Two paintings chosen for “The Russell”, C.M. Russell Museum Auction 2014…

I am honored to have two paintings included in “The Russell” auction to benefit the C.M. Russell Museum this year. “Defender of the Plains” will be in the silent auction Thursday, March 20th at the C.M. Russell Museum and “Coup Run” will be in the live auction March 22nd at the Mansfield Convention Center, both in Great Falls, MT.

I will also be participating in the “Art in Action” quick finish event at the Great Falls Country Club on the 21st, where some of the country’s top western and wildlife artists will complete a painting on site and then immediately they will be auctioned to raise money for the museum.

And, just in case I don’t have enough to do, I will also have an exhibit room of my own (Room 280)  in the Western Masters Show and Sale at the Best Western Heritage Inn, Great Falls, MT, the 19th through the 22nd. I’ll have many new works available to view and purchase.

If you have not been to Great Falls the third week of March for the Charlie Russell events, it is one of the most unique art experiences in the art world. Hundreds of artists from all over the country display and sell their work at numerous shows located all over town. A rare opportunity to not only see great art, but meet the artists in person.

I’ll post images as we get closer to the event. If you will be in Great Falls please stop by and say hello.

"Coup Run" Oil 36x72, by Joe Kronenberg

“Coup Run” Oil 36×72, by Joe Kronenberg

"Defender of the Plains" Oil 37x26, by Joe Kronenberg

“Defender of the Plains” Oil 37×26, by Joe Kronenberg

Ten Steps to Painting a Wolf In Oil

In this post I’ll describe one of the methods I use to paints animals. I enjoy this approach because of the ease of starting and the straight forward process involved. One layer being built over the next. (Click on any of the images to enlarge.)

Finished Wolf Portrait

Finished Wolf Portrait

Step One: I began this painting by toning my canvas with a wash of raw umber and mineral spirits. Then using a number 4 filbert hog bristle brush I started massing in basic shapes and dividing space. Because the wolf will fill most of the canvas I am able to utilize the negative space surrounding it to draw lay in my image. Again with raw umber using mostly horizontal brush strokes.

Step One

Step One

Step Two: Continuing with only raw umber I place the features of the face and suggest where the darkest areas of the painting will be. At this point I am establishing the general area of my darks, however I’m not too concerned with values, edges etc., just massing in and placing shapes.

Step Two

Step Two

Step Three: Now that I have my features, basic shapes and spaces taken care of I want to focus on the background. By painting the background before the wolf I can ensure that in the final image the wolf feels like it is in front of the background, not the reverse. I begin by mixing Yellow Ochre and Ivory Black, which make a low chroma dark green. Starting in the upper right corner I move across to the left while adding more Yellow Ochre to the mixture. As I move down the canvas I continue to add Yellow Ochre and small amounts of Titanium White. This combination not only creates a subtle gradation of tone from the top right to bottom left, but also transitions from cool to warm. I’ll use these gradations against the outer values of the wolf’s fur for effect.

Step Three

Step Three

Step Four: The underpainting…When it comes to painting fur, nothing is more important than the underpainting. The values and temperatures established at this step will describe the surface fur as much as the actual brush strokes of fur themselves. The difficult part here is training your eyes to look beneath the hair and see what temperature and value lies beneath. This would be the areas where the clumps of fur “break open”. Without this crucial layer your surface fur will have nothing to contrast against.

My palette is kept simple, using only Titanium White, Yellow Ochre, Cadmium Orange, Raw Sienna, Burnt Sienna, Raw Umber, Cobalt Blue, French Ultramarine Blue and Ivory Black. With the exception of Yellow Ochre (which I will use to lighten my warm colors in lieu of White to maintain temperature and chroma, then to warm my White for the lightest surface fur) the rest of the colors can be considered either as part of the Orange or Blue color families. Thus I can use any of these complimentary combinations to create an incredibly wide variety of warm, neutral and cool gray tones in a full range of values.

Now I start laying in color and value as I identify it under the surface fur.

