“What I’m trying to do is paint the appearance of nature, the experience of looking at it,” Joseph McGurl explains. Learn more, and see what’s in his landscape painting toolkit!

CONTRASTING EDGES

Joseph McGurl, on the faculty of Plein Air Live
Joseph McGurl is on the faculty of Plein Air Live, April 15-19, 2021

“I tell my students that they need to paint not just the objects, but what’s next to them,” says Joseph McGurl. “If you have two objects that are close in value, then you are going to get a soft edge between them; visually it’s going to look like the edges are softer.

“Also, if the whole area is in shadow, then it has softer edges. I think we look at paintings more carefully than nature. In a painting, a hard edge looks really hard, but when we look at nature at a glance, things can feel soft.

“If you stare at nature, you’ll see more hard edges. What I’m trying to do is paint the appearance of nature, the experience of looking at it. In addition to softening edges with a brush or other tool, I use my finger a lot. It does a great job; it smears but doesn’t blend.

“In the end, the important thing is to have a contrast in the work between the soft and hard edges.”

McGurl’s Landscape Painting Toolkit:

Hardware:
Stool; tripod easel with a metal head; panel holder; homemade shelf that attaches to the neck of the tripod; John Pike watercolor palette that attaches to the shelf with Velcro; and a viewfinder, which the artist manufactures himself

Paints and Solvent:
Mineral spirits (McGurl applies Velcro on the base of the can and at-taches it to the homemade shelf), brown and white acrylics, and oil paints

Tools:
Taping knife (the kind used by drywallers) for striking a straight line when painting architecture or the horizon, and a palette knife

Totes: Knapsack, and a canvas tote to carry brushes

Misc.: C-clamp to carry paintings in from the field, paper towels, plastic bags, bug spray, water, and usually an iPod


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