Monthly Archives: October 2013

I20 Wildlife Preserve Paint the Playa Event

In dry West Texas you wouldn’t think it to be a likely location of a wildlife preserve, but a natural playa does exist right in the backyard of Midland, TX at the I20 Wildlife Preserve.

On November 2, 2013 the Preserve had their first annual “Paint the Playa” art show and benefit to support their programs. I donated the following small 9×12 painting for their silent auction. It’s painted with the same technique I use for my eBay auction pieces, using acrylic paint to begin and then finishing out with oils but with more detail than one of my plein air pieces or a study. It depicts a scene from the Preserve.

Morning on the Playa a painting by William Hagerman to benefit the I20 Wildlife Preserve

I’m happy to report that the painting was successfully auctioned off and the weather that day was beautiful!  You can learn more about the I20 Wildlife Preserve here.

If you’re wondering what a a “playa” is, its sometimes referred to as a “playa wetland” or “playa lake”. They are shallow, circular depressions across the Great Plains that are filled by rainwater and go through a number of wet-dry cycles throughout the year. The area serves as recharge points for groundwater as well as providing habitat for native and migratory wildlife, and native plants. Here are a few photos I took as I walked along the Preserves trails.

I20 Wildlife Preserve

I20 Wildlife Preserve

I20 Wildlife Preserve

I20 Wildlife Preserve

I20 Wildlife Preserve

I20 Wildlife Preserve

Hope you enjoyed the photos!




An Old Stone Farmhouse with a Story

My latest off the easel studio painting for October 20, 2013

Old stone farmhouse with chickens and oil painting titled "An Open Door" by William Hagerman copyright 2013

An Open Door 14×28 Oil by William Hagerman copyright 2013

This charming old stone farmhouse was found somewhere in the Texas Hill Country between Llano and Frederiksberg, if I remember. Although it was uninhabited I changed that by providing chickens and the pot of Geraniums. It seems no matter how humble a life, we enjoy things of beauty around us. Plus the little bright spot of red retains our focus around the central part of the painting.

Additionally this painting provides an example of what I wrote in this post on the value of providing a story in a painting or what can be referred to as implied subject matter. This is illustrated by the open door in this painting.

When I saw this scene the door was actually open and I wondered why. I kept it open in the painting because a closed door seemed uninviting. More importantly it allows your own imagination to answer the question of why was the door open. Giving you an added experience in which you can take part. Perhaps someone just set the potted plant out and went back inside the house to retrieve something and was returning, or maybe they just forgot to shut it and no doubt will soon be chasing one of those chickens out of the house!  Yes it’s an old stone farmhouse with a story, but what possible story comes to your mind when you see the open door? Please share your thoughts.


How to Improve your Oil Painting by Creating a Story

Another title for this post could be When the Subject isn’t the Subject in a Painting. What do I mean?

The best way to answer that is with an example. Years ago I saw a painting that is an excellent example of what I’m talking about by artist Oleg Stavrowsky titled: Something’s Funny as seen here.

An example of good story telling by artist Oleg Stavrowsky

When you look at it, your eye will travel to the cowboy on the far left, holding his cowboy hat with his extended arm.  From a compositional point of view, he’s the main subject of the painting. Or is he?

The real subject of the painting is not what’s in the painting, but what is going on outside our view that is making these cowboys laugh and take notice. We become engaged as well, wondering what it is that’s making them laugh. It’s a story line that we can take part in. Not that every painting has to tell a story, but it should not be overlooked how an implied story can emotionally engage your viewer. So don’t underestimate the value of how to improve your oil painting by creating a story in your own art work as well as improving the marketability of it.


Negative Shape Painting

Often when you think of something being negative, it’s not a good thing. However, in painting it is when it refers to negative shape painting. This was the subject of an art demo that I did for the Palette Club in Midland, TX.

Exactly what is a negative shape or space? It’s the space between and around a subject and not the subject itself. In simplistic terms it’s the silhouette of an object.

