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 studio work from a photo

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acadianartist



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Join date : 2009-11-23
Location Location : Just outside Fredericton, New Brunswick

PostSubject: studio work from a photo   Tue Dec 29, 2009 11:09 am

Ok, since I have a little time this week, I will also add to this WIP forum. Last november, my husband and I decided to take a day off from the kids and spend it at his uncle' farm and pheasant preserve. It is a spectacular area and the plan was for me to paint plein air all day and for him to hunt. The painting was iffy because it was cold and very windy that day. Colours were dull (a recurring problem in these parts), but here and there the sun would come out and sometimes created spectacular effects. I did three plein air pieces, only one which I thought was worth keeping (it's on my blog, under Cap Enragé). But of course, I took lots and lots of pictures!

The third plein air was really just a sketch of a fleeting scene. Luckily I was able to snap a picture as well:



I won't embarrass myself by posting the plein air sketch, which was just a quick 4 x 6 anyway, but I kept coming back to this picture. By the way, this is a place by the Fundy coast of New Brunswick called Shepody. It used to be Chipoudie when my Acadian ancestors lived there. After the expulsion of 1755, the fertile agricultural land which had been extensively worked by Acadian settlers since the early 17th century, was handed over to american Loyalist and British settlers. This is how my husband's family, of Irish and Scottish descent, came to own large tracts of land in the area. So history goes. You can still see the dykes built by early Acadians all over these parts, including where I took this picture. It's a pasture now, and the gates were open when I came upon these trees backlit by dramatic late afternoon November sun. Beautifully gloomy!

So I photoshopped the picture with a couple of different filters. I tend to do this, and go back and forth from one photoshopped picture to another.

Here's a couple of examples photos I used:





Then I sketched in the basic shapes with charcoal, especially the trees (with a fair bit of detail, but not every single twig) a few main shadows, the perspective lines which create a diagonal echoing the diagonal created by the clouds and hills in the background, and the main cloud shapes. Should have taken a picture of this, sorry! It's a faint sketch and I don't worry about having things exactly right. The goal is to make sure I get things like perspective and larger shapes down.

So here's the result of my first sitting - I first painted the trees in raw sienna, burnt umber and ultramarine blue. The branches are faintly painted and I will go over all of these again later. I then paint the sky AROUND the trees. This is tricky, but comes partly from my plein air alla prima experience and partly from a wish to keep things loose and painterly. It forces me to define shapes by first defining negative space round them, which forces me to think of them abstractly.

The yellow is really yellow on my monitor, not so much IRL, but it gives you an idea of what I've done so far.

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Janet
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PostSubject: Re: studio work from a photo   Tue Dec 29, 2009 12:11 pm

cheers Thank you so much for the WIP! Fantastic explanation of your process! I always wondered if you could do a painting in stages and keep it loose. You've proved to me that it can be done. I'm watching and learning. Smile

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acadianartist



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PostSubject: Re: studio work from a photo   Tue Dec 29, 2009 12:27 pm

The tricky part for me Janet, is staying in the right mood the whole time. Which is why I don't attempt these unless I know I'll be able to complete them in a decent time frame. Since I'm home until Jan 4th, I figured it was a good time to go at it! The risk is that if I'm in a different "zone" when I'm doing the background than when I'm doing the foreground, the two will seem like two different paintings. I also like to re-use some of my mixes from background to foreground, thereby tying in the whole painting harmoniously. Because I know I will have to touch up the sky again after re-painting in the branches of the trees, I will scrape my sky mixes into piles and cover them so they're still workable in a few days. I have only really been able to do this a few times so I have no idea how this one will turn out!
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Callie
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PostSubject: Re: studio work from a photo   Tue Dec 29, 2009 12:43 pm

That sounds like a place I'd like to visit. That's a great sky - thanks for showing how you work the sky in around the tree branches. I usually do the sky first then end up with too-thick branches over my just-right sky. I'll give this a try next time I do an outdoor scene.
Chantal, what size is this? Stretched canvas or panel? I'm looking forward to seeing what you do with all the green in the foreground.

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Janet
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PostSubject: Re: studio work from a photo   Tue Dec 29, 2009 12:48 pm

I understand completeley what you're saying about being in a different zone. That's exactly what I run into but many times my breaks between painting sessions are fairly long. So what you're saying regaring completing it in a decent time frame would make sense to me. To retain the feel for the painting it would work to be able to complete it within a short span. Thanks for the paint piles tip that was another issue I was having. Smile

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judyfilarecki
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PostSubject: Re: studio work from a photo   Tue Dec 29, 2009 1:59 pm

I love the composition of the photo. That sky is so dramatic it has a lot of potential for painting.
I look forward to following your progress. Your love of trees will surely produce a wonderful statement of form and contrast.
Judy

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acadianartist



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PostSubject: Re: studio work from a photo   Tue Dec 29, 2009 2:35 pm

Sorry, should have stated it right off the bat - it's on stretched canvas 14 x 18.

