STUDY REDUX- Casuarinas on the Fossil Cove track - 18" x 24" - OOC

This is a smallish study I did over about 12 hours with a view to perhaps doing a larger painting. I didn't pay much attention to detail but tried to paint broadly and loosely. The view is through the casuarinas on the track down to Fossil Cove. 

If folks think it works, I'll do a larger painting about 40" X 30".

Thanks for taking a look. All comments/suggestions/critiques gratefully accepted.  :)


See new version unfinished below which I will try to work up into a good finished painting.


  • Thanks, @oilpainter1950. I have a 40" X 30" stretched and ready to start. There's one other that I want to do first, though.   :)
  • edited December 2022
    Rob, it works. It's a delicious interplay between warms and cools. The rythm with the trees is great and has enough variety. Gives the impression of a luxiourious foreground and dazzling bright day behind. Which is your focal point : crooked tree or violet rocks?
    Suggestion: the tree on the violet rocks, which looks like a focal point does not look very special, rather tonned down. How about making it special with some warmer saturation or other interesting contrast with the violet cool rock, to balance the strong foreground interest with something in middle ground? This would make an interesting balance with the crooked tree as well across the straight tree in between.
    Maybe this would compete too much with the foreground already quite busy..
  • edited December 2022
    Thanks, @adrdri. Yes, I didn't pay much attention to the gnarled tree on top of the rock. I will make it more of a focal point in the larger painting. I would also pay more attention to the rocks - the cliff is too straight; it should have small indentations and I will make the strata more apparent. 

    Thanks for your helpful suggestions.   :)
  • Yes, a few tweaks of your magic brush and you will have another masterpiece!
    It work well.   When you say small, may I ask, how small?
  • Thanks, @toujours. This study is 18" X 24".  That's small for me. It only took 12 hours including lots of breaks so really probably only about 8 hours.   :)
  • Works really well! Would definitely work in a bigger format.

    Having said that, your 'small' 18" x 24" is bigger than I normally paint!
  • @tassieguy

    It certainly does work Rob.

    It makes this fossil want to stroll on down the path to Fossil Cove

    I like that twisted tree to the right.


  • very nice 😊… I really like that perspective, looking out of the tree stand to the far rock and those great shadows! It’s still your style but looser. 
  • Nice study.  I’m not sure how I feel about the brown leaves in the muddled of the path.  When I block that out my eye goes more easily to the end of the path and into the blue.  
  • edited December 2022
    Yes, nice. Should work very well. Is this from a photo? Because the shadows crossing the path look like they are counting the hours down as you did the study. I like the way they converge radially from a design perspective but it does feel like the sun is moving. Trees do lean, though - so maybe that's the reason.
    That's a phenomenal level of detail for the time taken! Zooming in to see the warms and cools playing on those tree trunks - and visual detail - is highly rewarding.
  • Thanks, @Richard_P, @MichaelD, @joydeschenes, @GTO and @Abstraction.

    @GTO, funny you should mention the patch of eaves on the path. I noticed that and changed it last night immediately after posting the painting here.  
    @Abstraction, you're right, the shadows seem to be falling at odd angels. That's because the trees are bent and the land surface is uneven. But I liked the radial convergence for compositional reasons so I left them as they are.

    Thanks again everyone for your comments and helpful suggestions.  :)
  • I didn’t notice that distraction of the shadow until @GTO pointed it out, but I agree, it’s heaps better without it. But I see you are onto that anyway @tassieguy. It’s a beautiful composition. And yes, a few imperfections on the cliff face will help too. 
  • edited December 2022
    Thanks, @Roxy. And, again, to everyone else for your comments.

    On looking at the study again today, I realized that it's not what I wanted. Despite my best intentions, I got bogged down in detail.   I need to redo this. Differently. This time I am going to experiment with extreme simplification at the block-in stage. Once the canvas is covered, I will then selectively pick out details in important areas where I want the focus, such as on the path, the central trees and the cliff. This is different from the way I usually work so I'm not sure how it will go but I must make the effort.  I feel I need to get more painterly and be less of a slave to what I see. Just because a detail is in the photo doesn't mean it has to be painted. I'm going to paint it through a squint to begin with, as if seen "through a glass darkly". Just the big tonal masses on the first pass. I'll get these masses as accurate as I can in terms of proportion and color/value. Then I'll start refining.  I'll post the result in a couple of days. It will be interesting for me to see how this approach goes. I'm hoping I'll learn something. That's the idea behind studies, right?  :)
  • Try using the median filter in Affinity to reduce the details.
  • Thanks, @Richard_P.  Good advice. I've already experimented with the median blur in Affinity and I think it might be helpful. The idea is to dial down the noise in the early stages -  I want to see only the big important masses. That's the first pass. On the next I can pick out a little detail in important areas.