To illustrate the concept I used a black gessoed canvas and sculpted out the silhouette of a tree by painting the inner and outer unoccupied spaces. I did not paint tree limbs, but gave the impression of limbs by painting the spaces in and around them as the following photos illustrate. Thank you to G. Hutson for taking the photographs at the demo.

I started by painting the outer spaces leaving what appears to be a solid black silhouette of a tree.

William Hagerman negative shape painting demo

Next I move into the interior negative shapes.

William Hagerman negative shape painting demo

I continue with the interior and exterior negative shape painting, chiseling out and refining the shapes until I’m satisfied with the result.

William Hagerman negative shape painting demo

I employ this technique of negative shape painting quite often, especially with trees.
Below is a detail section from my painting titled: “An Open Door.” All the “sky holes” within the tree were painted using this method of negative shape painting.The pluses of this technique is that it strengthens your visual perceptions and enhances your painting for if the negative shapes are interesting, likely your subject will also be just as interesting. Practice this in your own painting and see how much your work will improve! To see the full image of “An Open Door”, check out the following post.

Detail section of an oil painting by William Hagerman copyright 2013


How to Paint a Tree

I received a very nice email from a gentleman who was soon to be retiring from a 35 year career as a teacher of horticulture, who wrote:  I have long admired trees, shrubs and the out of doors, thus my love for painting.  However I have never been able to illustrate them correctly on the canvas. When I saw your work I realized that I had found an artist that understood tree morphology and got it correct. Additionally he said regarding my painting of trees: “Yours are far superior to any I have seen. Museum quality! The masters would be proud.”

Whether or not the masters would be, I appreciated the comment, but he’s not alone in his struggle with how to paint a tree. Those new to painting often start by painting in a tree trunk, limbs, branches and then on top of that place little green dobs of paint to represent leaves. Invariably the outcome is less than what they hoped for. So how do you go about painting a tree? What I shared with this individual and now with you, and using as simple of an illustration as I can will perhaps help you with your own painting of trees.


A key to effectively painting any tree regardless of the type is getting the appropriate values put in the right place on the underlying geometric form. For example a fir tree is essentially a cone shape. If you can paint a cone with a single source of light and get the light, middle, and dark values in the right place, then you’ve achieved the greatest hurdle. Other trees have an underlying large spherical shape, broken up into smaller spherical or round shapes each having a light, middle and dark value.
Perhaps the following illustration will help. Click on the image for a larger view.

tree illustration by William Hagerman copyright 2013

Here is a basic shape for an oak tree. Do you see the 3 larger value areas of light, middle and dark on each form that makes up the tree? Notice I have not added any detail. The values are laid in as a large mass. Not individual little “leaf” strokes.
Below is the same tree with added “leaf” strokes and some negative shape painting for sky holes and a few drawn limbs, but notice that the underlying value (light/dark) structure is still there. A problem that can destroy the look of your trees is if you put light values or colors that are in the sunlit areas in the sections that are to remain in shadow. Shadow areas can also receive light, only not direct light, but reflected light. This reflected light ( coming from the sky ) is not going to be as light as the sunlit areas so obviously they will be darker in value as well as being cooler in color.

how to paint a tree illustration 2 by William Hagerman copyright 2013

As an exercise, try painting the first illustration making sure you have definite light, middle and dark values and not just color changes. Because if you only have a color change, and not a value change as well, this will result in a flat looking tree with no depth to it. Once painted let it dry.
Then try adding the details as in the second illustration with smaller little strokes on top, making sure you don’t loose the value structure. Don’t put those sunlight colors over in your shadow and vice-versa and be careful not to paint out the middle values as well.
Problems in painting trees is often a problem of incorrect value placement. Be mindful of this as you paint, and it should help you achieve a more satisfactory and pleasing result.

After sharing this, our gentleman horticulturist said: “I realized that I have been going about painting trees the wrong way.”

Perhaps this short and simplified overview of how to paint a tree will allow you to improve your own painting of trees by identifying the underlying structure and the light and dark patterns that fall upon it’s shape.