Step Four

Step Four

Step Five: As I continue with the underpainting you can see how dark the painting is compared to the completed image. I am doing my best to lay in tones that are as accurate as possible, however it has been my experience that it is better to error on the side of too dark verses too light when underpainting. I can always lighten an area but when the fur is painted over the top it is very difficult to then paint darker values between each clump up fur.

Unless I am painting the edge of a shape or cast shadow I tend to avoid hard edges at this step. By blending the colors where they meet I can avoid having to try to cover up a hard transition edge, which usually results in overpainting the surface fur.

Step Five

Step Five

Step Six: With the underpainting complete I start to lay in fur. Mixing a small amount of Raw Sienna and Yellow Ochre with Titanium White I begin to brush in the light fur on top of the head paying attention to the direction and length of the fur. I think in terms of clumps or chunks and small masses, not individual hairs. This allows me to focus on the overall flow of the fur. I am also careful not to go too light this first pass as I will be adding lighter layers in the next passes. It should be noted that I prefer to use either a filbert or long flat for fur, not a liner or round brush. Also, I try to avoid much, if any medium. While medium will allow the paint to flow easier from the brush it will also create harder edges with each stroke which can cause the fur to look stiff rather than soft.

Step Seven

Step Seven

Step Seven: With the top of the head started I now move down the left side of the painting establishing some of my lightest values. Immediately I get a sense of how the light will contrast against the darks and how it will work with the background. I have also started the grays in the face, ears and other side of the head with a mixture of Cobalt Blue and Raw Sienna. The dark areas are  a mixture of Ivory Black with Burnt Sienna and French Ultramarine Blue.

Because the light is coming from the left and slightly to the rear the fur around the wolf’s right side of the face (our left) is experiencing what is called diffuse transmission of light. Similar to when you  shine a flashlight at the back of a human ear. The light passes through the form creating an inner glow. I use a bit of Cadmium Orange and Burnt Sienna in this area to duplicate the light transmission.

Step Eight

Step Eight

Step Eight: With much of the initial layers of surface fur complete I can lighten my values for the next pass in each area as I begin to work towards building volume. Here is where I have to focus on temperature and values on the surface. For example, I know there is reflected light filling the chest area on the right side as well as all the planes that face  towards the ground. Reflected light from the sun bounces off the surface (ground) and fills objects with a low intensity of light and is warm. There are times when this light can appear cool because of the color of the surface it reflects off of. For example a white horse in a green pasture would have green reflected light on its stomach. However it would probably bend to the warm side rather than a cool green. These tones are still considered part of my dark family, so I am careful not to mix too light by using Burnt Sienna grayed down and darkened with a bit of French Ultramarine Blue. Also, notice how the right side of the muzzle is blue and the left is warm. This is because the direct light on the light side is creating a lot of specular light or highlights on the fur which reflect the temperature of the light source, the sun. The other side though in shadow facing away from the light source is absorbing the temperature and color of the blue sky above, making it cool. This is more evident in the muzzle because the hair is short there.

Step Nine

Step Nine

Step Nine: As I near completion I continue build up my values to their final range. Using a mixture of Titanium White and a bit of Yellow Ochre I lay in my  lightest areas. Again I don’t use straight Titanium White for this because it is one of the coolest colors on my palette and I need warm highlights on the fur. Also Titanium White by itself can cause a chalky look that will kill my painting.

I do a lot of squinting throughout the painting to better judge values. At this point I should be able to squint and find no values in the darks that are as light or lighter than my darkest value in the lights. If I do find any I push them back into range.

To further drill in my point,the underpainting is the most important step for realistic fur. I often get comments like “Wow it looks like you painted every hair!” or “You must have used a single haired brush to get all that detail.” The truth is my underpainting did most of the work. What I am most focused on is creating the illusion of volume and clumps. I only add a limited amount of single hair strokes at the end. Sort of the icing on the cake.

