When the Background Needs to go Away

Have you ever had an image that you wanted to paint but the background held you back? This photo of a rooster which I took while we where in Colonial Williamsburg was one of those pictures.


As a photo, it’s ok, but as a painting there were several things that bothered me.

  • The timbers at the lower edge were too heavy and pulled my eye diagonally upward to the left.
  • Those fence beams in the back against the bright light made a high contrast area which moved horizontally through the rooster. Try this – look at the rooster and see how those bright contrasts in the fence keep pulling your eye away.
  • The limbs of bright green foliage running horizontally across the top, visually squished down on the rooster.



The simplest way to resolve this is to ask myself “what can I get rid of?”

I liked the idea of the beams supporting the rooster, so I streamlined them down to one, than getting rid of the fence helped, using the distant greenery as a textural foil to the smooth feathers was another change.

There are other ways the background could have been manipulated in this scene, it all depends of what you want to say about your subject.

3 Replies to “When the Background Needs to go Away”

  1. John pointed to your blog and I have scrolled through it. I really like your paintings. The athmosphere zen and intimist.
    I find your explanations quite interesting even if I am not always sure I understand everything (each art, craft, … has his own jargon).

    In your post “In the Garden, continued…” (July, 20, 2015)
    You explain that you changed the background to have a better harmony. Obviously you didn’t touch the barrel, although, in the second picture, it is much bluer. I guess you did not use something like Photoshop to wash completely the second picture in blue. So the two pictures were probably not taken with the same lighting conditions.

    If I am right, your Cannon Rebel XT has a feature called CWB or custom white balance. If you use it, you camera can take into account the lighting you are using. This is supposed to give you true colors or at least pictures you can better compare.
    A quick search on the web gives this link:

    It seems taking the first shot he is speaking about, with a sheet of (white) paper from your printer placed on the painting would give good results.
    I have found a tutorial here which shows the use of just a white paper.

    I am not a photographer and the people with which you do photo shot sessions wil probably be best placed to give you good and practical advice.

    I don’t think the procedure above would eat much of your painting time. So it is probably worth doing.
    Good pictures are certainly more important in painting than in woodworking.
    Thank you for your tutorials.


    1. Sylvain, thank for your comments, and taking the time to share the links. You are right both picture should be taken under the same lighting conditions to really make a true comparison and I sometimes rush when it comes to the photography, but I will definetly check out the links you suggested, thanks, Diane


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