"Sunrise, Grand Canyon" 24x30" Oil on Canvas by Richard Robinson

Hi guys, been slogging away on this one for 2 weeks now - not my usual method. I prefer to get a painting done in one session if possible but I really wanted to push myself on this one. I got done with the first blockin of all the major colours and felt that there was a huge problem with the colours - they just weren't relating to each other in a harmonious way. There were these big orange shapes in the foreground fighting with this insipid blue background. It felt like rap music when what I wanted was a symphony.

I realized I was going to have to scrape the whole thing off and start again or try painting over top of it. I compromised and scraped all the shadows off and began painting over all the lights. Yuck, it still looked like the cat's breakfast, so I turned in despair to Monet whose paintings I've just seen in America. He really did create symphonies of colour on each canvas.

"The Grand Canal" 28.9 x 36.4" Oil on Canvas

What I saw was that he was threading every colour in the painting throughout the entire canvas to some degree which creates a natural harmony and echoes the way we actually see colour. Look at anything long enough and you will see all the colours of the rainbow in it. So I started doing this in my own painting, threading greens, mauves and blue grays into the orange rocks and trying to create an overall sense of light throughout the scene. I found that overpainting with wet thick paint only obliterated the colour underneath, so I saw the wisdom of using Monet's drier paint approach, lightly brushed to allow the underlayers to show through. My darks built up very quickly and began to challenge the lights so I took to scraping these areas off and then reworking a little.

The temptation is to paint every little crack and rock but scraping back allowed me to stay in a much freer state of mind rather than becoming precious with the painting. After two weeks I am well ready to leave this one alone and move onto something else. I could keep dabbling with it indefinitely but I prefer to move on. I can't honestly say it's my favorite painting of mine but I enjoyed the different process and the chance to understand a little more of Monet's methodology. It's such a shame most of that old apprentice system has gone, but at least we have their paintings to learn from, so I encourage you to use them as much as you like to improve your own painting.

Wikipedia is a great place to find high quality photos of master paintings on the internet. Just go there and search for something like Monet, or Sorolla, or impressionist, or your favorite artist. Such a great resource. Enjoy.

The first block-in.

"Sunrise, Grand Canyon" 24x30" Oil on Canvas by Richard Robinson

My resource photo

My 10x8" plein air painting.


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Comment by Patsy Heller on March 20, 2015 at 5:15

Your finished painting is stunning and as it progressed I could feel the sun coming up.  I lived not far from there for awhile.  I have to say though that I really love the plein-aire painting.  I think this would be a difficult subject in watercolor as you would need time between glazes, washes etc.  Wow!

Comment by Carol Smeraldo on April 15, 2014 at 12:42

You captured the harmony.  It was well worth the extra time and effort.

Comment by cynthia croft on March 24, 2014 at 20:55

Hi Richard I love your painting and you are very kind to share your knowledge. I am a real green horn so here are a few questions...after looking at the reference photo, I saw red parts mostly in the distance and just a few of these in the foreground which was mostly a really light coloured rock like sand. In your painting the red is included throughout the painting, it looks good, but to me it doesn't look like the photo. I am definitely not putting your beautiful painting down because I really like it; but how come you have to include colours that aren't there to my eye?  I looked at Monet paintings and I see what you mean and I only use the primarys and maybe one or two secondarys in my paintings which are watercolour. I like doing glazes to mix my colours. Am I on the right track or totally off centre?


Comment by cynthia croft on March 24, 2014 at 20:46

Comment by Luba Robinson on March 18, 2014 at 6:41

Love it, love , love it !  One of your best !  Thanks Richard for another great lesson ........!

Comment by Lorna Allan on March 17, 2014 at 19:54

In all honesty Richard, this is my most favorite of your works.   This is a place I have been to and you have captured it beautifully.  Its probably one of the most difficult views ever to paint, so much information out there to know where to start, where to go and when to finish.  Well done indeed. 

Comment by Jane HM Thompson on March 17, 2014 at 3:35

I love this painting Richard, it has so much depth.  I couldn't agree more about the old apprentice system being a great loss to our approach to learning today.  We have put ourselves back at square one instead of building on what the masters of the past had already discovered.  Great post thank you.

Comment by Ellie McLean on March 17, 2014 at 2:39
Wow...I find I have to keep looking at this, can't take my eyes away! Beautiful and full of magic. Would love to have seen the expressions on your face as you contemplated, scraped and repainted- bet it was fun to watch! thanks for taking us along.
Comment by Kathy Guenkel on March 17, 2014 at 2:24

You are very skilled, do great work, give great tips and advice but the best thing about your approach is showing  your problem solving  process. Very encouraging to someone like me for sure!  

Comment by Cathy Austin on March 17, 2014 at 0:56

I'm a beginner but I saw exactly what you meant and what you did in this painting.  You are a wonderful teacher to explain and communicate in a way that others can't.  Thank you for all that you give to others and know that you are rare.  I've been a fan for over a year!


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