About ten years ago I took a series of photos of my daughter in a white antique nightgown with a red shawl. Since then I’ve painted from these photos many times. It’s fun to see how my perceptions of the images have changed as well as the resulting paintings.
This is the first time I’ve worked on one of these images with no drawing to start with. Because of that, it was a painting about moving shapes and altering edges. At times this was frustrating, but the freedom to move things as they appeared to be right instead of holding onto a drawing was worth it.
This is the initial block in, where the placement of shapes was similar to the original photo.
I knew something was off with the visual, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Time to take it back a few notches. Swooshing the background and the foreground together gave me a better place to continue. If I can’t figure out what’s wrong, the worse thing I can do is to continue painting, adding more, in the hopes that something good will happen.
Much more developed at this point…but, something else…, that left shoulder, doubling as a white arrow with a stripe of red going through the middle, that’s it! That area is not only a boring break up of shapes, but it’s way to strong and makes it difficult to look at the face.
Everyday rain or shine I take my mini dachshund Brandy for a walk. Recently I’ve noticed yards beginning to green up and flowers blooming. I took my camera on our walk the other day and was lucky to see these roses fully opened. What I like about this subject is the organized chaos of nature, the twisting, turning and curling of forms.
The palette was Cad. Yellow Light, Cad. Yellow Deep, Cad. Red Light, Cad. Red Deep, Viridian Green and Cobalt Blue.
At this point I figured out the basic color blocks and was happy with the placement. Continuing around, developing areas, being careful to not spend too much time in any one area.
How can I take this to a place that only paint can go? Heavy application in the lights, softer in the background, sharper in the flower and leaves…
The beginning of the second day is the most important five minutes of the painting. I have to resist the urge to grab a brush and start painting.Instead I pull up a chair, set my phone for five minutes and just look. This is a great time to train my eye, how can I move this to a conclusion? Searching for distracting areas like that bit of light blue in the upper left hand corner that pull my eye out of the picture, searching for ways to make the things I like about it better, like carefully going over that top edge of the flower, looking for the little variations that make it interesting.
These seem like small things, but I’ve found that many small things add up to a big impact. When the alarm goes off I might set it for another five minutes until I feel I have a solid plan in mind.
I’ve poked around in Pinterest from time to time but have finally decided to dive in and see if there was anything there for me.
An Auxiliary Brain– have you every found an inspirational image while web surfing, maybe it’s a great pose, or light condition you’d like to emulate, you save it to your bookmarks. Three months later your looking at a long list of web addresses in your side bar and can’t remember why you saved it? By having a Pinterest account with the Pin it button in your browser menu bar you can grab images on the fly, pin them on your boards, even secret boards, (if you don’t want the public looking over your shoulder). Having a visual place where it’s all there for me to see makes it really easy.
Free on-line Art Portfolio and Website Traffic Generator- if you don’t have a website for your artwork Pinterest can be your online portfolio. If you do have a website, linking your artwork from your Pinterest art portfolio to your website is a great way to get traffic to your site.
Find Out What the Public Thinks Of Your Work-sign up for a business instead of personal account (this is free, can also convert a personal to business) and increase your rankings in searches, link your website to your Pinterest account and access a very thorough set of analytics that will tell you everything from how many people went to your web sight from Pinterest to how many people clicked on your art, if they were men or women and more.
Of course there are many other things you can do, take a look at my boards to get some ideas!
This subject was a challenge in values. My goal was to keep the foreground in shadow, making it dark enough to read “shadow” while light enough so that some subtle color interactions would be visible. Staying on “the lighter side of dark” was where I wanted to be.
When holding things together is one of the major concerns, I like to paint a harmonizing tone on the canvas, in this case it’s a warm gray mixture of Viridian Green, Permanent Rose, Cobalt blue, Cadmium Yellow and White.
After the whole canvas was covered I started wiping back some simple lines to get my bearings. This works so much better for me than a line drawing. An accurate drawing in the beginning has given me a false sense of security in the past. As the painting progresses, suppressing some areas while exaggerating others for the good of the image, renders the accurate drawing visually inaccurate.
The wiping away approach is more instinctive and flexible, looking at the whole for what the painting needs. It almost feels like sculpting, carving out blocks of color.
Beginning to rough in the big masses. Keeping the values a little on the lighter side, it’s so easy to go darker and darker, before you know it, you’re digging out of the abyss of a too dark painting.
Working around the painting, developing more areas, I can see the need for more darks now, because things don’t look grounded enough. I played with bringing the red fan shape to the right also, but don’t like it, now I have a symmetrical “bulls eye” in the middle of the painting.
And finally; taking the light in the window as high value as I could while still being able to get a blue tint, while getting a solid feel in the foreground with heavier paint and some darker accents.
We all know that Sorolla was a master artist, so I am going to use one of his paintings, Evening Sun, to illustrate the points below.
Does your eye flow throughout the painting or does it stop awkwardly and hit dead ends?
Notice how the elements of this painting draw you right in and form a loop that keeps your eye moving around and around.
Has color been used to provoke an emotion or just copied, are similar colors woven throughout?
Sorrolla uses a grayed green tone many times in this painting, whether it is a hat, water or shadow on an ox. This repetition creates a wonderful harmony.
Have elements been treated stylistically the same across the painting?
Sorrolla uses a wave-like shape in all areas of the image, creating the strong feeling of movement. Notice the one strong horizontal line at the horizon that anchors all of this motion.
4. Center of Interest
Do element within the painting support the Center of Interest?
Sorolla shows us what a master he is by putting his center of interest successfully in the middle of the painting. Does anything convey strength like the muscled hind ends of those oxen fighting the rushing waves?
Is the painting a collection of “things” or does it evoke a deeper emotion in you?
Is this painting “Evening Sun” by Sorolla y Bastida simply a seascape with some oxen and figures. . . you decide.
When I sat down with the subject, I tried to visualize what it should look like as a painting. One good exercise to get me started; look at the work of (in the case), landscape painters I admire. What things in those paintings are appealing to me? I’m not talking about copying but borrowing some paint language .
My decision was to draw attention to the foreground rocks, with their varied subtle tones and interesting shapes. This decision was a very personal thing, it all depended on my preferences, but having no Point of View is like someone who will not take a stand on an issue, the result is usually weak and boring. I foresaw there would be some trouble areas because the image contained some chaotic passages but I decided to figure it out as I went.
At this point of the block in I wasn’t feeling good about the harsh green and was on alert that this had to be toned down.
Hello chaos, the background’s twisted trees with green peaking through were fighting the foreground rocks for attention. This is a good time to distance from the painting and figure out what to do next. Years ago when I would arrive at this “problem” phase I would just keep on painting, trying this, trying that, just guessing at what might help, it’s an exhausting way to work.
What needed to happen in order to make it pleasing to my eye:
Kill the contrast in the dark tree on the left next to the sky
Unify the trees
Eliminate most of green in the background
Sharpen up the foreground with contrast in the water
I finally arrived at my destination, but couldn’t have found the way without a Point of View.