Step Ten

Step Ten

Step Ten: O.K. I am at the finish line. As a final pass I am focused on making finishing value and temperature adjustments, softening any edges that may cause the fur to look stiff and modeling the eyes, nose and mouth. Now is also the time to pull a few fine lines of hair into the wolf. I like to make a few wisps that cross into the background as well as some on the clumps of hair in the light areas for the best effect. Thanks for joining me!

Now, as a friend of mine would say…”Sign it and sell it!”

Recent Images from the National Bison Range

Spring is one of my favorite times of year to photograph Bison. I look forward to visiting the National Bison Range in Montana to capture them at their best. Most animals in the Springtime can look a bit mangy as they begin to shed their thick winter coats. Buffalo however (in my humble opinion) look amazing as they begin the molting process and big clumps and patches of hair cling to their bodies. A bit of Spring coloring and the beautiful Mission Mountains as a backdrop make for some of the best reference images a wildlife artist can hope for.

The range almost always provides a variety of animals to photograph such as elk, mule deer, whitetail deer,  pronghorn, black bear, coyote and various birds. Below are some of the images I captured in an evening at the Bison Range along with some bighorn sheep I came across the same day just outside Thompson Falls, MT…

Bison Range 4 Bison Range 5

Bison Range 6 Bison Range 7

Bison Range Birds 1 Bison Range calf 1 Coyote at Bison Range 2 Coyote at Bison Range1 IMG_5317Bison Range 3 Bison Range1Bighorn 3

“Offending the Ladies”

Sometimes a painting is just meant to be. Inspired by time spent in Yellowstone National Park last year “Offending the Ladies” was just that for me. I spent much of a hot afternoon in the sun watching a number of cow elk bedded down in the cooler grass on the banks of the Madison river with the herd bull near by. The lowering of the sun is a sign for the bull to round-up the troops and make preparations for the evening, which start with moving everyone to another location. With the gentleness of a drill sergeant, he proceeds to wake up and get moving all the resting cows and calves with a loud bugle, nudge and at times for the stubborn ones a bit of a charge. You can imagine his popularity as the ‘women’ scatter.

So, what tops being in Yellowstone, on the Madison river witnessing firsthand all of this unfold?…All of it happening while the sun is going down creating a glowing golden light on everything it touches. Even as my camera shutter is on overdrive all I can think is “Get me to a canvas!”

“Offending the Ladies” Oil 21×48 will be included in “The Russell” sale to benefit the C.M. Russell Museum at the Best Western Heritage Inn in Great Falls, MT. March 16th.

Offending the Ladies web

“Offending the Ladies” oil on masonite 21×48

“Keeping Pace”

“Keeping Pace” will be included in the “Off the Wall” sale at the “Western Masters Show and Sale” in Great Falls, MT. March 15th.

Oil on masonite 21x48

Oil on masonite 21×48

Composition and Dynamic Symmetry

Along the trail of learning in the art world we at some point have to accept the fact that composition is a crucial element to a complete painting process. This was a subject I put off learning for some time. I was probably like the new music student learning the notes to play an instrument who says to his instructor “Do I have to learn all of this? Can’t you just teach me to play a song?”. I just wanted to paint. Composition and color theory and all that stuff seemed like such a boor! But as musical notes give the musician freedom to play and create beautiful sounds so does composition add to the painter’s ability to successfully express on canvas with the bonus of engaging and leading the viewer.

Whether using a basic “L” or “S” shape or a bit more complex application, I am convinced that any path to follow is better than none at all. I can highly recommend a book by Ian Roberts, “Mastering Composition” for an in-depth introduction. I am a big fan of structure and processes and Ian does a fantastic job of cleanly laying out information in a way that allows you to memorize the concepts.

Of the many available tools to composing I have used one more than any other. A method that utilizes the golden mean called Dynamic Symmetry. The golden mean was used by the ancient Greeks in art and architecture and can be found everywhere in nature, even our own bodies. It is said to be the most appealing mathematical division of form and is calculated using a 1 to 1.618 ratio on any length of distance. For example a canvas of a 20″ width would have a golden mean vertically at 12.36″ (20/1.618). If the canvas was also 10″ high the horizontal golden mean would be 6.18″ (10/1.618). The “sweet spot” of a painting is said to be where these vertical and horizontal lines intersect one another.

