Two more interpretations of a photo

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People are typically surprised when I reveal how my paintings are created. I can’t really explain why, when studying a photo such as the one here, that other interpretations of the subject enter my mind. I think it’s probably recalling past experiences combined with a lot of outdoor painting and intent observation that helps me look beyond the photo and imagine what it could be. Additionally, I do enjoy exploring all the varying moods of nature, and this subject lent itself to such exploration.

John Carlson, in his incredible book “Carlson’s Guide to Landscape Painting”, explains one’s ability to interpret as an instinct. Here’s what he says: “When an artist singles out the subject he is going to paint, he does so by virtue of an instinct of knowledge he possesses as to that subject’s pliability to his artistic needs. In other words, he brings an idea to the motif before him, or you might say, the motif gives him an idea what his idea is. If you approach nature without some idea, she is merciless in the way in which she piles lumber in your way.”

This whole idea of interpretation hearkens back to what I’ve written about numerous times in this blog, and have also taught in my workshops for many years…Concept Determines Everything. Think about it. Concept determines the composition, drawing, value structure, variety of edges, color, technique, and yes, even framing.

I hope you enjoy my two interpretations of the photo. I chose the second study for enlargement. I think both are worthy subjects for further discovery, but I preferred the more dramatic mood of the second one at this time. Palette for all the paintings is the same: Titanium White, Ivory Black, Terra Rosa, Cadmium Yellow Pale.  (Click on images to enlarge)

Palette: Titanium White, Ivory Black, Terra Rosa, Cadmium Yellow Pale

Reference photo

Study #1 – 4.5″ x 7.5″ – Oil on paper

Study #2 – 4.5″ x 7.5″ – Oil on paper

“Uncertainty” – 9.68″ x 16.25″ – Oil on canvas


Next week: More from John Carlson

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I’m pleased to announce the release of my latest teaching video and book. The video and accompanying book, shown here, along with my first video, “Limited Palette Landscape”, include everything I’ve taught in my workshops. You can now take my oil painting workshop right in the comfort of your home, and for a lot less money than physically being present. (Click image to learn more)

For those that have purchased the book, I invite you to join our new Facebook Group – “Limited Palette Unlimited Color”. If you qualify, I hope you’ll join us. Check us out on Facebook. HERE is the link.


John Pototschnik is an Art Renewal Center Living Master. To view his art and bio, please click HERE.


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