Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Irreparable Past, Irresistible Future

Some favorites from 2013, ©Cindy Greene
Of course, today is filled with year-end thoughts, resolutions, goals ignored or exceeded, possible regrets, enormous thanksgiving. I've had the gift of time this week with two of our daughters who live in other cities — and memories of the time spent last week with all our children. I'm full, tired, grateful, humble, probably irritable. I want to acknowledge the passage of 2013 in some way.

A year ago, I set a few art goals for 2013. They included starting a painting blog, taking a workshop, getting comfortable with my plein air excursions, entering a show or two, and joining a local art organization. I'm amazed that I have completely exceeded these intentions; I can't remember ever doing that before. This is something I love doing, and that God-given drive combined with the encouragement of my husband, children, friends and even strangers, has pushed me along. 

Obviously, there's a painting blog — you are reading it. I took a great workshop last February with Carol Marine, and met some other artists I enjoy following. I had a great time regularly painting plein air with a couple of friends during the summer, and found a comfort level (the mastery will come in twenty years or so I guess). I joined a local art group — it may not be where I stay, but it was a start. I entered four shows near the end of the year; all were good experiences.

For someone who is by nature quite shy, this has been a total "out of the comfort zone" experience. I love painting, and I am so thankful that so many of you enjoy what I paint. I'm thankful for all of you, and wish you a most happy and blessed 2014.

"Leave the Irreparable Past in His hands,
and step out into the Irresistible Future with Him."
— Oswald Chambers

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Love

Christmas Love, 8"x10", ©Cindy Greene 2013
It's 10:15 pm Christmas Eve, and I'm the last one up, enjoying the peace and the Christmas tree and the reflection of a sweet afternoon and evening spent with family. I'm ever so grateful that our children want to spend time with us; I just soak it up to remember when they are all back in their own cities. 

I want to thank all of you who have read this blog, and have supported me in my painting endeavors this past year. I am abundantly blessed in so many ways, and the encouragement of family, friends, collectors and artists has meant so much to me.

Merry Christmas, dear friends.

"By rooting out our selfish desires, even when they appear to touch
no one but ourselves, we are preparing a chamber of the soul
where the Divine Presence may dwell." — Ellen Watson

Thursday, December 12, 2013

What a Week!

Kim VanDerHoek, me, and Dana Cooper enjoying the
Holiday Treasures show at the Debra Huse Gallery.

I mentioned previously that I had opening receptions for three shows last week — and we made it to all of them. We had a blast.

"Lunch at Lola's" hanging behind me. Why aren't I smiling? It was a great evening!

Wednesday evening was the opening of Sara Balough's HOME Art Show, in Palos Verdes Estates. The show is in the Malaga Cove Library, which is a beautiful venue. Sara had it decorated to the nines, of course, and it was filled with wonderful art. As we walked in the door, I saw my entry, Lunch at Lola's on a far wall, with a sold dot on the label. Yippee! A sale is a wonderful way to start a week of holiday shows. I did not get to meet the buyer, but it was fun to talk to people there. It's not on my usual circuit, and it was nice to see work in person that I had not seen before. Sara has put the show paintings up on BeautifulArtOnline — go and take a look! Sara was delightful to work with, and I hope she repeats her show next year.

Basking in the glow of an award! And a bit more of a smile.
On Thursday evening, we drove the other direction — down to Balboa Island, to the Debra Huse Gallery for the opening of the Holiday Treasures Salon 2013. The quality of the artwork in the show was amazing — just so many beautiful pieces. The gallery was packed, and it was fun to see some artists I knew and meet some I did not. I was so honored to receive an Award of Merit from judge Jeff Sewell. "Balboa for Two" sold a few days later, and I hope its new owner enjoys it.

Enjoying the Higbee show. "Winter at Demetria" is just behind my shoulder.

After a break on Friday to rest, Saturday night brought the "big daddy" of local December art shows, the Randy Higbee Gallery Six-Inch-Squared Show. I have two paintings in the show, among the 609 that were hung. It was definitely the largest number of paintings AND the largest number of attendees that I have seen in one gallery at once. Of course it was a huge reunion of local artists, and it was great to see everyone as well as the art. Several friends came, and an extra fun surprise was that two of our daughters drove up from San Diego and met us at the show. Randy and his staff do an amazing job organizing and hanging this show. Paintings are online here, and you can search by artist name or just scroll through all 609 paintings. It was quite a memorable evening.

