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Environment and Light

John Burton
9 Lessons (6h 50m)
9 Week(s)

Two Ways to Learn


most popular

  1. Watch Video Lessons at Your Own Pace
  2. Assignments Included
  3. Peer Feedback
  4. Switch Courses as Often as You Like
  5. Access to all Schoolism Webinars included

LIVE Classes

personalized instructor feedback

  1. Watch Video Lessons with a Planned Curriculum
  2. Scheduled Assignments with Deadlines
  3. Personalized Paint-Overs and Real-Time Feedback From The Instructors
  4. Watch Video Lessons and Peer Feedback as Often as You'd Like
  5. Ability to Contact Instructor with Questions
  6. Digital Certificate of Completion
  7. Weekly Class Meetings LIVE on Zoom
  8. Access to all Schoolism Webinars included

Course Description

Over the course of 9 video lessons and many painting demonstrations, award-winning fine artist and plein air painter, John Burton, will share with you his extensive knowledge and expertise gained through decades of traveling and plein air painting in amazing scenarios and locales around the world. John meticulously crafted these lessons to be as helpful to a seasoned veteran as to someone who is just getting their feet wet. He will guide you on this journey, helping you to improve your painting, drawing, and observational skills through an elevated understanding of rhythm, gesture, and silhouetted shape.

John will show you a fresh approach for increasing our ability to use value grouping, color temperature, and shape-making to create environments in any lighting scenario we want. Throughout this class, John will do numerous comprehensive demonstrations in different mediums both on location and in his studio to show how you can turn the techniques he is teaching into the skills you need to be successful.

John's painting and observational techniques will benefit just about any painter or illustrator, whether your focus is on plein air painting, fine art, or achieving more authentic lighting and forms in your digital work.

  • Adobe Photoshop

Lesson Plan

Welcome to the class! In this first lesson, we will discuss how to "see the forest for the trees": learning to look at an intricate scene and seeing the big shapes and masses. I will teach you my strategies for organizing the chaos without manicuring it, using some of my own work as examples. I will conclude the lesson by introducing the masters that have influenced me. In art, confidence makes all the difference! As an added bonus, I will share the mantra I use to help me put down every stroke with confidence.

Congratulations, you will never be bored again! In this lesson, we will find joy in re-discovering our world through lines-how our sketchpad can become a visual journal of our adventures and growth as an artist as we go on location. We will study the anatomy of trees and rocks through gesture, rhythm, and shape language. We will learn how we can show form through directional strokes and form over form. I will share drawing demos on location using both traditional and digital media, and we will study how to look at the silhouette of an image to better understand its overall shape language. The main goal here will be to increase our observational skills.

A strong value pattern is the structure that all the other details of a painting hang on. In this lesson, we will discuss the importance of value relationships and how you can use them in creating a successful image. We will go through a visual checklist as we separate light from shadow, and I will demonstrate how to design the environment using value grouping in order to simplify the masses and guide the viewer's eye. I will share two painting demos, one in oil and one digitally, to show how we can reduce the amount of values to simplify a scene. In these demos, I will review how more graphic shapes can help illuminate your environment. I will also show how limits in value range may seem more difficult at first but will free us to have more control of our final image in the end.

Once we have developed the architecture of a strong value pattern, we will have built the house in which color lives. In this lesson, we will dive into the wonderful world of color while we learn about harmony, color value, saturation, and local color. As we discover simultaneous contrast, we will be able to manipulate color to get the final outcome we desire in our painting. We will then learn how quick decisions in color may serve in developing a more authentic artwork. As a demo, we will head outside to study the effects of light on making the correct color and examine how to key a painting to give it life and light.

It is now time to remove the veil! In this lesson, we will look at how painting by temperature simplifies how we manipulate our palette so that we can mix color more quickly and correctly. We will study how we can use a less saturated color influenced by temperature to make a more harmonious painting. I will do a digital painting demo of an almost completely white still life to show how we can train our eye to look for color when we have a relatively narrow color range. I will also do quick studies in oil at different locations to demonstrate how we can push our use of color and temperature by varying where we paint and the climates we paint in.

One of the great illusions in creating an environment is making the viewer believe there is depth and space in a flat, two-dimensional painting. We will talk about what tools and techniques we can use to give our paintings these qualities, which will help create and capture a believable rendering of natural light along with a strong sense of atmospheric perspective. I will do a digital painting demo on how to best portray atmospheric perspective, followed by ideas on how we can become more inventive with our environments once we have a greater understanding of atmosphere.

Contrast is key. How can we create contrast to hold the viewer's interest? We will talk about keeping our diva happy. By using value, edge control, saturation of color, and complexity, we can better inspire more special design. I identify much more as a shapemaker than a painter, and I will talk about why that is. We will cover strategies for arranging shapes by examining why the eye travels around an image and how we as artists can best control that path using good composition.

Getting outside to paint is one of the most wonderful-and yet one of the most difficult things about being a landscape painter. In this lesson, I will share with you the tools I use so that you can hopefully have a more successful experience when you get outside. We will talk about how we can use our forays outdoors to increase our knowledge of the effects of light on form. In a way, our excursions are like an open book test in our study of the environment: the color notes are all there in front of us as are the shapes, how do we use our reference to increase our chances for having a successful image? In my demo, I will talk about how we can take the incredible amount of information outside and use what we have learned in our previous lessons to edit and control it for our needs.

In this final lesson, we will put all the previous lessons together to show how we can use our drawing ability and knowledge of value and color to create an interesting design full of depth and a true sense of light and space. I will do a demo using different reference images as a launching pad to create a fictitious environment that has an authenticity even though it only exists in my painting. We will talk about shape distribution as well as strategies for constructing a painting. There will be plenty of opportunities for problem solving and figuring out how to move forward in a workflow that will help us get the end product we desire.


John Burton

John Burton is an award- winning oil painter best known for his stirring and vivid depictions of our ever-changing world. He is at once tangibly influenced by the Western and Russian painters of the early twentieth century, and entirely unique in his ability to capture the profound majesty of his surroundings. John has traveled and painted around the globe, always maintaining his home and artistic

center in the American West. John's deep American roots permeate the rich, natural character of his art, and inform his work's reverent tone.

John has been nominated for inclusion in the exclusive group, the Plein Air Painters of America, where he has been a signature member since 2017. He has been the keynote speaker at such events as the Plein Air Convention in San Diego, CA, the Plein Air Expo and Convention in Monterey, CA, the Laguna Plein Air Painters Reception in Laguna Beach, CA, among others. As an award-winning painter, he has been featured in publications such as Fine Art Connoisseur Magazine, Outdoor Painter Magazine, Art of the West Magazine, and many others.