My Process Demo

After choosing my subject I ask myself why I wanted to paint this particular scene; What drew me to this scene or subject. In this case, it was the tractors disappearing into shadow and the light from the other side. This will be my paintings center of interest and I will remind myself over and over that everything else is just there to support this. I will put the most detail and the lightest light and darkest dark within this area.  

I applied an initial wash to the canvas with Transparent Earth Red thinned down with mineral spirits. I coated the entire board, then wiped it down with a cotton rag, leaving the surface as dry as possible. I don’t always tone my board prior to starting, but I felt the red tone shining through would help unify the overall color tone present on this overcast day.

Still using the Transparent Earth Red, I began laying in my subject. The shape of my board forced me to adjust the building proportions. I felt I only needed to show the corner of the barn to establish it, so I removed much of the width. I wanted to show what was behind the barn to help establish my subject, but used the shape of the tree at left and the roof edge as a natural barrier to keep the viewers eye from leaving the painting and forcing your eye back to my center of interest.

I began blocking in my masses and establishing the darks. As stated above, this was a very overcast day, so I knew I wanted to "grey" out my colors. At this stage there is nothing I can't change, so I play around with my color looking for the right tone.

After everything is blocked in and established you get a sense of what the final painting will look like. At this point I make sure my darkest dark and lightest light is still in my center of interest.

I laid in my background and brought it up to near completion, so I could begin putting in more of the tractor details. This area is starting to receive some of the the final finishing strokes.

With the tractor area basically finished, I turn my attention to painting in my secondary subjects. I now know the level of detail I can paint within those areas. These areas should not exceed the level of detail within my center of interest.

This stage I am fine tuning everything while trying real hard not to overwork any one thing. I used brush stroke direction and slight color shifts to help indicate the wall slats, letting the paint create the sense that there is more detail than I actually painted. I had hesitated putting in the bright orange caution symbol on the back of the tractor because it was a fluorescent orange color in real life and I didn't know if the colors on my palette could duplicate it. I ended up happy that I went for it and succeeded in creating the illusion of this "bright" color, because I had "grayed" all of the other colors.

I will post a better photo of this painting after it is finished drying.


  1. Very nice. You always paint machinery masterfully. Enjoyed seeing your progress through the painting.

  2. Love this little lesson and your thoughts behind it.

  3. Time to write a book, Randy! Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and explanation behind this beautiful painting. "I will remind myself over and over that everything else is just there to support this"... very well said!!

  4. Your step by step process and explanation gives me lots of food for thought. Makes me realize that I need to slow down and have a plan and not "jump" in too fast. Your finished painting is evidence that your plan works!

  5. Very nice. I liked that angle, but there was a kids party going on near there, and it was very distracting. I like this a lot. I tone all my stuff for the most part. The white canvas or gesso is bright. lol

  6. Like this process and the final product. It's a hard barn to paint and give it character, you succeeded. Great job Randy.

  7. Nice demo Randy. Like the composition, value control and the tractor. Keep up the good work.

  8. Appreciate ALL the comments!

    Most of the time I feel the time crunch plein air painting, but the overcast weather allowed me to time to paint larger and take photos.

    Angela, I printed the quote out and taped it to my work computer and above my easel so I would constantly think about it. Picked it up from Jill Carver who probably got it from somebody else. It really gets you thinking.

  9. Excellent job, Randy. That barn has so much character, one could paint that from so many angles and still find new paintings a month later.

  10. So glad you visited my blog so that I could find yours. Nice to see your plein air thoughts and process. I am an extremely beginner plein air painter. Love what you did with this scene. Made it so much more beautiful. Inspiring to me to try and keep at it.

  11. Great demo - I love seeing your process!