So now after all that inspiration, I am anxious to get back in the studio and PAINT. Being the middle of December, that time is limited, but I am so anxious. I love the winter light, and hope to have at least a few plein-air painting days while the weather is so beautiful. I also have a commission due by Christmas — better get to the easel!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Morning at Las Cienegas

Morning at Las Cienegas, 5"x7", oil on linen panel
©2013 Cindy Greene
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

While I am missing so many of my family today, I am cherishing time with those who are near. Thank you, Hilary, for spending this Thanksgiving with us!

My childhood was marked by Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter all spent with a large, loving extended family. Cousins squished into the "kids table", sharing the piano bench with my cousin Nancy, aunts and my mom bustling about (and working so very hard) to feed the clan, and my grandmother worrying that she put too much sage in the dressing. (It was always wonderful.) I'm so grateful for those times, and the amazing amount of love that flowed through the family. I love you all.

This little painting is for my brother, Michael. He's a talented artist and photographer, and recently took a stunning photo of cattle greeting the morning in southern Arizona. I was so inspired by it.

Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Art Show Juggle

Evidently November and December aren't crazy enough in our family**, so I am happy to share that I have paintings juried into three shows in December. 

First up is the "Greatest Show on Earth," the 6" Squared show at Randy Higbee Gallery. A December tradition in Orange County, California, there will be over 600 framed paintings, all 6"x6". Artists from all over the country send their small works in, and the opening reception (December 7, 6-9pm) is supposed to be legendary. The show has a great reputation for art sales, since nearly all the pieces are reasonably priced and include Randy's beautiful framing. You can view all the entries at the online gallery. Last year nearly 50 pieces sold before the show opened! I have two pieces in the show, which can be seen here

Another popular December show here in Southern California is the Holiday Treasures Salon 2013 at the Debra Huse Gallery on Balboa Island. My painting "Balboa for Two" will be included. Opening reception will be Thursday, December 5, 6-8pm. The gallery will be open from noon - 6pm for a preview.

And last is a new show in the area, curated by interior designer Sara Balough and supporting returning veterans from the Middle East. The HOME Show will be held at the Malaga Cove Library in Palos Verdes. The Library will also share in the proceeds of the show. There are some gorgeous paintings in this show, and I'm so proud to be represented. The opening reception will be December 4, 5-8pm.

So next week will be crazy/busy. In addition to three show receptions, I have three dinners with friends, a lunch with friends I used to work with, and the usual commitments. But I'm so excited to be in all three of these shows, and would love to see you at the galleries!

**briefly, out of our original family of five, three of us have birthdays Christmas week. Two sons-in-law have birthdays the week of our anniversary and my mom-in-law's birthday in November, and I think my mother and husband's birthday and Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's are in there somewhere. Oh, and did I mention our daughter's wedding in mid-January? No wonder I want to hide in the studio!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Sea Oats, Jekyll Island

Sea Oats, Jekyll Island / 6"x6" / oil on panel / ©2013 Cindy Greene

I'm beginning to mentally process some of the 1000 or so reference photos I took on our recent trip to the Southeast. Of course they are all loaded on the computer and sorted by day taken, but it takes so much time to go through them and pull out photos that need to become a painting soon. I will typically do this many times.

Here is a small painting I did this week from a couple of reference photos I took at Jekyll Island, Georgia. The brilliant sunlight gave a glow to the grasses as well as the shadows.

I have also been working on larger paintings in the studio. Usually I do these after painting one or two small studies. I finished one this week that I am quite pleased with — but it has to wait for now. Well, if you visit my new website, you'll see it on the front page. Let me know what you think!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

So What's New?

Piece of Heaven, 8"x10", oil on canvas panel, ©2013 Cindy Greene
I realize I have been totally blog-less for the last few weeks — and for good reason. We spent two wonderful weeks in Georgia and South Carolina, visiting friends and biking around Saint Simon's and Jekyll Islands. It felt like we were gone at least a month. I've spent most of the last week just trying to catch up on what I didn't get done while I was gone. Not there yet.

The last week of our trip was spent with dear friends in Pawley's Island, South Carolina. We have visited many times and covered the local sights, so this time we mostly relaxed and ate. I spent a lovely afternoon in their back yard with my paints. Piece of Heaven is the result.