    I wish I could start tonight but I have to wait for the canvas I just stained to dry properly.  :)
  • Very nice.  I like the depth.
  • interesting! Let's see how this developps :)
  • This looks like how one of my paintings starts off! Maybe next I'll be following your million brushstrokes approach :D
  • I love the light of the second one.
    Carry on....
  • Approach is superb. I know when painting the creek and ocean I divided the water up into colour sections like you have done here. I took colour samples in photoshop and brushed them over the photo into sections until I had a map of colours and where they belonged. It helped me see what is there - when my mind was saying 'water' suddenly I had greens from above, rocks from below... If anyone is curious I'm happy to post my map if I haven't already somewhere.
  • @Abstraction yes please do post your map. I'm curious to see how you did that.
  • as much as I adore your work I LOOOOVE the second approach...the value and colour of the central rock face edge was just not working for me but it is in the new piece. I am soooo  watching how you do this!
  • Thanks folks. I made the color map in two ways that are more or less equivalent - in Affinity using a median blur,  and by squinting at the original to make sure the median blur wasn't producing strange artifacts that weren't there in reality. 

    I'm doing a second pass now where I break up some of the large masses of color with finer detail, but only in certain areas.

    Still not sure if this is going to work but it's an interesting exercise.
  • I think they both look good. The newer more simplified version reminds me of a lot of local seascape paintings done in that style (without adding more detail as you plan to). Only thing I notice in the original one is the left side is more detailed than the right side.. not sure if it matters I'm sure you already thought about it :)
  • tassieguy said:
    Thanks folks. I made the color map in two ways that are more or less equivalent - in Affinity using a median blur,  and by squinting at the original to make sure the median blur wasn't producing strange artifacts that weren't there in reality.
    Interesting process. Not sure what the photoshop equivalent is for median blur - I'll figure it out.
  • Median blur is a pretty common feature, I'm sure it's in photoshop. It's how I make an underpainting for all my paintings now.
  • Did a bit more on it today. See above. One more pass and I'll call it done.   :)
  • Rather than doing some areas more detailed than others perhaps you can add a small amount of detail within those sparser areas.

    I know this is a different style, but I mean the way Haidee Jo-Summers here suggests the grass and other details like just the odd leaf highlights in the trees.

  • edited January 4
    Thanks, @Richard_P. Good idea. And good example.

    I wanted to focus on the central area first to see how it looked with the outer areas less defined. Tomorrow I will give a few flicks of the brush to denote highlights in the outer areas.

    This is new territory for me. Totally different to my usual way of working. I normally work in sections until each is complete then move onto the next section. That way everything is brought up to the same level of detail. But here I'm trying something different.

    I have a bit of time to spare so I thought I'd experiment a bit and maybe learn something new.  :)
  • I think it's a good idea to try new things and ways of working :)
  • Looking good, waiting final pass to make comments.
  • Did another couple of hours on it today. Needs a few more.  :)
  • I like it! It's coming together really well now!
  • What I sometimes find useful after an experiment like this is just to make some bullet point style notes for yourself as to what you liked, didn't like. What worked well, what didn't etc..
  • edited January 5
    Excellent idea, @Richard_P.  I'll start here.

    1. One thing that has been problematic technically is that, in the early stages, I should have used bigger brushes. It took too long to paint those patches of flat color and they ended up looking scrappy. Smaller brushes should be left until the final stage when you're doing detail. I bought some big ones today so that if I use this technique again I'll have the right equipment. 

    2. Another thing is that I definitely need is a better tablet if I'm going to use a screen instead of my on-site color notes. The one I have is a nightmare to use because if you move, the color changes. The newer tablets have screens where that problem has been greatly minimized.

    3. Another thing I've had reinforced is that I need a good source image to start with. The composition needs to be worked out in detail in the reference image before I start. There was some scruff on the path that looked like dead leaves among the shadows which didn't work, but I've found it hard to resolve that on the wing. It would have been easier to do it in Affinity. 

    4. One thing that I've enjoyed about this approach is that you can get the canvas covered quickly so you get a feel very early for how the final thing is going to look. And getting the canvas covered quickly is another reason for using bigger brushes in the early stages. And I think you end up with a more painterly look. 

    I may add some more points to this when I finish. Hopefully tomorrow.

