Over the summer I had the privilege of painting at Hollywood Forever Cemetery and along with it, I was able to capture a few shots of the resident swans. White has to be my favorite color to paint because I’m not just painting white but the many colors it reflects. I was attracted to the memorial I painted there for the same reason (which you can see here. Fun fact: the memorial is for William A. Clark, Jr. and his family, the man who founded the L.A. Philharmonic).
I start off laying out the composition in burnt sienna and similar orange-y tones and then work my way to blue. It’s a simple process really, but for some reason it’s why I get really excited about oil painting. Orange to blue? The swans are reflecting a lot of blue, so why not just paint with blue? I could, but then I wouldn’t have warm tones to really accentuate the cool, and it wouldn’t be as much fun for me. Blue and orange are opposites on the color spectrum and as you get to equal amounts of the pigment you get to a neutral shade of grey. With more orange you get warm shades of grey and browns, with more blue you get cooler shades of grey and ranges of slate blue, so ultimately I get a wider range of cool and warm tones. But why not just leave the canvas white or put white paint straight on the canvas? Again I could, but I wanted a warm white to contrast the swans with it’s surrounding cooler toned water, and so I can use blues and violets for the brightest whites to really make those highlights pop. It’s subtle, but it helps the eye move around the canvas. This is just one way among many to do an oil painting, but one that I love to experiment with over and over again. You can see the finished swans in its entirety here (prints) or here (original oil painting). This is a brief explanation of my process (I could keep going!), so let me know if you have any questions in the comments below!