Exercise: Working from a Photograph

01-03/12/15

Exercise: Working from a Photograph

Choose a landscape photo with plenty of space and either tall trees in the middle ground or hills or mountains in the background… When you’ve decided on your photo, look at it critically to decide how you might interpret it.

Source photo Looking over Blashford Lakes

Source photo
Looking over Blashford Lakes

This is one of my favourite views from a dog walking route over Ibsley Common in the New Forest. I only have the photo digitally and not in print, so sketched out the main photographic composition in my sketchbook to work on my painting composition.

Sketched reproduction of the source photo with compositional options and notes. A4 Sketchbook

Sketched reproduction of the source photo with compositional options and notes.
A4 Sketchbook

 

Putting coloured frames around parts of the whole sketch/photo helped me decide which composition would be the most interesting.

 

 

 

 

 

Composition scaled up and main shapes marked in.

Composition scaled up and main shapes marked in.

 

 

Once the composition was decided upon, I scaled it up and drew out the main shapes in a fresh sketch.

 

 

 

 

 

Tonal sketch of chosen composition.

Tonal sketch of chosen composition.

 

Next, the drawing was repeated and simplified tone added to assist with the actual painting.

 

 

 

 

 

I decided to use a pastel and watercolour combination on thick cartridge paper. I used a base of soft pastel as an under-painting. I have struggled with working loosely in this section of the course for some reason, so this method is more tactile and more intuitive for me.  I worked the pastel into the paper to try to cover all of the whiteness.  Working in the darks quickly and strongly, using black in the foreground just to get the depth, then using different dark colours, such as purples, reds and browns to give a richness in the shadows. The minimal use of green seems to be helping me, as the autumnal colours are rich and bright, using sienna, yellows and oranges have lifted the whole feeling of the painting. It was important to keep the sky lively too to balance the strength in the middle and foreground. Once the under-painting was done, I tried to avoid overly blending the pastel and kept the marks visible although less so in the background. To assist with subtle branches I used a damp brush to pull the pastel through the trees.

Once the bulk of the pastel work was done, watercolour was added to intensify some darks in the middle and foreground. The birch trees were added with a rigger brush and Naples yellow and sepia. I used the trees in the garden as reference, especially to see the hanging down of the end twigs and remaining leaves, these were added to the painting with a smudge of mixed tones of pastel. Before using the watercolour, the pastel was fixed and each subsequent application was also fixed.

At this point I stood back and assessed what else needed doing. The sky needed bringing up to same level as the foreground, so I built more shadow beneath the clouds. To enliven the painting even more, I splattered watercolour over the foreground shadows after masking off the other areas with a large sheet of paper. I also referred to the last work-in-progress photo and noticed it was more intense in colour than the actual painting.  This is a comment my tutor has made several times, in that the photo works better, therefore, I added more lights and darks to bring it up to intensity level of the photo. Unfortunately, by this time, the light was fading and the final photograph is a little grainy but gives an impression of the finished painting. If time, I may re-take it and post.

Working from a Photograph Exercise. Pastel and Watercolour on cartridge paper. 57 x 39cm

Working from a Photograph Exercise.
Pastel and Watercolour on cartridge paper.
57 x 39cm

When you’ve finished, look at both the painting and the reference photograph.

In what ways did you depart from the photo?
I zoomed into a specific focus in the photograph and have tried to walk the line between representational and abstract.

Why did you make that choice?
I had been struggling with most of the landscape exercises, with a combination of colours, media and composition failing me. I have previously made landscape paintings with pastel that have had a higher success rate, they seem to make me feel freer in the execution of the painting.

Did you produce a painting that satisfied you, or were you overly influenced by the photo?
Funnily enough, when I came back for the second session of painting, I couldn’t access the digital photo for a couple of hours and had to work only from memory and my drawings. This was useful for tonal representation, although, when I could use it again, the photo was useful for colours. As I progressed I used the photo less and less and I like the interpretation that resulted.

Exercise: Squaring Up

29/11/15

Exercise: Squaring Up

The principle is simple – you simply draw squares over the photo or drawing… mark proportionately larger squares on your working surface… Then transfer everything that appears on a small square onto a larger one, paying careful attention to the relationships of the objects to the intersecting lines…

Once the drawing is in place, begin the painting… Your drawing is there as a guide, not a tablet of stone, so let the painting develop with reference to your original idea.

