Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Painting a Painting - Queen's View with Ben Lomond

Here's another series of photos showing the stages of painting a painting.

Here's the photo that I took of Queen's View to the north of Glasgow, in some beautiful autumn sunshine, with Ben Lomond in the distance.

Back in the studio, I've got one of my largest sized of canvas, a 40" x 48" linen canvas.  

I've prepared it with a lovely warm lilac background as the midtone to work from.  Having this colour on the canvas as a base means that you're not working out from a very stark white, which can shine out between marks.  

The lilac background informs all the colour choices you make in the rest of the painting, so it literally sets the tone.  

It's how Turner painted his watercolours - he soaked his papers in buckets of red-coloured pigment, which unified the busy turmoil of marks and gave a warm glow to the work.  

Caravaggio painted out of black backgrounds with no preparatory drawing - that suited his dark character and need to paint fast (he was a man on the run from his enemies).  

Impressionists painted out of white backgrounds, which made their colours have a bright intensity which expressed the sense of outdoors light and airiness that they were trying to capture, giving a spontaneous feel away from stuffy tradition. 

It's physically a big size of canvas to work on, and is quite a challenge.  Just actually  stretching to make the marks right across in a small crowded studio is quite difficult!  Also,  it's hard to get the space to keep standing back from the painting to see how it's going.  Standing back regularly is very important - you can see where you're going wrong!!

As I work, it becomes clear that it's all about the blues of the sky working with the complementary oranges of the quiet middle ground, and the yellows and the lilacs working together.  I want it to have a really autumnal feel.  

The sky and the foreground are quite busy and detailed, so it's important to have that calm, quiet middle section with not much going on in the way of brushstrokes or detail.

The middle ground must be completely finished before I put in the long strokes of the foreground plants on top of it.  There's no going back!

Gradually, it all comes together. Concentrate!

I don't have a firm idea of how I want the painting to look when it's finished - I can't actually picture that at all - but I know how I want it to feel, and the painting becomes itself as I paint it.  

As I've said before, I try not to be too prescriptive, but to let passages of paint just happen.  It's like you're curating the marks into one composition, rather than forcing them to be there.  I can guide the paint, but if I don't let it become its own thing, then it looks too forced.

Just painting what I see!

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