Steps in Developing a Painting
Some people may wonder how I go about creating a painting. In this post I will share my steps in the development of a recent canvas.
This painting started off from a photo. The photo was one I took while out for a walk with our dog in Edmonton’s river valley. When walking I am usually carrying my Nikon D80 equipped with either a 18-55 or 55-200 lens. I took over 100 photos over the course of a couple of hours. This is the photo that inspired me for the painting:
The broken tree trunk was the obvious central object that attracted me but I also liked the snow, some of the other tree forms and also the sky with the contrast between sky and clouds. I don’t like my paintings to be too much like a photo, especially with respect to color. Therefore I will often convert my color reference photo to black and white. I will want to get the values right but not be a slave to the natural colors. In the process of converting to black and white I will also take the opportunity to apply color filters and adjust the contrast/brightness. I use Nikon’s Capture NX2 software for the processing. This is my black and white reference photo:
I really liked the way the “red” filter turned the sky dark. What I didn’t like about the photo was how busy the mid-ground looked with all of the brush. Here I was able to apply my artistic license to clear out the million little lines and emphasize a few key tree elements. I may have done a few small thumbnail sketches to test out my idea , then I transferred my design to the canvas (12 by 16 inches/30×41 cm), drawing it in with charcoal:
You can see how much I have simplified the scene, taking liberties with the sky and the trees. From there it was time to start applying color. I did not refer to the color photo for the “real” colors. At this point I went with my gut to realize the colors that I somehow envisioned. In this case, I started by painting in the sky. You can see even at this stage I made some alterations to the design as I had drawn in with charcoal:
The painting continued as I moved to the tree and foreground. Especially for these key elements I choose to apply the paint think and juicy.
I call this work “finished” (in quotes) because it may not be. I see a number of things that I wonder if I could improve upon. I could continue to rework this painting but I generally I do not like to re-work, especially after the paint has started to dry. Instead I would prefer to live with this painting for awhile, thinking about what I like and noting what I think can be improved – and then I will paint another version. In fact with this one, I am thinking of a couple of small studies and then I will paint a larger version.
Link to more of my abstracted landscape paintings (often developed in similar fashion from photos)