Sentinel, oil pastel

Should I break the rule or not – I thought about this one rule the entire time I was painting Sentinel.  Want to know what the rule is?  Good composition rule #1, never put the subject or point of interest dead center in the painting, when in doubt divide up your surface into thirds and put the POI in one of the four points that intersect – oh my what to do.

This time I just couldn’t follow the rule, simply because Sentinel, the tree guard is playing a significant role and became the division between two fields one green and the other yellow.  Don’t you wonder what if any it’s purpose was?  Perhaps it’s that the left-side are rows of corn and the right-side is a wheat field – dividing line, right?  Or maybe, it’s a dividing line between two farm properties (in New England they used stone walls as dividers) with the weeds/grasses and old “Sentinel” as the dividing line.  Whatever the purpose Sentinel played a pivotal role and stands guard over both – oh the history and tales it could tell . . . you got to love that old tree.

Sentinel, an oil pastel (11×14) was painted on a gesso prepared hardboard using mainly Holbeins, some Senneliers, Neopastels and Mungyo-Gallery oil pastels.  A underpainting was done using acrylics to cover the white of the gesso, then once dried clear gesso was applied to give the surface some tooth and texture.

Hope you enjoy and let all our guards be this faithful . . .


This painting was inspired by a photograph taken by my friend, Steve Lyddon a wonderful artist and photographer from pmp.

About Mary

Oil Pastelist
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51 Responses to Sentinel, oil pastel

  1. As a photographer (trying to learn drawing) I think it is important to know the “rules”, but even more important is to be able to break them if this bring your work to an higher level in terms of communication, emotion and pleasure. Well done.

  2. violetski says:

    Beautiful painting dear Mary!❤️
    Love the title too❤️❤️❤️

  3. Clinton says:

    Great again Mary. After seeing you oil pastel Night Glow painting I was already impressed but I must admit you have serious talent.

  4. As long as you know the rules, you have a perfect right to break them, if there is a reason. Like the painting, Mary….

  5. ladyfi says:

    Gorgeous painting and a great title.

    • Mary says:

      Hi lady! Thank you so much for your lovely comment – I thought the tree looked like a guard, with a big duty, so Sentinel seemed right. Thanks for mentioning!

  6. Painting for Joy says:

    Looks great to me. I don’t think the tree is exactly in the middle. Plus you broke up the composition with the grass in the foreground which leads the eye to the tree.

    • Mary says:

      Thank you Rhonda, I like hearing your thoughts on the composition. Thanks again – have a wonderful weekend!

      • Painting for Joy says:

        I think you are a wonderful artist Mary!!! I adore your work.
        I need to follow your lead and become more disciplined and take time to draw. I just have a hard time focusing…so many things to do, so little time!

  7. I think that art rules are meant to be broken and you broke them beautifully:) Especially gorgeous branches Mary!

    • Mary says:

      Thanks Elena, especially for your comment about the branches – I fret about branches from direction, to massing and values. I guess about the entire tree, but mostly the branches, so do appreciate your feedback!

  8. Breaking rules in art is never bad. I especially like the movement your created through the grass and clouds. Wish I could do that!

  9. Francesca says:

    Such a meaningful painting! It tells the viewer a whole story! So very special!

    • Mary says:

      Thank you Francesca for your beautiful comment – so glad you enjoyed the piece. Enjoy your weekend, no doubt you’ll serve a fabulous creation for all. Take care ~

  10. doronart says:

    Mary, I like rules in life and think they are very important. No doubt the people that think and create them have a good reason. However I never painted once with rules in mind. If I see something I like and it happened to be dead centre top or bottom… I just do it. I share and hope others will understand it too. If I liked it the way it was I will share and hope others will enjoy it too. With your work I have a feeling that if it was upside down I would fall in love with it too. It is not just the main subject but the complete way you present it……… whats rules?! Thanks for your kind words while visiting me, but trust me following your work I am sure give strength not only to me 🙂

    • Mary says:

      Ah Doran for you to write so much, thank you I really do appreciate it! I so like your free-spirit in how you go about your subjects and fabulous paintings, that is what makes you work so beautiful. Thank you for your thoughtful words and generous spirit, we all enjoy it to the fullest. Take care ~

  11. whatuful says:

    looks like a real photo! great frienddd!

