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.

Project: Basic Paint Application – Exercise: Painting with Pastels

02/02/15

Painting with Pastels

Practice making marks and blending with pastels; if you have time, use the techniques you’ve discovered to make a simple picture…

Soft Pastels on Ingres Paper:

Painting with pastels. Mark making and blending with soft pastels.

Painting with pastels.
Mark making and blending with soft pastels.

Having previously explored soft pastels in the Drawing Skills course, I tried to focus on painterly effects, texture, colour mixing and blending.  Using soft pastel on its side for blocks of colour and thin straight lines. By using a shorter piece on its side, I could rotate it round to produce an almost perfect circle.  Different colours can be layered (either by broad side strokes or narrower end ones), alternately hatched or blended with a finger or rag.

Oil Pastels on Mount Board Primed with Gesso:

Painting with pastels. Mark making and blending with oil pastels.

Painting with pastels.
Mark making and blending with oil pastels.

I repeated similar marks to those above, however, the oil pastel was more prone to pick up the texture of the support being used.  This made for some interesting effects when used fairly lightly on their side.  To obtain more solid blocks of colour, I had to use the tip and pressure to work it into the support’s texture.  I actually preferred the blending of the oil pastels as more options were available.  Again I could layer and hatch colour but I also tried using a rag wound round my finger and this softened the oil pastel and produced a subtle, diffused blend of the colours.  I then tried using solvent and brushes, firstly, a hog brush – this had the effect of moving the pigment around a lot more and left  more brush marks visible.  Using the synthetic Mongoose flat, which is much softer, allowed me to fuse the pigment and blend it without it shifting so much.  I also noticed, that with using solvent, the pigment could run and produced lovely drips and pools of colour.

A Simple Picture – Oil Pastels:

After experimenting with the solvent and oil pastels, I was keen to use this to produce a simple painting.  My intention was to let it run and be free with it, in practice it became a little stiff in execution and not as loose as I wanted initially.  I used the solvent in the sky (this is the view outside my window), and combined with a rag it gave a nice base to paint on.  My favourite part is the apple tree and its branches.  By using the oil pastels on their tip and twisting and moving over the support, a pleasing rendition of twiggy branches was created. Doing this on top of the solvent diluted pigment also removed that layer, which worked brilliantly for getting a sharp jagged line, perfect for the branches .  Not a masterpiece but experimental and informative.

Small painting using oil pastels and mark making and blending techniques. Approx A4 on  on canvas board.

Small painting using oil pastels and mark making and blending techniques.
Approx A4 on canvas board.

 

A Simple Picture – Soft Pastels:

I was keen to try both types of pastel and found a photograph I took last week while walking the dog early evening.  It was a spectacular sunset and I remember thinking that it would be nigh on impossible to reproduce such vivid and luminous colours in a painting.  Never one to back down from a challenge, I thought I’d try, so soft pastels were probably my best chance.  The most part of the picture was made using the soft pastel on its side.  I was determined not to rely just on blending with my finger and to attempt hatching and layering too. In the main, I succeeded, and not just because of the fine sandpaper quality of the support.  Any finger blending was more of a dabbing motion and I used a dry cloth round my finger if the need arose.  Naturally in the sky, there were horizontal streaks of colour and diagonal cloud formations that also absorbed the last of the sun’s rays, so that helped focus me.  The foreground and buildings were mainly in silhouette but I introduced some dark colours to avoid it being too flat. I was right, though, it’s nowhere near as stunning as real life and, unfortunately, the pinks and corals have not photographed as vibrantly as they are either which is a shame.

Small painting using soft pastels and mark making and blending techniques. Approx A4 on pastel board

Small painting using soft pastels and mark making and blending techniques.
Approx A4 on pastel board