Poplar Trees in Spring time

oil painting of spring trees, bronze

‘Peupliers, Bronzage, Printemps’
Oil on Canvas
30 x 40cm (approx 12 x 16 inches).
© Adam Cope


this painting’s lay-in first stage WIP

I’m getting ready for a big exhibition at the La Maison des Vins de Bergerac. It’s a hige & beautiful space – up to sixty paintings!

This large oil from 2010 and spring 2011, finished off in the studio & now framed. Now sold.

The green Dordogne in sunny spring time

dorgdogne, tableau, peinture plein-air



Commissioned painting
130 x 84cm (approx 52 x 33 inches).

Finished this large oil, which was a commission. I really enjoyed doing this commission.

Partly because the place is just so amazing:

….the view looking behind the other way

Partly because it was great to do a large oil painting ‘en plein-air’ .. it took many days to complete :

…don’t fall off the cliff edge! large canvas blow over in the wind….

& partly because the person was a real pleasure to work with.

The painting itself presented some challenges that I don’t usually undertake in my personal selection of what /how to paint. But flexibility is good for me, I feel. All in all , highly enjoyable.

see the initial compositional sketch

….. to give you an idea of the size (note that the roof is now back on the studio but I haven’t wired up the spot lights yet).

Big but not very good painting this

‘Grand Roc – Les Eyzies, Dordogne’ – Finished state
Oil on Canvas
86,5 x 76 cm (approx 34 x 30 inches).
© Adam Cope
POST SCRIPT 2013 – i don’t think this a good painting. There’s still a challenge for me : how to paint the rocks & cliffs well? I’ve not yet finished with this yet…

a little aside about small & large paintings

This is a large oil painting & not a small oil painting. ie one dimension is larger than 81 cm or
32 inches. Have you noticed how large oil paintings look kind of far away or difficult to see in small sized jpg’s on the internet ? Wilst small paintings tend to look close up & gain in imapct on the internet @ 500 pixels largest dimension… so see above image for a detail which isn’t life-size but it gives you a better feel.


In the upcoming solo show at Galerie Ap’Art in Marcilhac sur Célé , Lot, (4 July – 31 July. Vernissage – lundi soir 4 Juillet ), I will be showing some of my cliffs & rock paintings.


WIP ….WORK IN PROGRESS – watercolour – a tonal ‘notan’……WIP

I’ve been working on a large oil painting these last three weeks. A commission. It’s 130 x 81 cm – approx 51 x 32 inches. Bigger than my usual size. Good to be doing something different. A lot of work, which I’ll post as WIPs (work in progress) here. Thank you for all your comments. So many of them, makes me feel that internet is full of readers who care…

Large plein-air paintings require extra attention at the planning & conception stages, especially if they are a commission ie take into account of the customer’s wishes of what is to be included in the painting.

Here is the composition sketch:

I always do one of these for every painting. Knowing what goes where is a big big relief. Which takes the stress off somewhat so one can just concentrate on the painting, and panic less about the composition. Doing one of thee is visual thinking & can’t be replaced by assuming an intellectual idea of what goes where is enough. Note how it’s a ‘plastic’ process. The framing grows or shrinks to fit. Look & see how the frame lines go on last of all. I even had to fit on an extra page so as to make the size of the sky fit. Actually I went for a longer panorama in the end & not the more rectangular format of the above compositional sketch. The point is that my mind was now more orientated towards the painting & possibilities of how it might unfold.

The next stage is the tonal sketch. A ‘notan’. I say notan cautiously because a pure notan is in fact, a sketch for Japanese wood cut engravings aka Hokusai & not all the lovely subtle graduations of one tone washing into the other that you can get in watercolour. The point is to work out:

  • where are the major blocks of light & dark?
  • where is the centre of interest ie where do you want the eye to go to?
  • where is the light source?
  • what quality of light?
  • what is the incline of the sunlight?

You can click on the notan & tonality categories on the side of this page to read more.

see the finished painting

This is a commission 🙂

It’s great to be doing a large plein-air oil again 🙂 It will take several more sessions on site & several more back in the studio. Way bigger than usual, so good to be working ‘out of the habitual box’. Tables & studio easel outside, on the edge of a step slope. lol, the buzzards were just waiting for this… beware whilst stepping back 😉

Here it is at the lay-in phase. Because there was just so much more drawing than in a normal size, I did something that I don’t usually do. That is I didn’t lay-in the sky right from the beginning & key everything to it right from the outstart. I do however know what lighting conditions will be more or less in the final painting.

Work In Progress ….. WIP at the lay-in stage
130 x 80 cm ( approx 51 ” x 32″)
oil on canvas
© adam cope

Here is the compositional drawing:

And here is a zoom-in on the bright spring greens, so bright here in the south of France. Again at the lay-in stage:

I find myself remembering a bright spring green painting from May 2007 ( a few weeks on from now), a small scale plein-air alla prima :

WIP: Lay-in, Large Oil, Plein Air

WORK IN PROGRESS – WIP 81 x 65 cm (approx 32 x 26 “)

This large work in progress from last year… again now is the time the poplars are in bloom… ‘bronzage’, with their bronze crimson yellow catkins on white-grey-violet trunks with yellow fungus…

Why so big? Why o why why? Humanly impossible to do it one plein-air session! Left it to stew under a building site when the roof came off the house last year. Have some doubts about it…


post script – large plein-airs  are… difficult.

This is the 500th post on this blog (489 published, 11 drafts not yet published).

postcriptum 2013 – been editting down the blog, so this is one will no longer  number 500

Many thanks for your following. Your comments are an encouragement to me 🙂

Just blogging away… Just keep on keeping on… Just painting away 🙂

What else would I do with my hours? Hmmm, well… I really must finish off & publish my ‘How to Paint’ book.