We haven't sloshed through the 1500 or so photos we took on the trip yet, but I have lots of painting references and fun things to share. Another day!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Catching a Breath

Yes, I'm still here — and still painting! I'm catching my blogging-breath; taking a break from posting painting photos while I clean up my studio and get ready for a couple of shows. It's going to be a busy few months. Painting, shows, Thanksgiving, birthdays, Christmas, and then a wedding! (I still need to get a dress for that....)

I've also had fun watching the Laguna Beach Plein Air Invitational this week, both virtually and in person. I've watched some of the shared photos on FaceBook, and spent a wonderful morning yesterday hiking around the Aliso Creek Inn and Golf Course watching about 40 great plein air painters at work. There were so many people there, even the overflow parking was full. Everyone kept exclaiming "I didn't even know this was here!" What a beautiful place. I took a lot of photos, since it's not often you get to wander around a golf course in a canyon. It was really fun watching some of the artists (whom I've admired from afar) working out their paintings. The hardest part was having to leave one artist at an interesting place in their painting so I could see more of them. Candy store.

These guys didn't even blink at the artists
Definitely want to do that again; I hope the Aliso Creek Inn continues their sponsorship. Happy October!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Winter Afternoon at Demetria

Winter Afternoon at Demetria, 6"x6", oil on panel
©2013 Cindy Greene

We spent a wonderful afternoon last January at Demetria Estate in the Santa Rita Hills. The wine was delicious, we were with good friends and the views around the winery are beautiful. It was warm ("all you need is a light jacket"), and we sat on the beautiful patio along with a lot of other happy people. I can see why it's a favorite (although expensive) event venue. At the time, I was in the middle of a "30-in-30 challenge" but didn't have my oils with me. So I pulled out my sketchbook and watercolors and painted a quick study on the patio.

As we were leaving, the light was hitting the olive trees and hills at a sharp angle, and it was really a beautiful sight. Cameras and iPhones were whipped out — how do you capture such a moment? 

I painted this from an iPhone photo and my memory of the light and colors. I think I'm going to see if I can plan a plein air session next time we are in the area.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

September's Last Hurrah! — Little Corona Cove II

Little Corona Cove II, 12"x16", oil on canvas panel
©2013 Cindy Greene

I didn't really just slither off at the end of September without meeting my 30 paintings in 30 days challenge. I painted 28 paintings in September, a few of which were either scraped off, or will go to the "maybe I can do something with this someday" pile.

I finished this painting on September 30, but wasn't able to photograph it for a couple of days. This is a very large painting for me — 12x16" — which I painted from a plein air study done at Little Corona Beach in Corona Del Mar, California. 

I'm relieved the 30-in-30 challenge is over — I loved the painting, but the stress of getting a painting done, photographed and posted has been more than I bargained for. Other artists have had the same reaction, I know. I hit up against that "only so many hours in the day" thing again.

So I'm going to clean up my studio (yes, please!) and perhaps my laptop as well, and make some plans for what I want to paint in October. I'll be posting less often of course, but plan to paint frequently. September was really great — thank you all for following me!

Friday, September 27, 2013

September 30 in 30 — Late Fall, Garland Ranch

Late Fall, Garland Ranch, 6"x6", oil on gessobord, ©2013 Cindy Greene

We celebrated our 35th anniversary with a week in Carmel last fall, and had a wonderful time. We visited some favorite spots where we had been on previous anniversaries, and also discovered some wonderful new places. One of those is Garland Ranch in Carmel Valley, which was just down the road from where we were staying. I did a few plein air paintings there, and also took a lot of photographs.

I painted this from one of those reference photos, and also the memory of the long shadows and bright sunlight. There was probably a dog or two bounding around that corner just after the photo was taken. That day was my first experience being kissed by a dog while painting!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

September 30 in 30 — Blowing Kisses

Blowing Kisses, 5"x5", oil on gessoed panel, ©2013 Cindy Greene
I photographed this sweet angel a few weeks ago at a dear friend's home. That same dear friend lost her mother yesterday, and today seemed a good day to paint the angel. It is so hard to lose a parent, even when you are relieved that she is at peace and out of pain.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

September 30 in 30 — Late Summer

Late Summer, 6"x8", oil on canvas panel, ©2013 Cindy Greene
available here
I am still here, and still painting — I've done a few small paintings that are not really blog material. While I will most likely make my goal of 30 paintings this month, they may not all be shared. Oh well.

We had surprise visits from two of our daughters over the weekend, which was really fun. I am SO thankful that our girls like to spend time with us!