As with many things the introduction of one concept or idea often leads to others. In this case the discovery of the golden mean lead me straight to Dynamic Symmetry. Using the same 1 to 1.618 ratio it also divides the canvas into multiple useful sections as shown in the below example.

Example of Dynamic Symmetry. To do this yourself first find the ratio of 1:1.618. Next I have color coded the lines to allow us to put them in the proper order. At the measured distance of 1:1.618 lay in the light blue line. Next the orange, yellow, green, blue and red. If done correctly your series of lines should look just like mine. (No, you don’t have to do them in color) The smallest rectangle is your “sweet spot” and the other lines can be used with your composition.

This method has been used successfully by many artists from Da Vinci to the father of wildlife painting Carl Rungius. I have done a layover to one of my paintings, “The Playground” to better demonstrate Dynamic Symmetry in action.

“The Playground” by Joe Kronenberg with Dynamic Symmetry layover.

Though I was unable to get a wolf’s head completely into the sweet spot, all four heads surround it. Notice also the eyes of the black wolf are on one of the lines. The diagonal line on the left separates the black wolf with the white wolf next to it. The wolf stepping on the rock is almost completely enclosed into one of the triangles with its leg on the right following the angle of one of the lines while the leg on the left lies directly at the golden mean line. Also notice how the black wolf is almost completely enclosed in the inverted triangle created by the diagonal and the line at its eye. And finally, I was able to structure the entire painting on the larger triangle created by the two angled lines. Triangles have been used as armatures for centuries having a fantastic visual appeal.

You can probably tell I have embraced and even gotten excited about compositions. Like that music student when he decided the real freedom lied in learning to read notes, I can now better express on canvas. There are those who argue this golden mean idea is nonsense and makes little difference where the viewer is concerned. I can’t say I agree, but the truth is, I don’t really know. What I do know is at the very least compositional tools give the artist structure. With structure comes peace of mind and confidence in your painting process.

Until next time…

Kronenberg Spotlight: Scott Waddell, a world class artist and instructor…

About this time last year I was actively researching workshops and instructors. Being a self taught/educated artist  this was somewhat new territory for me. As a wildlife artist I have been able to learn most of what I know and use on my own through books, the internet and close study and observation of paintings of other artists. So, why was I looking into workshops now?  I know that everyone is aware of the human form. Artist or otherwise we are all people experts to a degree. A child can tell if a painting of a person looks off, or not correct even if he/she has little artistic inclinations. Why? Because recognition of features is how we tell one another apart and that ability starts to develop before we can talk or walk. It is because of this I feel many artists are turned off or intimidated by painting people. It is also because of this paintings of people are more heavily scrutinized by the observer. So, in desiring to  accurately paint the human figure I was committed to learning to do it only from the best.

I’ll save the details of my twist of fate journey to get there for a future post, but as I researched and discovered classically trained artists to study with I narrowed it down to Scott Waddell. After viewing his “webisodes” on YouTube, visiting his website and blog I decided to book my flight to spend two weeks studying with him at the world famous Grand Central Academy of Art in New York City.

Originally from Florida, Scott received his BFA from Florida State University, then spent time studying with Douglas Flynt (another brilliant painter) before leaving Florida to enroll in the Florence Academy. He later returned to the states where he enrolled at Waterstreet Atelier (Now Grand Central Academy of Art) under the one of the best, Jacob Collins. After completing his education there, he was asked to stay on as one of GCA’s instructors where he continues to educate today.

Those two weeks with Scott have redirected my path in painting. I had never encountered anyone with his level of knowledge, coupled with the gift of great communication and instruction. From anatomy to the physics of light on form to color theory to drawing method to modeling form, there was not a single area he was not able to advance my knowledge. This coupled with his demeanor and clear desire to transfer the information in his head to his student’s made the entire experience unforgettable.