Recently finished this re-working of a large oil which I had had my doubts about. It is now fully realised, or at least arrived at a stage where I can abandon it & move on… It hung about in storage since 2003 till I could make my mind up about it. Here is the finished painting:


la vallee de begerac depuis monbazillac - oil painting by adam cope


‘La Vallée de Bergerac depuis Monbazillac’
Oil on Canvas
81 x 65 cm (approx 32 x 28 inches)
© Adam Cope

Another large oil of the same view dating from the same period :

contemporay painting of vines by adam cope

‘Dionysus’s Patch’

Oil. 85 x 80 cm © SOLD

‘Semillion, Labadie, Monbazillac’
Large Size Oil on Canvas
81 x 65 cm (approx 26 x 32 inches)
©adam cope
Here’s the finished state. Here’s the link to its Work In Progress : Lay-in for Plein-Air Large Oil Painting.I went out the next day for a second plein-air session with a mental note ‘yellow & grey and not yellow & pink’. As you can read in the WIP blog entry …. “actually I quiet like the overcast mid-tone grey. Still the weather will dictate to me this evening”. What the note meant was to hold fast to the prior, premeditated decision – made calmly in the studio looking at the WIP – to go for a yellow & grey major colour harmony and not yellow & pink. As a sunset progresses, it generally gets pinker & pinker. If I wanted to keep to grey overcast skies as the major, with only some bands of pink as the minor, I would have to ‘fix’ or ‘stop’ in my mind’s eye the sunset at a relatively early point of its progress.

A tip for Plein-Air Painting

A tip to help this difficult plein-air trick is to consciously divide one’s painting time between sky & land. But then, the danger is that they won’t correspond correctly…. A 4pm landscape on a 6pm sky! Sometimes you have to tinker with plein-air paintings back in the studio to correct this issue.

What do you think? Does sky & land correspond correctly in my above painting?

Here’s the painting with a grey frame so as to keep true to the yellow/grey colour theme.

WIP : Lay-in for Plein-Air Large Oil Painting

‘Semillion – Labadie, Monbazillac’

Large Size Oil on Canvas
81 x 65 cm (approx 26 x 32 inches)
©adam cope

Lay-in for Plein-Air Large Oil Painting

The vigorous semillion still have their leaves on the south & south west facing slopes. They turn to a pure shinning yellow-gold (cadimum yellow pale) with no oranges nor reds. This year with the early frosts in october & then none since, there’s only a little of the yellow ochre, the dull crispy burnt dead scar tissue. Still, the second week of November is late in the season…the grapes are all in, except the occassional third vendange. All the red ‘cepages’ (vine types) have fallen, the golden muscadelle has gone, the cabernet sauvignon looks tired & the frost pockets and cold parcels have stripped off the rest of the leaves.
This lay-in was done quickly, painting into the sunset. I knew that I’d not finish in one plein-air session & thus some of time-pressure was off. What’s the point of being rushed & thus making paintings that look all rushed & frentic?

I’m hoping to get the plein-air part finished this evening. Which is why I deliberately left the sky unworked … sod’s law, actually I quiet like the overcast mid-tone grey. Still the weather will dictate to me this evening. Clear skies with cirrus clouds this morning. That’s beyond my control (thankfully).

‘Le Cabanon’
Finished state 2008 – 2009
Large Size Oil on canvas
72 x 54cm (approx 28,5 x 21 inches).
© The Artist.
For those who aren’t familar with wine growing, the blue amongst the vines are posts. The paint is thick & impasto on this medium-sized oil. Here’s the study from a few posts ago :

Le Cabanon’
30 x 40 cm
oil on panel
©the artist

This large sized studio painting arrived at completion, after a necessary dormant phase with it’s back against the studio wall for six months or so. Out of sight, out of mind. Slow paintings, with many revisions. Not alla-prima. Not fast painting. My fresh eyes decided that the cabanon needed a complement, a companion, that it was too bare & too solitary. So I added these two popular trees. They are actually up there on the hill but not so close to the cabanon, being further away arond the corner & out of eye sight. I moved them. I added them. I ‘recomposed’ the landscape.It felt a bit naughty… as if I were not telling the ‘truth’.

Unfinished state – poor photo (bad painting as well;-)

I don’t find it that difficult to substract elements whilst painting alla-prima en plein-air. Most people do this from the start of their career, editing out telegraph poles & street furniture etc. I frequently & consciously add pictural elements such as heightening the colours as needed or putting in an accent brush-stroke here or there as the painting demands. But actually moving the physical, real elements of a landscape around, such as placing a house here where it wasn’t , lifting up & planting a tree here where it wasn’t… recomposing the landscape to make the painting work. Pretty God-like, no?

Richard Schmid has this to say about recomposition :

Q. I have heard someone quote you as saying that you never add anything to a painting that is not in your subject, nor subtract anything. I find it difficult to believe you do not use individual expression in your work. Is that quote really true?
A. No. What I did say was this: When I am painting strictly to learn, I try to capture exactly what I see, neither adding nor subtracting things or changing colors, values, drawing, etc.

But—and this is a big BUT–when I paint to create a work of art (self-expression), ANYTHING goes. I am the creator and I am in charge. I often manipulate my subject freely to produce the image I want.

I also said that Nature is perfect and does not need changing. There can be no doubt about that. However, nature itself is constantly being changed by its own natural forces, and since I am a part of nature I can choose to paint it the way I wish to. Nature couldn’t care less, it will remain perfect.

The bottom line for me is that my result must look absolutely authentic. I want my viewer to accept my picture as real.