Original photo ( 16 x 12cm) squared up and the enlarged painting after the first session. Acrylic on acrylic paper 32 x 24cm

Original photo ( 16 x 12cm) squared up and the enlarged painting after the first session.
Acrylic on acrylic paper
32 x 24cm

I decided to use a photograph that I took some years ago in Polperro, Cornwall. I initially marked a border round to establish where I wanted the composition focus. I found the numbering of the squares very useful to plan the placement of the main shapes. This technique actually kept me from being too detailed in the drawing. Once the main elements were drawn in, I added paint loosely and tried to stick to shapes and tones initially. Just before I finished the first session, I decided to scrub over the paint with a damp brush, which, as it was acrylic, was mostly dry but what wet paint there was, softened and blurred. I did this to ensure I didn’t become too tight in the painting. I am hoping that by doing this I will keep the painting loose in the next session.

30/11/15

Squared up source photo and notes from sketchbook

Squared up source photo and notes from sketchbook

 

 

Continued with the painting, using the reference photo to assist with shapes and tones.

 

 

 

 

Trying desperately not to get bogged down in detail, I worked in darks to bring out shapes of the boats and general tonal painting of the buildings. Nearing completion I took the painting away from the photo and reassessed the overall effect. Detail had crept in particularly with the buildings’ windows, taking these down in prominence, darkening the front of the buildings themselves and lightening the roofs to indicate the sunlight brought it all together more successfully.  I am still disappointed at the lack of painterly brush-strokes but came to the conclusion that I had spent more than enough time on this. The main objective was the rescaling using the squaring up technique, which itself was successful.

Squaring up - Final painting Acrylic on paper 32 x 24cm

Squaring up – Final painting
Acrylic on paper
32 x 24cm

 

Exercise: Painting from a Working Drawing

24, 26 & 28/11/15

Exercise: Painting from a Working Drawing

Choose a subject that you’re already familiar with, such as a corner of a room in your own home, or objects on a table by a window, and make three drawings:

  • a linear study, concentrating on the main shapes
  • a tonal study
  • a colour study

…You’ll find it easier  to use the same medium for this study as you will for the final painting as all media behave differently.

I decided to use the corner of the lounge, with both the wall lights and standard lamp on.  It was afternoon, however, as usual for this November, it’s overcast and light levels are low.  Using pencil for the linear drawing to try to keep the shapes clean and clear, I also used pencil for the main shapes then using pen for the tonal drawing. I found the pen useful for describing tone as it was small (around A6) in scale and the pen would not smudge and blur the image.

Pencil linear and pen tonal drawing A6 in A4 sketchbook

Pencil linear and pen tonal drawing
A6 in A4 sketchbook

 

I made a fundamental error with these sketches as they were made on the right hand page of my sketchbook. This prevented me having these and my colour study viewable together whilst making the final painting. To get over this I cut out the page and turned it over to be the left had page and stuck it back in my book. Now all three can be used as reference at the same time!

 

 

Colour study Pen and watercolour A6 in A4 sketchbook

Colour study
Pen and watercolour
A6 in A4 sketchbook

 

For the colour study, I stuck to using the pen to draw out the shapes and watercolour to add colour and tone. For this I used student quality pan colours although, I used artist quality tube colour for the actual painting. Again, as I did for the working outside exercise, I sorted out my colours first.

 

 

 

 

I did not use all of the colours I thought, ie Naples Yellow, Viridian nor Raw Umber, however, having the palette loaded and ready, made it simpler and quicker to paint. I also drew out the main shapes lightly in pencil and resisted the urge to use pen to “tidy” up, it also allowed me to draw with the paint itself.

Painting from a Working Drawing Watercolour on watercolour paper A4 on A3 paper

Painting from a Working Drawing
Watercolour on watercolour paper A4 on A3 paper

  • Did your sketches provide enough information for you to do your painting? If not, what else should you have included? I felt confident with the information in front of me, of course, I am very familiar with the subject so that helped too.  I found the tonal drawing the most useful although, the colour study helped to lay out my palette.
  • Did you find that being away from the subject gave you more freedom to develop your painting style? In what way? To be honest, the subject itself didn’t really inspire me into “freedom”, although, the light and shadows are always interesting to me and I enjoyed trying to show the light coming through the lamp shade and the shadows of the plant leaves. I enjoyed drawing with the paint and using wet in wet technique to achieve the tones.
  • What is your opinion of the finished painting? In the main I think it’s worked although I had to work hard at getting the darks as dark as I did. I don’t love it and I don’t hate it but I think it was good practice to have gone through the process and will be invaluable in future projects.