Friday, May 6, 2011

Details of New Painting and More About the Painting Process

The Lyons Club Park Boardwalk painting got off to a decent start in terms of composition, but some other aspects of the process were unsatisfactory at first and required revision. For those of you interested in the painting process, that is the topic today. The photos are close-up detail shots of the new painting I showed you last time as well as a photo of the entire piece.
As I mentioned last post, I shifted the viewpoint a bit from the reference photo, but you could see that I retained the basic elements of the scene without radical change. I raised the horizon line, which often seems to land in the horizontal center of my photos, because a painting should (almost) never be cut in half by a major element or line. I made small, grey-tone sketches of several possible compositions to consider and gridded over them horizontally and vertically into thirds (resulting in nine smaller rectangles). I try to place my focal point near the intersection of two of these lines, which is pleasing to the eye (these are sometimes called "sweet spots"). In this piece, I regard the center of interest as the area in the upper left third where a single tree stands and the boardwalk comes to a point and makes a sharp turn to follow the river bank. That is such a compelling angle that the viewer's eye is inevitably led there. But I include a path over to the right and then visual paths up, down, and around so that the viewer's eye will naturally move through the entire composition and find other areas of visual interest as well.
I thought I had chosen a perfect palette for this painting, but needed to change it along the way. I use a limited palette for each work, meaning a selection of certain tube colors which will blend well to create the entire range of color variations for the scene. Even though the viewer may not notice the use of a limited palette, the result is more pleasing and harmonious than using many randomly chosen colors would be. The palette I choose varies with the subject, weather, and season. This painting has no tube green at all; greens are blended from blues and yellows, and modified with red, purple and grey. After one change, the final palette consisted of cerulean blue, cobalt blue, paynes grey, dioxizine purple, cadmium yellow light, yellow ochre, cadmium red light, buff, and white. Although the photo is almost entirely in greens and blues, I wanted a livelier scene and added shades of purple in the water. Then, I used burnt sienna (a favorite color) to add a range of tones in the marsh grasses. This was a mistake, in my opinion. The burnt sienna did not blend well with the blues and purples I had used, so I put it back in the drawer and experimented with other shades for the grass. Some of our North Florida marsh areas include a sort of brownish burgundy grass that seemed likely to fit in, so I worked that into various spots in the grass along with some buff and greenish blends. This particular burgundy is a blend of cad red light, paynes grey, and a little purple (used with care--the purple is strong).
This painting came together a bit more quickly than sometimes (I am a sloooow painter). If you have any other questions about the painting process, please feel free to ask either in a comment or to email me (see profile for address). I enjoy sharing "shop talk" with interested readers.
Question of the day: What aspects of the painting process (if any) are of interest to you?


  1. Goodness, Mary. I don't know but that is a hard question. I think my favorite part of the painting process is the conception itself. I always love my ideas, even if they don't usually come out the way I see them in my head. Quite a disconnect between vision and ability, alas. Still, I keep trying. I'm baking two ideas, one started with a drawing (which I suspect I'll ruin once I add paint), the other a reference shot in my hot little hands already. find the time and energy to lay down paint!

  2. You are an idea person, Sherry--good insight there. Your visual concepts are creative and interesting--and your idea fountain doesn't stop there either--I love your distinctive writing style, too. It seems as though you have more creative ideas than any twenty people could work on, even if they worked full time! I'll look forward to seeing your new projects, whenever you find time for them.