Saturday, January 26, 2019

Editing What You See

Editing and simplifying the subject matter is an important part of painting .  Moving trees or other objects in a landscape can  make a better composition.  Black shadows in photos must be changed with half tones and temperature variations.  The planning process may involve mental notes alone, sketches, or the use of apps.  (See my post on the latter- June 2, 2017)

Here are two examples.  In both cases I made changes before and as I painted.  I did not make sketches or use my iPad to edit.

The first is a painting from this reference photo of a sunset in the Bahamas.

Because of the low light is there isn't a lot of color in the scene.  The dock, palms, and distant foliage are essentially black, though there is some light on the boat/structures on the far side of the water.  I can't tell what some of the structures are, though the mast to the right indicates some kind of sail boat.  I loved the sky and wanted to paint it pretty much as is.

To change the composition a bit I cropped the sky and made more dock visible.  This still avoided a horizon in dead center.  I added some color, both warm and cool, to the black shadows and lightened some of the values while still keeping them in the shadow family. (Remember that the lightest shadow value should always be darker than the darkest value in the light.)  I played up the light on the boats, improvised the sailboat that was not really discernible, and took the liberty of highlighting parts of the dock.  A little bit of rim lighting there is believable and keeps the posts from disappearing into the darks behind them. Last I put sun reflections on the water which should have been there but in reality were very subtle and diffuse.  This painting was also an experiment with chromatic black* in order to justify a recent purchase.😆  The greens were made with black and a bit of yellow.  The other darks were mixtures of black with other colors, such as burnt sienna.

The second example is a plein air piece from a nearby golf course.  I took a photo before painting which I always do, unless I forget.

I do not like painting golf courses.  They are artificial and too manicured for my tastes though that is purely personal.  But this course is close to home and when closed, painters are allowed to wander freely.  It was a good cloud day.

I chose a square format, for no other reason than I love doing them.  A landscape format would have been perfectly fine.  This was 8"x8" and the session lasted about an hour and a half.    My canvas was toned with burnt sienna and I used this for the underpainting also. The darks were ultramarine blue mixed with burnt sienna.  To avoid the look of the golf course I made the terrain flat, which is how the natural landscapes are in my area.  I eliminated all man-made structures.  I kept the horizon low because I wanted the sky to be the real star of the show.  I made sure that the grasses did not look mowed or uniformly green.  I didn't move the trees because I liked the way they led me through to the ground beyond (fairway!) and the sky.  I exaggerated the warm blue in the sky close to the horizon because I love the way this looks on a partly cloudy day.  I think I succeeded in making this look more like a field than a golf course.

I hope these examples were helpful.  Thanks for looking!

*chromatic black is factory made using 2 complements- quinacridone red and phthalo emerald.  This makes a vibrant transparent black that doesn't deaden other colors when mixed (like ivory black tends to do.)