New Works from the “Azure and Asphalt” Series

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The Way Home, Study in Violet and Yellow, oil on paper, 7 x 7. Available.

In a previous post, Azure and Asphalt: Ownership of Style and the Meaning of Originality, I introduced the series and discussed how original work can sometimes define the treatment of a subject for generations. I exhibited several works from this series in October of 2014, and the response was excellent. Nearly all the pieces sold, so I was encouraged to keep exploring the theme.

The ongoing challenge with this series has been to strike a balance between the atmospheric and abstract effects that I’m so interested in, and the kind of detail that urban landscape typically demands. If I focus solely on atmospheric effects and glaring light, without any orienting details, then I lose all association to the subject. (I want to lose some association, but not all.) If I focus too much on detail, then I could easily lose sight of the “big picture,” the overall abstraction and color impression. The “azure” of the series title speaks to effects of light, while the “asphalt” refers to the details and subject.

BAllard

The view from Market Street, looking down into Ballard, typical of the views that inspire the Azure and Asphalt series.

In my book Landscape Painting: Essential Concepts and Techniques for Plein Air and Studio Practice I wrote that “the landscape painter doesn’t necessarily have to be in the Rocky Mountains or the Grand Canyon to find good source material. With an eye tuned to the visual language of painting, worthy subjects can be found almost anywhere.” Azure and Asphalt is a case in point. Nearly all the paintings are inspired by views found in my own neighborhood. (The Way Home and The Way Home, Study in Azure were based on similar views in Edmonds). For those familiar with the Seattle area, here is my vantage point: as you descend Market Street into Ballard, you are heading northwest. If you look off to the left, directly west, you’ll see a dense array of gray streets and rooftops, with the ship canal in the distance. Ah, but add a little sunshine a few hours before sunset, and all the streets light up. Distinct vertical, diagonal and horizontal patterns are formed, which become the underlying framework of these compositions.

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Mitchell Albala, Last Light Rooftops, Study, oil on paper. Available.

Mitchell Albala, Formation in Orange and Azure, oil on panel, 16 x 20. Available.

Mitchell Albala, Formation in Orange and Azure, oil on panel, 16 x 20. Available.

Salmon Bay by Mitchell Albala

Mitchell Albala, Salmon Bay, oil on panel, 10.5 x 24. Available.

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Mitchell Albala, Warm Horizon, Between Ballard and Leary Ways, 2015, oil in panel, 16 x 16 inches. Available. (Also see  the full story about this ptg

Mitchell Albala, Crossroads, oil on panel, 16 x 16. Available

Mitchell Albala, Crossroads, oil on panel, 16 x 16. Available

the-way-home-Mitchell Albala

Mitchell Albala, The Way Home, oil on panel , 14 x 14. Available.

Mitchell Albala, The Way Home, Study in Azure, oil on paper, 7 x 7. Available.

Mitchell Albala, The Way Home, Study in Azure, oil on paper, 7 x 7. Available.

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Mitchell Albala, High Road Toward Sunset, oil on panel, 12 x 12. Available.

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Mitchell Albala, North, oil on panel, Available.

Digital Study

Typical digital study done in Photoshop.

In addition to color studies, I also generate digital studies. These are photos altered in Photoshop using various filters that simplify detail and emphasize basic shapes. They are a very helpful way to suggest what a simplified, painted version of the subject might look like.


Additional Resources

Each of these stories features examples from the Azure and Asphalt series.

Azure and Asphalt: Ownership of Style and the Meaning of Originality

New Work in Azure and Asphalt: Warm Horizon and the Art of Implication

Getting the Light Right: The Power of the Color Study

On Location with Stasinos and Albala: Same Subject, Different Visions

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About Author

Mitchell Albala is the author of Landscape Painting: Essential Concepts and Techniques for Plein Air and Studio Practice (Watson-Guptill, 2009). A best-seller with over 35,000 copies in print, it has been called the "new classic of landscape." A respected teaching artist for more than 25 years, Mitchell currently teaches at Gage Academy of Art in Seattle, Pacific Northwest Art School, Winslow Art Center, and Arte Umbria in Italy. He has also lectured at the Seattle Art Museum and written for International Artist and Artists & Illustrators magazines.

7 Comments

  1. Christine Clements on

    Hi Mitchell – absolutely love this new work. I especially love Salmon Bay, Crossroads, and The Way Home. The colours and mood are exquisite. Love your blogs and love your book. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Stan Chraminski on

    HI Mitch, The Crossroads reminds me of studies you had us do in your class and I love it. Enough detail to recognize the scene yet mystical in light. Love the new work.

    I’m also moving ahead as have to learn to paint the light and color here in Hawaii, as we have a plein air group every Friday morning. Will send along a few samples to show I’m still using your methods and they work in any environment. Will pitch your book to the folks here too.

  3. Hi Mitch; I’ve been following your work since I bought your landscape book some 6 or so years ago. I’d love to take one of your workshops sometime (come to Alberta or BC please – I’d be willing to help make arrangements and find someone to host your workshop!!). In the meantime, would you be able to talk a bit more about the filters you use in Photoshop to alter the photo. I often use Photoshop as well, but never get anything quite so satisfactory in my manipulations.

  4. At first glance, these studies appear similar but they are actually very different in the moods they evoke. I love the atmosphere and the composition. After your workshop on Orcas I am going to try those small quick sketches and techniques of working smaller on 5 X 7 format so I can be more aware of what I am doing and try to capture the main idea.

  5. Mitchell Albala on

    Thanks, Carol, for noticing the difference between these paintings and studies. I do make an effort to imbue each piece with its own unique “color-light.” I also spend a lot of time “balancing” — getting just the right differences in temperature and saturation. It’s an art of implication!

  6. Karen Lee Schmidt on

    Great post, Mitch… I visited the small park overlooking Salmon Bay one recent afternoon, on the recommendation of a painter friend. It was noonish, and my thought was “what could I possibly do with this view??” With this post you have shown me, and now I’ll return there, but at fiveish!

  7. hi Mitchell,
    I loved your book and enjoy your blogs. Congratulations on this exhibition. Beautiful paintings and I appreciate you sharing your challenge.