Technical Insights, Lessons from Sargent #2

Lessons from a Sargent #2

Upon further observation, what also caught my amazement in this portrait was Mr. Sargent’s use of color temperature to define and turn form instead value ( light and dark) in certain areas.

Sargent portrait #2

As I remember my own early artistic development and frequently witness it in others, there seems to be a progression to maturity in beginner’s work that follows this course in one form or another.  When one first identifies that there is a form change, their first assumption is that the transition is achieved with value only. Also, this is often overstated with a value shift that is too dark creating a sunken or overly dramatic change, not accurately representing the light quality. To more accurately accomplish this, either strictly using color temperature or coupled with the slightest value shift and temperature, the form change can be much more subtle and luminous.  Notice how Mr. Sargent achieved the beautiful spherical effect of the forehead by using peach tones on the frontal plane and ochre/olive tones on the far side of the forehead to spin the form with no value shift.  Absolutely beautiful!!! You will also see this happening on the bridge of the nose as it turns from (orange/pink) flesh tone to the more olive note on the far side.

The next stage in the progression is that the student recognizes the color transition, but overstates it, using bright blue or viridian greens to state the coolness to turn the form.  This was a great temptation for me early on. In the thrill of actually seeing the color change, I would overstate the transition, brandishing viridian so the whole world would see it too.  I am so drawn to the beauty of what Sargent has done achieving a stunningly simple, solid form with the subtlest of transitions both in value and color.

I have taken the time to extensively describe these color mixing principles in our videos for those interested in further explanation.  Click image to see more… Enjoy!

gerhartz videos


Thank you for your following!

Technical Insights…Lessons from a Sargent #1

Recently, I came across a simply stunning portrait of a gentleman by John Singer Sargent that captured my attention. Upon studying this painting, I was reminded of some simple lessons and it is my hope to share a few of these with you in the next few blog posts.

Sargent portrait


 On first glance, I was struck by the solidity of form on the skull and the beauty and strength of the general mass of the simple form of the head. Notice that even apart from the facial features, the three-dimensionality stands out as truly believable.   The simple inverted teardrop (egg shape) form of the skull is not violated by the undulation of line on the far side of the face or the by varying line of his jowl.  On the near side of his face, the slight indication of the cheekbone, minimal accent on his temple, and dark accent under the chin create striking form within the simple values of the general light shape of the head.

Sargent portrait egg

Note that de-saturating the image gives greater clarity to the simple egg-like form that Mr. Sargent captured.  In my own experience, it is critical to remind myself CONTINUALLY throughout the painting to maintain this simplicity of form, taking every opportunity to physically step back or psychologically draw back from the detail that I may be consumed with.  It is so easy to lose sight of this concept as we begin to work on the detail of the features, trying to enhance the peripheral line of the face to “show more form”.  Also, critical throughout is the act of squinting continually to simplify the lights and darks to see the simple form emerge.  See “Technical Insight #3″ on squinting.

I look forward to sharing several more in the weeks to come!

These concepts and more are described in great detail in our video presentations. Click image to see more… Enjoy!

gerhartz videos

Good luck as you forge ahead!

Technical Insight # 32 “You Carried Me”

“You Carried Me”  page 97, “Not Far from Home”



The inspiration for this painting arose on many levels.  From a technical perspective, it was the opalescent nature of the light that drew me in and presented the challenges that sustained my drive throughout the work. Through my years of standing before a landscape bathed in light and studying great paintings depicting this light quality, I have noticed that every square inch of the canvas needs to include the full spectrum of light and color.  Note these detail shots that incorporate the influence of all the primary colors.  This particular sun-bathed scene exemplifies the point with its rich blues reflecting and bouncing throughout, however, it is my objective to capture this in each of my paintings, no matter the temperature or strength of the light.  The process of looking for and rendering this opalescent light quality is taught in detail in our video presentation, “The Beginning of Autumn”.

You Carried Me 36x48



You Carried Me 36x48 copy 2

From a philosophical or emotional inspiration, the theme of “being carried” is one I surely need  through the journey of this life . I cling to this promise…

“Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He, I am He who will sustain you.  I have made you and I will carry you;  I will sustain you and I will rescue you.”

Isaiah 46:4


       Click items for more information

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Thank you!


Technical Insight # 31, “As Evening Settles In”


Often I am asked where I get ideas for the volume of work I have produced.  My answer is always the same. “ I simply have to put myself in the position to be inspired”.  What this means for me is to hire a model (or just stand in a landscape) and watch the light envelope the forms and then work like mad to try to capture what I am seeing.

Several years back at a Weekend with the Masters conference, I remember Richard Schmid mentioning that the longer he paints, the more and more he sees in terms of vibrating, scintillating, color dancing before his eyes (to paraphrase).  This is certainly true for me as well as the task of putting down the multiplying complexity of what I am seeing becomes more daunting as my years of study increase.  The job of painting the heavy or thin air, capturing of the warm or cool qualities of light, or conveying of atmospheric color around and between objects is a worthwhile pursuit and a rewarding one in the end.

The light in “As Evening Settles In”, page 21 of “Not Far from Home”, provided ample opportunity to explore the opalescent qualities of this light that I speak of.  The violet and cool tones reflected from the sky behind me washed every form before me. One of the challenges for the artist is to always remember this covering and influence of ambient light, repeating the temperature of this light on all top planes of the forms.  The study shows this violet interplay of reflected light as well.

In addition, these principles are thoroughly explained in our latest video as we worked through the painting, “The Beginning of Autumn”.  Thank you and great painting!

