We Are Just Messing About
Acrylic paints on 16 x 20 stretched canvas, my own photo references and imagination
This painting is another one in my Pictures + Words collection. My aim this time was to show a group of folks “just messing about” in the park on a sun lit day. My artistic aims were to learn more about : Composition, values (lights and darks), gestures, color choices and masses (broad lights and darks to define a form.)
To that end I gathered some reference photos and began sketching. One little axiom I'd made up was to “draw tightly, paint loosely” or draw accurately from my photographic references but draw with the idea of masses instead of photographic detailing. To help with that, I took the photos into Photoshop, and reduced them to black and white, then “posterized” them, rendering the masses of the forms of the figures without detailing. This allowed for clothing/color/personalization changes at will, without feeling I had to adhere to the photos too strictly. These printouts are what I used to “sketch” onto the canvas. I again used the “power of thirds” to locate important features at the “sweet spots” of my canvas. Here is the canvas divided into thirds with my handy dandy elastic strings.
In my head I was also planning the lights and darks of the whole painting. Greg Albert, in his The Simple Secret to Better Painting has a bunch of nice axioms, but the one I chose for this painting was: Mostly, Some and a Bit. It can easily apply to values, colors and detailing.
I took my Photoshop posterized sketches and printed out a couple of tiny ones on some bristol board, and used them for color/compositional “mini-mes” or thumbnail sketches. I used my color wheel to decide on a triadic color scheme and proceeded to mix up my basic paints. From my previous experiments in using greys to keep my color scheme in balance, I mixed up a set of greyed colours and then used some of the original tube colors for color “sparks”. I've tried this on the basis of James Gurney's Color and Light book. Premixing greyed colors is a great way not to “fight” too raw tube colors......and allow your color “sparks” to sing
After establishing my compositional road map, light and dark value road map, mass and color road maps......I was ready to go. I laid in the basic lights and darks, making gesture, and facial changes, from the original photos, as I came to them. I wanted to make all these disparate folks look like they were all hanging out together. I then pulled up an oldie but goodie technique of glazing. I glazed the background tree masses till they were just distant background blurs, the better to focus on the people. As you can see I started off with a lotta greys, but the final painting is very colourful.
The planning process is a bit new to me, but I'm learning SO much from each one I do. It pulls together many things I've learned over the years......but have never combined quite this way in my painting planning. It's lovely to conceive a painting, with "bookish helpers" (i.e. re-reading from different technique books I have on hand) whenever I hit a snag in bringing a concept to a full painting.