I’ve been working on some big paintings in the studio this winter, including a few pictures of my daughters. With the big ones I tend to do a bit more planning and developing the painting over a longer period of time. I thought it would be fun to show the first few days of work on this one, up to it’s current state. I’m still monkeying with it, and will most likely continue messing with it for the next few months.
I don’t usually start paintings with a grid, but some kind of geometry helps me expand a smaller sketch onto the bigger canvas. I’ve also been using the grid to play around with where to place key elements.
This scene is from a visit to my in laws house where the girls were playing around a little garden pond. The pond is pretty small, but I made it look a little bigger so the bottom half of the composition could be a bout the water garden, and reflection, while the top half is a bit more grounded. Whether working in the studio or on location I always start with some kind of quick drawing in paint. It helps me orient the major shapes before I start adding color.
Right from the beginning of the painting process I’m looking for subtle shifts in color as I mass in the big shapes. In this scene there are a lot of greens, so I was looking for the wide variety in the bushes and grasses, and down to the greens of the lilies in the water. There will be time to get a little more detail in later, but at first I just want to get the big color relationships figured out.
This is an early stage when I had roughed in my first pass at the colors. I’m trying to see how the color temperatures relate to each other, and how the overall scene is coming together. This is the easiest time to make any big fixes if I see things out of place.
After adding a few more elements, like the tall grasses, I wanted to take a break and see how things looked from a distance. One way to check on the overall impact of a painting is to look at the value structure. Before I start a painting I think about how the big shapes of dark and light will interact. Sometimes I take a photo with my phone and edit it to black and white so I can make value comparisons. I noticed a little more contrast than I wanted in the water, and I thought I could push the darks a bit deeper in the trees along the top of the canvas.
The color is getting a little richer here. I’m trying to keep an eye on the big picture as I add lots of small subtle shifts in hue. It’s tricky to keep working on a painting for so long while trying to keep a natural gesture in it. One of my teachers used to talk about making sure a painting breathes. Sometimes I think I might know what that means, and I hope it happens in my best paintings. I still feel like I have plenty of work to do on this one. I’ll post more when I’ve made more progress.