Study for As Evening Settles In




New Testimonial for “The Beginning of Autumn”…

“You truly are an amazing artist, a modern day master! I have watched many videos on painting the portrait and this one is by far the most informative and exciting. Every brush stroke, every color and everything you say reveals an important part of the creative process. You cover all the essentials that go into making a great painting, variety of edges and shapes, correct values, accuracy of drawing, use of warm against cool and balanced composition to name a few. You demonstrate that dedication, persistence and enthusiasm can carry you through a painting even though the conditions are harsh or change but that it is okay to stop when the light changes too much. Your finished painting is awe inspiring! Thank you for creating “The Beginning of Autumn” video to share your knowledge and enthusiasm. It is a masterpiece!”

Carol Reesor


book cover new web


Bud… Grandpa’s Favorite Story Technical Insight #30

Bud, “Grandpa’s Favorite Story”

Grandfather's favorite Story 36x60

An excerpt from “Not Far from Home”…

“This was the first painting I did using Bud as a model.  When he arrived, he was sure to be clear that he would not model nude.  I managed to assure him that he was safe.  Having relaxed a bit and noticing the entry of the other model, (a pretty girl), the real Bud emerged. The composition of this painting evolved very naturally as Bud proceeded to entertain Wendy with story upon story.  He quickly settled into his new niche in life and has had a long successful career in modeling for me.  Often now, as we are working he will ask,  “How long have we been working together now Dan, fourteen or fifteen years?”  He is a wonderful man.

I have done countless works of Bud over the years, at one point while modeling, Bud looked around the room and counted 14 paintings of himself hanging on the walls, and with a grin, made a point of informing me he was my most significant model.

From a technical standpoint when designing a work with multiple figures, one must always pay careful attention to having one of the figures dominant either in terms of value, color, edge, or any combination of the listed.  In this case with the models in close proximity, they can almost be seen as one focal point.  There are 7 works of Bud in “Not Far from Home”… find them all:)

Grandfather's favorite Story detail

Thanks you for your enthusiast support in following these Insights!

Holiday gifts ideas from Gerhartz Studio.

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Ten years since the release of his best selling DVD, “Her Mother’s Locket”, Dan returns in video to share his practical, accessible approach to oil painting.  During this 6-hour presentation, he brings to viewers his 25 years of experience in painting the figure outdoors, walking his audience through the hurdles and challenges that face the painter. From a thorough discussion of materials to discussions about what truly ignites his passion for painting, Dan spares nothing as he works through the process.  Beautifully filmed, precisely edited, “The Beginning of Autumn” will be sure to inspire. Enjoy!


Thanks much!

Technical Insight #29…”Not Forgotten”

“Not Forgotten”


At first glance, the harmony in “Not Forgotten” would appear bleak and dreary, but on the day I stood in this cold cemetery, I found great comfort and peace in the muted tones of this landscape.


More often than not, I find myself most deeply moved by subjects or works of art that are the tightest in harmony. It is the Emil Carlsen still life that remains with me days after its viewing, the Chopin nocturne that seems to calm the loudness of life. Alphonse Mucha, another favorite of artist of mine, triumphed beautifully in capturing the subtlety of tone found in creation.  These artists favored quietness to bring great power.

Carlsen                                                                                                                                                      Emil Carlsen, Salmagundi Club collection

I must also add that “Not Forgotten” was painted soon after the passing of my dad. The rawness and harshness of the reality was softened that day by absorbing the richness of tone and harmony present.

I am so grateful for beauty and the healing balm it offers to our souls.  God, You are most worthy of praise for bringing beauty from the ashes.

book cover new web                                                                                                                                                                   Click book for more info…

Also available, New instructional video, “The Beginning of Autumn”.

FW-Gerhartz-DVD-cover-art                                                                                                                                                               Click video for more info…

Ten years since the release of his best selling DVD, “Her Mother’s Locket”, Dan returns in video to share his practical, accessible approach to oil painting.  During this 6-hour presentation, he brings to viewers his 25 years of experience in painting the figure outdoors, walking his audience through the hurdles and challenges that face the painter. From a thorough discussion of materials to discussions about what truly ignites his passion for painting, Dan spares nothing as he works through the process.  Beautifully filmed, precisely edited, “The Beginning of Autumn” will be sure to inspire. Great as a holiday gift idea.

Thank you!

“Rain, falling snow, wind… Technical Insight #28

In June of 1987, I embarked on my career as a full time fine artist.  Upon leaving the doors of the commercial art studio I was working at, my dear friend and co-worker Kenn Backhaus handed me a small metal plaque as a gift that has stayed with me through the years.  The inscription read as follows…

“Rain, falling snow, wind…all these things to contend with only make the open air painter love the fight.”      Walter Elmer Schofield


Kenn and I had painted together many times dealing with the elements of rain, wind, mosquitos, hail, snow,etc… trying to come up with a worthy painting amidst the adverse conditions. This plaque has been screwed to the front of my french easel for years, reminding me that the effort is always worth the fight.

We are pleased to announce that our latest video, “The Beginning of Autumn” is now available at

During this production, as you will see in the trailers, we had ample opportunity to work through the elements.  In this production you will see first hand how I worked through many of the challenges that face the open air painter as well as comprehensively talking through my thought process as the painting developed.  From a thorough explanation of materials to discussions about what truly ignites my passion for painting, this 6 hour presentation afforded me the time and opportunity to share my 25 years of painting experience. As is important to me whenever I teach,  great care was taken to explain the complex points of creating a successful painting in the simplest, most practical terms.  My thanks to Masoud Habibyan for the beautiful filming and precision editing.  Enjoy and great painting!


Click DVD cover for more info….thank you!


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