  12. Line says:

    I just love your art! 🙂 It is so beautiful!! 🙂

  13. Rules are made to be broken, you must do what you feel because that will be reflected back from your canvass and if people feel it they won’t care about the rules. This painting has a message and that is in the title,”Sentinel” which means- to stand guard over, keep watching over, now is up to the viewer to read it, feel it! I believe your message is a powerful, clear and a beautiful one. Your decision was right when you listened to your feelings and yes I do love that old tree in the” center”. In real life reality is a visual reminder of where the dividing line lays, Steve Lyddon saw the potential and probably knew also that rules might be broken but the visual message was to powerful to miss out when he decided to take a shot just as you did when you decided to paint this piece even do questioned the rules of composition. On the end all that matters is that it is a beautiful piece. I love it, I feel it and got the message right in the center! Thanks for sharing another wonderful painting with all of us!~Eva:)

    • Mary says:

      Eva you are so generous with your time to so fully comment on my work, means a lot. I love reading your assessment because you got it from so many different levels, even about Steve. So many in the art world are hampered by “the rules” that they have infused their reluctance to bend on others, and in this situation I felt very comfortable breaking the rule – you all have acknowledge it here. There were so many aspects about the scene that I just loved, the tree and soft grasses leading to it were the primary elements that inspired me to paint Sentinel. Glad you liked the title, I thought it was fitting for this grand tree. Have a wonderful day – time for me to draw!

  14. dorannrule says:

    Just goes to show rules are made to be broken. This painting is lovely Mary with full attention to the stunning subject and the light. I love it! 🙂

  15. Sharon K. says:

    Oh, Mary, I love this painting. A single old tree alone in a bare field….very lovely. I’m always on the lookout for this type of composition to shoot.

    Rule scmule. If a scene works, that’s all that matters – and this definitely works. 🙂 🙂

    Just wonderful!!

    • Mary says:

      Thank you Sharon, not surprising that the lone tree appeals to you considering your gorgeous subjects taken with the lens. I really appreciate your comment!

  16. cmartzloff says:

    It is a beautiful painting and I also agree that its not dead center.

  17. I’m glad you didn’t follow the rule, Mary and in any case it’s not dead center! I see it actually dividing 3 fields… Excellent composition and vibrant colors! 🙂 xx

  18. Ogee says:

    “The golden rule is that there are no golden rules.” George Bernard Shaw. The painting is beautiful.

  19. Beautiful painting! I love anything to do with fields and nature so this speaks to my heart, I can practically see myself in it 🙂

  20. M-R says:

    Stringer used to say something along those lines about photos, too ! – not as detailed … just that I was never to have the focud of interest in the centre of either plane …
    I’ve reserved a spot in the container.

    • Mary says:

      Wow that containers’ getting big! Ha, so nice M.R. and Stringer was so right, but rules are made to be broken . . . thank you so much for your lovely comment! Always lightens the load, have a wonderful evening.

  21. poppytump says:

    The tree who stood alone . I love this Mary . Your description..t he division.. the breaking of rules …
    It reminds me of some trees I’ve seen recently nearby with underskirts of lacy cow parsley …. or others set in fields of yellow oilseed rape with a sprinkle of bluebells from who knows where stretching upwards around the trunk bases .
    A lovely image for me to reconnect with your paintings after being away 🙂

    • Mary says:

      So wonderful to see you back Poppy thank you very much for your comments. The place that inspired this painting is a lovely field somewhere in the English country-side. I’ll bet your descriptive fields were gorgeous – sounds like a painters dream scene. Nice to see you again!

  22. I wouldn’t worry about rules, but anyway I don’t think you broke any. The tree is not in the dead center, the leading lines balance the painting very nicely and you got the rule of thirds in it as well. I like it! Lovely colors 🙂

    • Mary says:

      Oh my Calee, you are really good – love it! You’re right, a quick glance one doesn’t realize the subtly of the lines, and the tree is pretty darn close to one of those precious thirds. I haven’t stopped smiling since I read your comment, did you take your ruler out? Thanks so much for taking the time to comment.

  23. It’s wonderful to hear you explain WHY you break a rule, when you break a rule. Good rules have their good reasons, but good artists can never be slavishly rule-bound. Very nice, Mary!

    • Mary says:

      Thanks Cynthia, I do appreciate your compliment. I fought with myself on this one, but the strength of the tree’s dominance won out.

  24. Yep, you broke the rule. But, I didn’t notice until you pointed it out. This is very good. Love the colors.

    • Mary says:

      Hi Kerry, thanks very much for your nice comment. The scene was dark throughout, but I could see it lightened with gold tones, thanks for mentioning the colors.

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