Monday, May 28, 2012

Painting in the Studio

I'm painting for a show that's coming up at Sunbury Shores Arts & Nature Centre (St Andrews, NB)  that will start July 20.  The theme is "Buildings in the Landscape."  In addition to my typical plein air work, which seems to have developed a certain style, I wanted to do a few studio pieces.  In the studio, I like to depart from my plein air look.  In my book, that's not a bad thing.  Studio paintings are created under completely different conditions, so why should I try to make them look like the plein air work, or vice versa?  Of course, the studio work may end up looking so different that it won't fit in the show!

This piece happens to include a prominent boat as well as a few buildings scattered incidentally in the distance.  (Perhaps I'm stretching the concept of "buildings in the landscape" here.)  For it, I had several goals in mind.  I wanted to work on things that are difficult to do in the field, given the time constraints.  I wanted to:

  • Keep the shapes simple and more abstract than I do in my plein air pieces, which tend to have more detail;
  • Build a more satisfying composition than I have time for in the field; and
  • Develop a color scheme that is at once more harmonious and more exciting than what I often get in the field.

Here's the reference photo.  The color is a little dull, there's too much detail, and the composition, though interesting, needs work.

Now here's my first take on the painting.  I really liked the way the color harmony was developing with a complement pair – red-violet/yellow-green – in conjunction with the yellow ochre I was mixing into my sunlit colors.   I also worked hard at keeping shapes simple and the key in the upper end of the value scale.

But there were a couple of things I didn't like.  I didn't like the shape of the foreground beach.  I was trying to create a curvey lead-in for the eye, but it just wasn't working.  It was crying for too much attention and was taking away from the boat and darker shapes in the background.  I also didn't like the color of it.  It was too warm and pink; it needed to be greyer, more like the color of the rooftops.

I corrected these things and also darkened some of the shadows under the boat.  But just slightly, since I wanted to keep the high-key feeling.  Pulling the water down to the bottom of the frame helped, too.  I wanted to keep a curvey lead-in for the eye, though, so I added a subtle sense of either a wavelet or a partly-submerged rope in the foreground.  (It doesn't matter which.)  Finally, I cooled off some of the sunlit grasses behind the boat.  Here's the final version:

"Spring Greens" 12x12, oil (Gamblin Fastmatte)
For my St Andrews-by-the-Sea fans, this is the boat that was hauled up by Quoddy Bay Fish Market for several years. It's gone now, having been smashed to bits in a particularly high tide.  Observant readers will note that the little lighthouse in the distance - the Pendlebury Lighthouse - has replaced that big house at the water's edge.


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Kimberly Vanlandingham said...

Great painting! Interesting to see your take on the colors from the reference photo. Lovely job!

chang long said...

nice posting.. thanks for sharing.