Today's painting is from photo references I took at Bolsa Chica Wetlands on our last visit. I think it's about time to go back.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Limited Palette & Demonstration

Homemade Glass Palette with primaries and secondaries
For quite a long time, I've been using a color palette of between eight and twelve colors of paint, plus titanium white. I used the frequently-used warm and cool version of each primary color, a couple of earth colors, occasionally black, and viridian or pthalo blue when needed. I bought other colors of paint of course, including a couple of the quinacridone colors such as magenta or rose and played with them, and also tried a couple of the transparent oxides. These other colors usually went back into the spare paint container and only came out if I really wanted a specific color I couldn't get otherwise. I did find that Richeson Shiva Ice Blue mixes wonderful foggy or overcast skies, and that Viridian was useful in getting that deep turquoise blue I needed while painting in Laguna Beach.

I've been putting together a painting kit for traveling, where I need to fit everything into a smallish backpack. I bought a cigar box pochade on eBay, and took it for a spin (literally, on my back while riding my bike to the beach). It worked great, but the paint is just heavy and I started thinking what I could leave behind. 

I've been reading about a few artists who use a truly limited palette, consisting of three or four colors, and found it interesting but a bit intimidating. I found Lori Putnam's blog post about her three-color palette, and decided to try it. I still have all my other paints, and can easily add in as necessary.

Go ahead and read Lori's post — it's really worthwhile — but basically, she decided to try using this very limited palette for a year. Lori uses Cadmium Yellow, Pyrrol Red and Ultramarine Blue, along with Titanium White. She said it worked so well for her, that she hasn't gone back, and still uses it. She can mix 99% of the colors she needs from these colors.

I've used Lori's palette now for a week or so, and am really enjoying it. I was mostly concerned with giving up Alizarin Crimson, since it made a lot of the mixes I liked. But the Pyrrol Red makes a beautiful purple, and I haven't missed the alizarin at all. I'm using Winsor & Newton's Winsor Red, which is the same as pyrrol (also spelled pyrrole or pyrol). As Lori suggested, I mix up the secondaries on my palette (orange, green, purple). I also save the palette scrapings, mixed together to make a neutral "mud" color, which is always slightly different, but is usually a warm grey. This is a great aid to getting beautiful neutrals and greys. Honestly, I am loving the results and highly recommend it!

Read Lori's blog article, as she explains her reasons for choosing the limited palette much better than I can, and she has a great color chart showing some of the colors she mixes.

"Up A Creek" Demo....

I posted these photos on my FaceBook Cindy Greene Studio page, but it's a little harder to find there and thought I'd cross-post them here. I snapped some photos of my painting "Up A Creek" while in process. This was painted using only Cadmium Yellow, Pyrrol Red and Ultramarine Blue, along with Titanium White.

On Ampersand Gessobord, a very smooth panel, I sketched in the composition
with a diluted mixture of grey "mud."

I laid in the dark shapes, to get the darks where they need to be. I had mixed
a nice large pile of blue and red, and modified that purple as needed.

I added some of the middle values, going cooler in the background, as well as laying in
the light sand color on the right. Also put in the light gold bluff area and its reflection.

Started putting in greens, especially the trees up on the bluff.
I also put in the sky to get the lightest light in place.

I put in the greens of the marsh grass, trying to get the pattern in of lights and darks.

Water! There are some cloud reflections, but not enough to make distinct shapes.
The gessobord is a bit slick for big strokes.

I painted the right side bank, with its grasses and shrubs. I also worked on the left bank a bit.

Finally, the reflections of the bluffs and trees go in the water.

More details now, darkening a few areas and developing some of the marsh.
I also corrected a bit of the reflections.

I thought it was finished here, but as usual it needed to "steep" overnight.

I made a couple of miniscule corrections on the bluff areas.
This is the final, and the colors are more true to the original.

"Up A Creek", 6"x6"
©2013 Cindy Greene

Saturday, September 21, 2013

September 30 in 30 — Early Morning Walk

Early Morning Walk, 5"x5", oil on gessobord, ©2013 Cindy Greene
Daily Paintworks Auction here
As I said, I love paths. Especially in the early morning, when the light is catching the tips of the shrubs and marsh plants. This is another view I took on a painting trip to the Newport Back Bay. What an oasis in the middle of busy Orange County — not just for us, but also for the animals who live there or visit on their long flights north or south.

