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Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Getting started on a new painting

I always find it interesting to see the process an artist uses in their work, don't you?  My process is always being re-evaluated and perfected, so I don't feel like I have "arrived".  But, these first steps do seem to work well to get a new painting started.  

I start with a few thumbnails sketches: 

Thumbnails are quite rough ~ they are a true sketch.  In a thumbnail, I check out the composition - rearrange things if necessary, simplify a little, and see which format I think will work best.  Here, I've tried a horizontal and square format - and below, I have used the vertical format.  This is the format I think will work best, so I've made a few field notes here as well - mostly noting where lights and shadows play an important role. 

When doing a value study, connecting the darker values is also important.  This will help tie the composition together and allow the eye to flow along.  Isolated dark values need to connect somehow to other dark values.
This is where artists may want to use a notan drawing to see that this is happening.

My next step it to work out values with a value study.  It is a little more detailed than a thumbnail sketch, and I'm paying much closer attention to values.  What I've found to be true is that values play an absolutely essential role in a believable landscape painting - well - probably ANY painting!!   You can see below that I made some notes about values and I've used a value scale to match them. 
Also, notice that I've been pretty careful to do this value study in the proper ratio for the canvas I will be using.

There's quite a bit of sketching in preparation for the beginning of a new painting!  But, all this will pay off as you get started! 

 I have decided on a 12x9" canvas - and I'm using a linen panel for this.  The linen is a pleasure to paint on - it has some tooth, of course, but a wonderful surface for the paint. 
In the photo below, I've made a few little marks to note where the convergence of thirds is on the canvas.

Keeping the "Rule of Thirds" in mind will help me compose an interesting arrangement.  I'm not really diverging too much from the actual scene, but I'm looking to arrange things so that the eye moves through the composition and doesn't get lost or bored or move out of the picture completely. 

The Rule of Thirds essentially says that the eye would like to see something interesting, compositionally, where the 1/3 segments of the picture plane converge.  So, there are 4 such spots on the plane.  Utilizing one of them will be a good thing to do.  There's much more to compositional rules, of course, but this is a relatively easy one to observe.

Using a light touch, I've drawn out a very simple and very minimal line drawing of the composition.  It's a little hard to see, but if you look carefully, you will see that there is a tree lying along the 1/3 marks on the left side.  I've used a 5B pencil to do this and am only marking the larger shapes.  

Now,  I'm ready to start the under painting!    Not every painting starts this way, but I like the effect and I think it helps resolve the whole idea of correct values.   I've used a combination of thinned Transparent Earth Yellow and Chromatic Black (both are Gamblin colors) to get a very neutral tone to start laying in values.  This will be a monochromatic under painting, so I'm only looking at values at this point rather than local color.

Because I'm working with thinned paint, its pretty easy to correct shapes - and even values - if I put something in the wrong place or I need to lighten values.   You can see my start above.  And a little more work on proper values in the photo below.

Now, I will let this dry and check again for proper values.  Once I'm satisfied that I have gotten the values down correctly, I will start working with color. 
That will be another post!   

I hope this has been interesting to see a process!  And it truly is a process! 
I don't really know of any artist who just sets up their canvas and palette and paints successfully without proper preparation.  And - the several hours that this has already taken to work through is just the beginning!  There will be more hours of analyzing color, mixing proper values of those colors, and applying the paint. 

Check back in a few days to watch the progress of this one.  There are some lovely passages of blues and greens that just capture the imagination and stir the heart with the beauty of God's creation! 

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