Josh Clare explains his working method while demonstration in Paradise, Utah

I had the pleasure of painting the vistas of Beautiful Cache Valley, Utah last week with the very talented Josh Clare. He lives in Paradise, quite literally. His home town is Paradise,Utah. In case you are unfamiliar with Josh’s work, here are a couple of examples of his outstanding paintings and you can see more at his website.

As an artist I am constantly looking for opportunities to improve my craft, and I think there is no better way to learn than painting with artists who are better than or have different skills than you do. Since I am a late comer to oil painting (just the last few years), I jumped at the opportunity to spend the day with Josh. I met him last fall on another painting excursion and was struck by his down to earth style of explaining the nuts and bolts of landscape painting and the oil medium in particular. Jost has a great sense of color and his application of paint is lush and inviting. Josh was very generous in sharing tips on how to compose a picture, the importance of value, color chroma and edges. A couple of tidbits he shared struck me and are good reminders to all of us as we try to learn the alchemy that is oil painting. 
None of the ideas he shared are new and I have heard them before, but sometimes they sink in a little further when you are better prepared to understand them. Here are a couple of things he shared that I will be incorporating into my process or at least keeping in the back of my head while I work. Josh said “the tonal arrangement is key and must have the most interesting arrangement of light and dark shapes. Good tonal arrangement covers a multitude of sins.” Of course I have heard this before and have even pounded it into the heads of my own students when I teach, but it’s always a good reminder that without appropriate value contrasts and patterns, a piece can fall apart in a hurry.
Josh also talked quite a bit about the balance between thick and thin paint. This aspect of paint application has been a bit of a mystery to me as I spent so many years of my illustration career laboriously layering thin washes of acrylic paint to arrive at my final result. Josh stressed the need to arrive at a balance between thick and thin paint and the concept of “reserving” as you paint. This, he explained is where you hold back on aspects of color, value and thick juicy paint strokes in order to use those areas of dark accent value (or highlights), high chroma color and thick strokes as accents to your overall statement. These areas should be places where you want your eye to focus.
Early paint application- blocking in the shape, value and color
Josh also reaffirmed my instinct to have at least one favorite “nasty” brush. You know, that brush that is so hammered that it can only be used to apply those random, accidental stokes of paint that look so spontaneous and honest when you lay them down. I was glad to hear he has a few of these that are missing half their bristles and splay out in crazy fashion. I was glad I brought my favorite “nasty” brush.
Josh Clare final demo result. Subject to tweaking in studio.
He also explained why his method of painting on a smooth surface allows so much flexibility in paint application. He prefers working on primed and gessoed masonite panels (as do I) but his starting surface is somewhat smoother than  mine which allows smoother early application of paint. The thinness of these first passages allow him to build up easily to the thicker more textural finishing strokes. 
The best part of the day was taking this renewed inspiration into the field in the afternoon and trying out some of the tips he shared. The day was overcast which allowed a longer than usual stretch of consistent light.  I’ll post that painting next.