Class Notes: Susan McCullough, Guest Artist

We had a special treat this week in class; award winning, Colorado painter Susan McCullough was our guest for a painting demo.
Sue is a Colorado native, life long painter and full time professional
who has earned her cred at painting shows, events, competitions and invitationals all over the west.  Plein air work is her specialty and the plein air piece at the right was done about 2 weeks ago, above Pinus Creek west of Alamosa. For the benefit of the demo, Sue planned to repaint it as a Spring scene.
Click on any of the photos to see them larger.
The photos follow her process as she starts with a quick lay in of the large dark shapes that will later become the trees and mountain in the distance. She used a paper towel to wipe out the shapes of the foreground aspen trees with the explanation that, by wiping off - instead of drawing in, a more organic shape is created.
The scene is backlit, so shadows are positioned and under painted in a relatively dark blue. Sue quickly mixed a warm tone of medium value, for the ground plane that would serve as under painting and give color and energy to the grass greens that would eventually cover it. The warm under painting was smeared on with the ever present paper towel. Sue used a palette knife to lay color across the aspens, pointing out that aspens, being very reflective in nature, will pick up color from everywhere in the landscape. They are also warmer at the bottom and become cooler as they rise up toward the sky.

Note in the close-up, the brush size being used.
I paint with Sue all the time but never get the chance to just watch a piece develop and hear a step-by-step explanation of the concepts and techniques used, as they are being applied. Sue is a master of the back lit scene, turning a dark mass into a forest of bouncing light and color, all the while explaining and demonstrating her palette and the color mixes that are key to making Winter turn to Spring, (in the painting). Nothing is random from the early decisions about design and placement to the final touches of color and light added to the trees, grass and forest shapes.
Go to the POST below, where I started, to see both paintings together and click on the photo to view it larger. To get more info on Sue and see more of her click this link to go to: Susan McCullough.com


Coni said...

Thanks Sue. I was inspired- and took a few of your tips right into the studio for a test ride. Thanks.

Judith Greenwood said...

Thanks Coni for inviting Sue to class!
And mucho thanks Sue for an awesome demo!!!
Some of my most pressing current concerns were answered during the time it took you to deftly execute a spring landscape. And composition, color, technique --- all superb!!!