  • Stop!!!   This is far too organised to be writing lists!!!  

    Have you watched any of Ian Roberts videos, Rob?  He is big on blocking in with big brushes.

  • I recently did watch these @toujours, thanks to @Abstraction. It's funny because Ian Roberts keeps it very simple, almost a block in, and really doesnt push detail that much. I do prefer a little more detail though.
  • So far its hard to say which I prefer. On one hand, I like that you kept some areas with less details, like upper left in dense tree masses. On the other hand, I really like the effect obtained with your initial painting, it feels like leaves and grass are glittering with all these brushstrokes. I think I like them both equally.
  • @tassieguy, a couple of things I’ve picked up using my tablet (and the magnet trick we worked out here). I’ve taken a couple of days off this week to get back to the easel after several weeks off (months, actually), so I’m currently working on how to best use the tablet, again!

    Re screen quality I have an older Samsung and an iPad (about 4 years old). For image quality the iPad is vastly superior in every possible way. I have a friend with a late model Samsung, and even with that the colour seem a little unnatural to my eye, but maybe that’s just me. But for both my tablets the values and colors do shift with viewing angle, but much much less with the iPad. So I still have to be careful to maintain a consistent position when color checking. 

    To also ensure consistency I regularly (about every hour or so, if the light in my room is changing) check the brightness of the screen. I have a card painted with titanium white which I hold up to a white area on the screen, and adjust the tablet brightness setting until the values on the screen and card match. Very quick and easy to do. 

    The iPad has a feature called guided access (I assume androids have a similar feature). Once enabled a triple click on the home button and the screen is locked, which means you can’t inadvertently move, re-zoom or otherwise bugger up the image by accidentally brushing against it. This is very handy. I also have a solid screen protector, and locking the screen like this means I can colour check directly on the screen with a dab of paint in exactly the same was as using a photo.  

    To display the image I use Procreate, which is really fabulous software for digital art. Easy to pan and zoom precisely, and it supports layers so I can quickly flick off and on different versions of the source ( original, b&w, and original with gridlines overlaid). 

    So far it is working extremely well. 

    Interestingly, for the painting I’m working on now I’m also trying an under- painting for the first time. 

  • I am wondering about the chroma in this painting. When I compare it to your other paintings the other paintings look more photo real.  I think it has to do with the intensity of the greens and the amount of violet and white in the tree trunks. 
  • edited January 6
    Thanks all for your interest.

    @toujours, I'll check out Ian Roberts. Thanks.  :)

    @adridri, yes, they do look different. And that was the point of the exercise - to see if I could do things differently and how that would effect the look of my paintings. I will be adding a bit more detail   :)

    @Roxy, thanks for your detailed comments re the tablets. I'm going to get myself a new one as a belated Xmas present. I'll also look into Procreate because Affinity doesn't work on tablets. I look forward to seeing your latest painting in which you've also used the block-in method.  :)

    @GTO, the color difference is because I'm using the screen for color. It's probably too rich. I didn't make color notes for this one.  :)
  • @Roxy, thanks for your detailed comments re the tablets. I'm going to get myself a new one as a belated Xmas present. I'll also look into Procreate because Affinity doesn't work on tablets. I look forward to seeing your latest painting in which you've also used the block-in method.  :) 
    I got my iPad 2nd hand (cost me a bottle of vodka!). When the batteries start to go then people just want rid of them - but limited battery life is no problem when it’s permanently on the easel and pugged in. 

    Note that procreate is only for iPad, and is not an affinity alternative - It’s a digital drawing/painting app, so very limited photo manipulation/editing.  I have a pc to do all that photo manipulation stuff. 
  • edited January 6
    Thanks, @Roxy. I will have to give consideration to iPad. The only thing that puts me off is that I've never used Apple and I'd have to learn.

    I dickered around with the second study for another couple of hours today. I think I've pushed it as far as I want to. The law of diminishing returns is starting to kick in and I'm losing interest. It was an instructive exercise and I think I'm happier with this second study than I was with the first. 
    Thanks again to all for the feedback.  :)

    Time to start a new big one. I spent some hours today getting the canvas ready and refining the reference photo. I'll do this one using my usual method because I want to minimize the risk of failure - especially since it will take two weeks of solid work.  :)
  • Rather than moving your colour checker/paint brush around the screen to each point, it's better to have a colour swatch type approach that's always in the same position so you can colour check against this. Coupled with a piece of white card placed over a white area you can ensure the lighting (and thus the values) are correct also.

    You can even do this from a website where you can upload your image:
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