In this series, plein air painter and instructor Jeanne Mackenzie takes a look at new paintings by contemporary artists and points out why they succeed as painted images. This week, Barbara Mulleneaux’s “Iconic Tucson.”

Lead Image: “Iconic Tucson,” by Barbara Mulleneaux, 2015, oil on linen panel, 6 x 8 in.

There is a lot of wonderful palette knife work in this painting. What is surprising is how small the image is — 6” x 8”. It has the feel of a much larger piece. Your focal point is definitely the adobe wall, but with the use of the vertical cactus and diagonal clouds, your eye takes a journey around the canvas. Notice the belly of the cloud in relation to the sky. The values are often very close (or a little lighter), which establishes the appropriate relationship. It is easy to make the clouds too white. By painting the correct value of the dark side of the cloud, it keeps them from looking like floating puffs of cotton balls.


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