Saturday, April 3, 2010

Learning--Reference Photos for New Landscape Painting Projects

Each of these photos is slated to serve as a reference for a new coastal North Florida landscape painting. The sandpiper feeding in the foam spun by Atlantic Ocean waves is started on a 9" x 12" canvas board. So far, the major change from the photo is to swap positions of the bird and seaweed debris--didn't want our feathered friend skittering right out of the painting :>). The major challenge of this piece will be to render a pleasing, faithful impression of the sea foam and the wet shimmer on the sand. Even in the photo, that ridge of foam looks a bit unreal--so stay tuned for how my wrestling with it all turns out. It will be great for my learning process to work on this scene.
I think I mentioned the other photo a few posts ago when we had some fun conversation (thank you, thank you, commenters!!!) about a dune scene that left the viewer no clear way to cross over to the beach. This scene shows one of many dune-preserving boardwalks on Jacksonville Beach, the only permitted way to cross our precious dunes in order to protect them and the life forms they support.
Right now, I have just begun to sketch possible compositions for the new dune scene. The photo cuts the composition almost in half vertically--not acceptable. Secondly, I am not happy with the way the foot bridge competes for attention with the white fence. So, I have been juggling the elements in thumbnail sketches in a way to feature the foot bridge, the intended focal point. Once the plan for the composition is ready, I will consider the palette--will punch up the color and contrast some, but still keep it natural and a bit soft. Lots to think about for this one. It's time for me to paint something new in an 18" x 24" size (or possibly even larger). Dune Crossing may be the one.
Question of the day: If you are an artist or have a creative hobby, what is your planning process? Are you more intuitive and inclined to pursue that flash of inspiration spontaneously; do you have a meticulous planning or preparation process; or are you somewhere in between?


  1. I guess for me, the process of planning is all done in my head. Alas, this leaves me having to scrape mistakes...Something I am about to embark on. That will not be at all pretty! It is covered with Mod Podge...dried. Should have figured things out better up front! Love the colors in the footbridge photos (the plants). I think the white fence would have to go and I find myself wondering about angling the bridge into the painting from bottom right corner up towards the middle...I shouldn't be allowed out of my pen.

  2. The simplicity of the first painting makes it a very hard piece to paint! You are so brave! And I agree with Sherry about the fence in the second although I quite like the pathway where it is. Oh well, personal preferences. Your question was an interesting one and made me realise that I paint from my heart - if I see something I like, I try to paint it - no planning involved, just trying to find a canvas of the right size!

  3. Sherry, you do fine work with your own method; don't knock it. And when it comes to making changes along the way, my planning may not save me much of that either. Although with acrylics, I don't have to scrape anything off, you'd get a chuckle out of how often I go back to paint over an impossible mess or mistake even after trying to plan the thing :>). It's all a part of the creative process.

    We are on the same page (as is Liz, commenting after you) about the white fence needing to go. It won't mind, as it has been a star in a different dune/ocean scene featuring the red flowers and green to brown vegetation against the fence. Angling the bridge might be interesting, but I really like the strong shadow patterns the railing casts and am not sure I'd want the headache of re-imagining that from a new angle. Finally, who are you trying to kid?--we know you can't even be put in a pen to start with--too creative a free spirit for that :>).

    Hey, Liz--it's fantastic to hear from you! I don't know if I am brave, foolish, or a bit of both on the sandpiper, but I am having fun with the subtle palette (although I am slightly increasing the color shift from a warmer, rusty grey in the extreme foreground sand to bluer greys further back). I know I will learn and grow from working on this piece.

    You and I concur on the major elements in the pathway one--thanks for the confidence boost on that! Your paintings from the heart turn out so beautifully that it's clear you have the right approach for your own creative soul.