Category Archives: oil painting tips

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 oil 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!


Technical Insight #27 from “Not Far from Home”…”Amethyst”


Concepts for paintings arrive in many ways and are derived from various sources.  Sometimes I set out to capture a certain sense of light or to develop a composition in a particular color harmony or tonal range. In other instances, I have conceptualized less before beginning.  In these cases, I design in response to a rhythm of line or the unique characteristics of a model or costume. In Amethyst, I was inspired by the dramatic arching lines of the dress and the color harmony represented in the fabric and flesh tones.  These stirring visual catalysts were accentuated by the models striking presence and beauty.

Also helpful in this set up were the models gracious offering to provide this dramatic dress.  I remember the day well…before the day began while working on another composition of an exuberant flamenco piece which she sat for as well, the model carried this dress in and asked if I might be interested in painting this costume too? My response, “Are you kidding?!!!!”


Enjoy “Amethyst” and many more images in “Not Far from Home”.

book cover new web

Other good news from the studio…we are in the final phases of proofing the DVDs and BLURAYs before replication for our latest instructional video, “The Beginning of Autumn”!

Technical Insight #26 “In Her Care”

This work, as many of my other figurative outdoor paintings do, had a hybrid approach in regards to its execution.  As always, the best-case scenario is to complete the entire work from life, but because this is not always practical as was the case in this sunset scene, one must use whatever means appropriate to simply finish the work. “In Her Care” was begun from life and entirely blocked in on location.  All of the canvas was covered from life with the accurate tones and values that carried the sense of light.   I then continued the painting in the studio to refine the drawing and work the edges to turn the forms. Having said that, one must be careful not to make it a habit of this by only blocking in the subject or taking shortcuts as a general rule of technique.  Again, your BEST paintings will be when you are absorbing all of the stimuli of your senses and allowing them to work their way into your work.  This is only possible when standing before your subject.


Because I knew that my time from life was going to limited in this work, there were several tonal transitions that I wanted to be sure to note and cover the canvas with while I was out with the subject. Some of the important observations I took note of were:

*Hierarchy in value tones.  (Sun the brightest, reflection of sun next, value of sky to follow, etc.…  Also noting the darkest dark from life. The photo wrongly recorded the distant trees almost as dark as the cat.)

*Color balance and cool influence on skin tones as they wrapped around the face and hair.

*Opalescent quality to the color in the water.

* Color balance in spring green tones. (Finding other colors within the green fields that balanced out the acid green that the photo recorded.)

*Noting the accurate color and value of the distant tree line.

This painting along with the close-up detail of the face and many of others of similar approach are depicted in our publication, “Not Far From Home”.

book cover new web

Other good news from the studio…we are in the final phases of proofing the DVDs and BLURAYs before replication for our latest instructional video, “The Beginning of Autumn”!  Things are looking great and are we are anxious for its release hopefully in a month or so.  I am sorry for the long delay since my first announcement before Christmas.  We originally planned only for a digital download release, but realized the demand for a hard disc was too great to overlook and have spent the last months coordinating the production. We hope you enjoy it!  Please see another of the trailers below. Thanks much!


Technical Insights from “Not Far from Home” #25

Nichols Creek …then and now

One of my winter rituals in landscape painting for the past ten years or so has been to visit a secluded glade which my brother Steve Gerhartz  first showed me.  Steve, an accomplished artist himself, has painted this location often and has been generous in sharing where his adventurous spirit leads him. This particular “bit of paradise” offers wandering streams that spring forth from the hillside as they descend through virgin cedar forest.  Endless angles and abstractions provide ample material for intriguing and inviting designs.

The invigoration of being surrounded by such beauty and experiencing the joy in trying to capture it on canvas bring to mind what my mentor and friend, Richard Schmid, once said to me while enjoying the experience of landscape painting, “We should be arrested for having this much fun while at work”.   His enthusiasm for the thrill of painting is truly memorable.

This past week I made the pilgrimage to our favorite spot and captured the afternoon sunlight in this new work, “The Scent of Cedars”, 24 x 40, oil on linen.


The technical advice for this challenging work was to keep in mind the original intent of design and light as the moving shadows and spots of sunlight created a new composition every few minutes. If I had constantly chased the moving light and added spots here and there as they shifted, the composition would have been fragmented and less unified.  I cannot stress enough the importance of keeping in mind a solid design of lights and darks from the outset.  It is always helpful for me to produce a thumbnail sketch of this pattern, or if you are tech savvy, a digital sketch of the arrangement of shapes that you may refer to as you continue in the field.

Another snow scene entitled “Spring Fed”, painted in this same forest may be seen on page 101 of our book, “Not Far from Home”.  Enjoy!

book cover new web

Just an update on the video, “The Beginning of Autumn” …  we were originally planning on releasing our latest video solely as a digital download but recently have felt it necessary to also offer it in DVD and possibly BluRay.  We are very close to production on that and hope to have things ready in a month or so.  Thanks for your patience!

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