Portrait in progress by Scott Waddell

If you ever have the opportunity to study with Scott I highly recommend you jump at the chance. If, however that is not an option, the next best thing would be to view his webisodes on YouTube or better yet, visit his website to download full-length videos on portrait, the figure and his newly released video on painting the still life, which includes forty minutes of bonus video with commentary. Subscribe to his blog while you’re at it to keep informed on future workshops and videos at

“Steven” 11×14 by Scott Waddell

What is a Grisaille?

“Alecea Grisaille Study” 8×10 by Joe Kronenberg

It was not too long ago (about six years) that I decided I was going to make the transition from pastels to oils and I can remember being full of excitement about the idea, and of painting on huge canvases and having the smell of oil paints fill my studio. Though I had read up and studied a bit I soon came to the realization that I knew very little about the process of oil painting.

Being heavily inspired by the mood of the old masters and the vibrance and light of the Hudson River School of artist’s tonalism and luminism techniques I set out to learn as much about their methods as I could. Now, some years later I have developed and use four different classical methods either in whole or in part to get the result I am hoping for. Of the four the one I enjoy both using and teaching the most is an almost six-hundred year old method called “grisaille” (pronounced ‘griz-eye’), which is followed up by a series of glazes.

At about the end of the 19th century came the introduction of direct method painting, or impressionism, followed by post-impressionism then modernism. Right along-side these new methods were the critics of the day touting praises upon them while chastising the classical schools with their old rigid rules and methods of painting as being unenlightened and outdated. The result…less than a quarter century later the once world famous academies of art (Ateliers) were all but gone. Taking with them their centuries old techniques and methods of training.

The good news. Many of those methods were preserved at some level through writings and a very limited number of trained artists that could claim an unbroken chain back to the masters of old.

Four Steps of Grisaille:

1) Draw your image onto your canvas or painting surface with a pencil or charcoal. Once you are done with the drawing be sure to spray the surface with some workable fixative to prevent your drawing from coming off at step two.

2) I prefer either Paynes Gray (for cooler results) or Raw Umber (for warmer results) to tone the canvas with to a mid-range of value. This can be done by thinning down the color with some turpentine and brushing it on or by simply squeezing a small amount of the paint directly on the canvas and using a paper towel with a bit of turpentine on it to evenly spread the paint over the surface.

3) Once toned start painting in the darkest areas (values) of the image. The toned surface does much of the work acting as your mid-tone.

4) With the addition of white paint to your palette work into your mid-tones and light value ranges, modeling up to your lightest values on the form as you go, paying close attention to detail and creating the illusion of form. You should have the mindset that you are working towards a completed painting in monochrome.

Once complete, you can let it dry and it is ready to glaze in the colors (I’ll cover that process in a future post). Below are some examples of grisaille paintings before and after the final steps of glazing.

Until next time. Enjoy…

"Princesse de Broglie" by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres

Any time you see a painting with amazing satin you can almost bet it was done with a grisaille base, then glazed as in “Princesse de Broglie” by Ingres. An interesting side note on this painting. As I was viewing it the the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC I noticed about an inch or so of unfinished painting at the bottom exposing the grisaille. Take a look at the detail below.

Detail of "Princesse de Broglie by Ingres

You can see about the bottom inch or so of this painting never got glazed. It is the brownish color just above the frame and it goes across the entire painting.

"September Strut" in grisaille by Joe Kronenberg

“September Strut” by Joe Kronenberg, in the grisaille stage. See the completed painting. I love how the detail of the grisaille can be maintained in the final painting.

"September Strut" by Joe Kronenberg

Completed painting, “September Strut” by Joe Kronenberg. Started in grisaille.

"Grande Odalisque" by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres

This completed painting of “Grand Odalisque” by Ingres hangs in the Louvre. What a great before and after side-by-side!

"Grande Odalisque in Grisaille" by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres
This grisaille of “Grand Odalisque” by Ingres hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC. It is said he painted it after the original as part of a student workshop.