Friday, September 20, 2013

September 30 in 30 — Path to the Marsh

Path to the Marsh, 5"x5", oil on gessoed panel, ©2013 Cindy Greene

I'm having a lot of fun going through the photos I took this summer, and painting some of the scenes that I didn't have time to paint while I was on location. This is one of the photos I took at the Newport Back Bay. I love paths. 

I'm still using the very limited palette — and I love it!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

September 30 in 30 — We Open At Eleven

We Open At Eleven, 8"x8", oil on gessobord, ©2013 Cindy Greene
$150, available here
When you visit Crystal Cove in Laguna Beach, there is really only one place to eat. (We aren't counting the Ruby's hamburger stand.) Here's the Beachcomber Cafe before the crowds start lining up at the orange umbrella for a table. A wait of an hour or more isn't unusual in the summer, and everyone is guilty of elbowing to the front of the line.

What a view, though!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

September 30 in 30 — Harmony

Harmony, 6"x6", oil on gessoed panel, ©2013 Cindy Greene
Have you ever wanted to live in Harmony?

Harmony, California is a very tiny historic town in Central California, one main street off Highway 1. It was founded in 1869 and has a rather colorful past, but now consists of a few artisans, the post office and the very nice Harmony Cellars winery. We often stop when we're passing by. The winery is worth a stop, and has a lovely view from their patio.

I loved the late afternoon tree shadows on the post office building. It was a lot of fun to paint.

And did anyone notice the two "sevens" are not alike? Right. I wonder if anyone else notices that.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

September 30 in 30 — Up A Creek

Up A Creek, 6"x6", oil on gessoed panel, ©2013 Cindy Greene
On one of our painting group excursions this last summer, my friend Diane disappeared down a path and soon called the rest of us down to see her view. It was gorgeous, and I snapped some photos. The path was a bit too rocky to get my painting gear down, so I planned to paint the creek another day.

And today was that lucky day. This is one of those paintings that I knew what I wanted, and it pretty much worked out that way. (Those days are pretty nice when they happen!)

I'm going to post a demo series of this painting on my FaceBook fan page tomorrow. Be sure to "like" the Cindy Greene Studio page, and check in tomorrow to see how I painted this view.

FaceBook page: https://www.facebook.com/cindygreenestudio

Monday, September 16, 2013

September 30 in 30 — Around the Corner

Around the Corner, 8"x10", oil on canvas panel, ©2013 Cindy Greene,
$175 available here
This painting was a challenge in itself! I started in en plein air on Balboa Island, on a beautiful summer morning. I was very happy with parts of the painting, but there were a few problems. I've been mentally working on those areas now for some time, and decided it was time to actually finish the painting. I used Julie Ford Oliver's "paint on the glass" technique again and tried out some different options, and I'm pretty happy with the outcome.

Balboa Island is really sensory overload — so much to paint and it's better to bite off very small chunks. The gardens of the homes are charming, and I especially liked the Iceberg roses and grey-green bedding plants of this home.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

September 30 in 30 — Clouds Over Big Morongo

Clouds Over Big Morongo, 6"x6", oil on gessoed panel, ©2013 Cindy Greene
$100 available here
A couple of years ago, we went on a bird-watching expedition to Big Morongo Canyon. It was amazing of course, an oasis in the desert and so beautiful. Full of birds; we saw birds we never heard of. Thankfully we were with an Audubon Society group who knew what they were talking about. I brought home a lot of photos, and found this one. I think I'd like to go back to paint.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

September 30 in 30 — Foggy Morning

Foggy Morning, 5x7", oil on linen canvas panel, ©2013 Cindy Greene
$100 available here
We decided to ride our bikes down to the marina this morning, and I thought it was a good time to play with my new cigar box pochade. I had loaded it with appropriate supplies, and my husband offered to "sherpa" the backpack for me. As we neared the beach, the fog got thicker and thicker, and I had a feeling that my idea of the Naples Island shore with the Long Beach downtown skyline in the background wasn't going to pan out the way I hoped.

When we arrived and claimed our bench, this is what the view looked like.

Truly. See the buoy bobbing there? Well, look closely. By the time I unpacked and set up my supplies, the view had improved to this.

And that was intermittent. So I did a quick little study of an old boat that was tied up to the dock, which will be wiped off by this evening. Some things just aren't for sharing.

