium of linseed oil and dammar varnish, also I will plan on bringing a few different palette knives to build up the texture in the water area.

Here are some detail images of the original painting.


In this photo I tried to capture the texture of the painting, see how the clouds and sea have quite a bit of texture


The green was scumbled on a creamy underpainting...I am going to have to change that in my painting during the next session...


The different texture of the sand versus the sea, and how the figure is full of thick impasto paint, making is pop out and be more visible even though it is such a tiny feature of the painting.

20130201-second-beach-newport- session1-5 The variety of layers of paint, some thick, some thin, some obviously suspended in medium, and all the scumbling, so notes of color peep through and make the color dance and sparkle.