Eventually, bits of the shoreline started to peek out, and I decided to start and see where it led. We were entertained as usual by the outriggers, fishing boats, and other craft, as well as a few seagulls and other bicyclists. 

This was a "process" day, and I learned a bit about using a small pochade to paint from. I think it will be a fun addition to the equipment, especially since that plus my small PanelPaks fit easily in a lightweight backpack. I think I'll take it out again soon — and maybe get a sunnier view.

Oh, and as proof that I really did ride a bike into the fog to paint, my husband offers up evidence.

Friday, September 13, 2013

September 30 in 30 — Road Trip

Road Trip, 6x6", oil on gessoed panel, ©2013 Cindy Greene
Road trip! Throw a few things in a bag (well okay more than a few), and Get In!

I live in one of the most amazing states in the USA, California. Within 90 minutes of my home, I can be in the mountains, desert, or beach — or in one of the largest cities in the country. We take it for granted most of the time, but we do love to pack a bag and take off for a few days. (And yes, the local traffic can be one of the reasons to get in!)

This is painted from a photo I took from the passenger front seat of our car on our way to the Central Coast last spring. The wild mustard was spectacular, and the marine layer was still hanging on the hills. It was a beautiful morning.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

September 30 in 30 — Half-Mast

Half-Mast, 5"x7", oil on linen panel, ©2013 Cindy Greene
available here
I wanted to paint an American flag yesterday, as a way to remember and mark September 11. It had a profound impact on me, as I thought of little else all afternoon and far into the night. My husband and I also watched a memorial television show, which brought the impact back so completely. Of course, September 11, 2001 is one of those iconic dates that everyone (of an age of course) has burned into their minds. Being on the West Coast, two of our daughters were getting ready for school when the eldest heard the news on her radio. Our youngest daughter had badly broken her leg the previous Saturday and was bed-ridden until the swelling lessened to allow a surgical setting of the bones. So we were mostly house-bound that week caring for her (it took two of us to lift her to try to minimize the pain), and of course glued to the television. One of those nether-world sorts of times. 

As to the painting itself, the wide-angle of the camera over-emphasized the angled perspective. I tried to compensate, but I think it is not quite right. But I am happy with the flag, which was the purpose of my painting, so decided it's time to move on. 

Again, I am reminded of how grateful I am for a "normal day."

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

September 30 in 30 — A Walk With Bepa

A Walk With Bepa, 7"x5", oil on gessobord panel, ©2013 Cindy Greene

This is a painting I've been wanting to do for a very long time. A faded photo of my father and my eldest daughter is on my bulletin board, and has always been one of my favorites. The toddler is now a wife and budding knitwear designer, and my dad passed away 14 years ago. I didn't notice until I scanned and enlarged the photo that Emily is wearing her favorite stretchy heart bracelet on her upper arm. She has always had her own original sense of style!

It's funny how the painting developed. I sketched the figures lightly in thinned paint, and had to do very little correction. It took quite a long time for such a small painting, but the figures went pretty quickly. It's the background that gave me trouble. The reference photo was taken in a park with some rather straggly small trees, and people in the background. The trees and people just didn't work with the composition, and the dry brownish grass in the photo wasn't very attractive. 

So I borrowed Julie Ford Oliver's idea of using a piece of glass held over the painting to try out different ideas — I painted the changes on the glass first and snapped a photo. Then looking at the viewfinder, I could see if the design was improved or not. It took a few tries, but it is a brilliant tool. Thanks, Julie! 

Here are some photos I snapped of the process — it might be interesting to you how it went.

I toned the panel with diluted burnt sienna, and wiped it off.
It will help counter all that green. I hope.

Got the figures sketched in, the darks in the jeans and shirt,
and my original idea for the background

My dad is looking pretty good, and I'm working on Emily

Emily is coming along, and I've greened up the grass.
Not happy with the background.

Glass! Painted a brighter sky to see how that looks. Nah.

More glass — painted in a darker background of distant trees. Better.

Added some distant trees on the painting. Better,
but I don't like the little tree. Too distracting.

Glass again. Made the tree(s) less distinct. Much better.

Corrected the trees on the painting. I like this background much better;
it gives context without distracting from the figures.

Finished for the night, but there are a few places I want to adjust.
Too much yellow halo around my dad's sleeves and Em's right leg isn't right.

I'm happy with the final result. Also corrected Emily's hair, and
added some shadow under the tree on the left.
Thanks for sticking with me this far!

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