There is a lot of green in the foreground Callie, but there are so many great variations to work with and lots of potential for drama with the shadows and faint outline of tire tracks going off into the distance. I plan on using lots of reds and yellows in the greens, as well as sienna and umber so it is very earthy.
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acadianartist



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PostSubject: Re: studio work from a photo   Tue Dec 29, 2009 3:20 pm

One thing about posting a digital image is that if helps you see the painting at a glance, possibly spotting any problems you might have with it and allowing you to fix it before it's too late. Hope I am not boring you with all these details Smile

I was a bit concerned about the perspective on my painting because it seemed to be off from the perspective in the picture. I might move a tree, change a cloud, even chop down a whole forest! But without decent perspective, even a loose, painterly piece will be troublesome. Again, the digital image is very helpful here. I took the picture and drew a series of diagonal lines from the viewer to the vanishing point of all the lines. I included the distant hills and clouds even though they aren't in any way obligated to follow perspective, but I felt that in this case, they added to the image. Once the lines were drawn over the photo, I selected only the photo, deleted it, then pasted the photo of my WIP painting under the draw lines. Tada!!! And lucky me, I won't have any major changes to make as the lines are pretty much the same in both. These lines will also allow me to establish the different planes of green in the piece. Here are the two images with lines:

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Callie
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PostSubject: Re: studio work from a photo   Tue Dec 29, 2009 3:51 pm

That's a nice technique there, Chantal - and isn't it a relief when you see you're right on track, no changes necessary!
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Sofie
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PostSubject: Re: studio work from a photo   Tue Dec 29, 2009 5:08 pm

The trees in the photo are amazing - what an inspiring place for painting!

Good information about checking perspective. I can see it's really working for you.

Nice beginning to your picture - lovely mood starting in the sky.
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Dale

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PostSubject: Re: studio work from a photo   Tue Dec 29, 2009 10:49 pm

Hey Chantal,

You have me convinced to visit the area sometime. I am outside the Saint John area. And for everyone else, New Brunswick does have amazing scenery.

Great work. I look forward to seeing more and will also try using your photoshop tip.
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acadianartist



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PostSubject: Re: studio work from a photo   Wed Dec 30, 2009 8:28 am

Hi hayday, this is not a very well known area of New Brunswick, but has many great spots to paint and see. It's about half an hour from Alma, 15 minutes from Cap Enrage on one side and 15 minutes from the Rocks on the other. Broadleaf farm is a 5 min. drive. Shepody pheasant preserve, which incidentally, rents rooms out all year round to tourists, is on Mary's Point, a bird sanctuary which has spectacular scenery. Unfortunately (but fortunately for the sandpipers), there are no vehicles allowed on the beach at Mary's Point so it's either backpacker painting or photos. There is an island called Grindstone Island with a lovely old lighthouse which I was hoping to paint, but would have had to take most of the day to hike out to get a good view of it and time it with the tides. I hope to go again and do it with my lightweight cigar box next summer. The Tantramar marshes are spectacular and it is possible to get a good view of them from the hills. On Mary's Point is the Studio on the Marsh, art studio of late wildlife artist Lars Larsen. I took tons of photos for future paintings!

Hope to work on that painting again sometime today - will keep you all posted on my progress! I have to say I now wish I'd used zinc yellow in the sky rather tham cad yellow as I find it a tad too creamy. I may try to add some zinc yellow near the horizon, but will probably work on the foreground a bit first. It is mostly dry now, so I won't be able to blend it in anyway.
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Janet
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PostSubject: Re: studio work from a photo   Wed Dec 30, 2009 11:34 am

Great tip on perspective lines when working with a photo Chantal. Thank you!

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acadianartist



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PostSubject: Re: studio work from a photo   Wed Dec 30, 2009 5:20 pm

I touched up the sky with a bit of lemon yellow today, then tackled the foreground and background greens. First I basically established the planes using different values and cool/warm colours. I find it tricky with this photo because the light is coming from the vanishing point and so there are some lighter planes in the distance. I started with the brightest lights, and the darkest darks, not counting the shadows.



I then added a few highlights and a few shadows next, also adding some warm and earthy colours just for variety.



I've touched it up a bit since this last picture, wanting to make sure that there are no hard edges further away and accentuating the shadows closer to the viewer. I think I may have to let it dry so I don't muddy the colours much more... and then add highlights if necessary... it's tempting, every time I walk by it I want to fix something! I hope to go at it again tonight and maybe put in the trees. You can see I've just about covered them all up, but where the paint was thicker, I took a sculpting too and scratched the branches back. I don't want to have to paint branches over impasto paint once it's dry!
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PostSubject: Re: studio work from a photo   Wed Dec 30, 2009 5:44 pm

I love how you handled the foreground, and now that you have that in, there's an even better sense of the perspective. Very nice
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acadianartist



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PostSubject: Re: studio work from a photo   Wed Dec 30, 2009 5:49 pm

Thanks Callie!

By the way, everyone should feel free to jump in at any time and point out any problems you are seeing... of course the pics aren't great since I didn't fuss with them, but feel free to critique me every step of the way!
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PostSubject: Re: studio work from a photo   Wed Dec 30, 2009 8:05 pm

Wow Your painting is looking amazing! The way you handle light and shadow is wonderful! Smile

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PostSubject: Re: studio work from a photo   Wed Dec 30, 2009 9:21 pm

Very nice - you've handled the grass very well and have created a real feeling of depth. Can't wait to see it with the trees put back in.
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acadianartist



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PostSubject: Re: studio work from a photo   Wed Dec 30, 2009 10:02 pm

Ok, drumroll please Wink

I'm finished with it, at least for now. Not saying I won't tweak it in a day or two, but for now, I'm reasonably happy with it so I will resist touching it for a couple of days, lest I ruin it in my zeal for perfection. Many great artists say the trick is to stop just before you think you're finished. Still, there may be a stray limb or a white piece of canvas that will need covering up down the road. I've pulled out my brushes to take a swipe at framed paintings hanging on my wall (mine, luckily ). That is usually a mistake though.

So again, if you see anything that needs fixing, don't hesitate to point it out! My husband is brutally honest so I can handle it. And I appreciate it.

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PostSubject: Re: studio work from a photo   Wed Dec 30, 2009 10:30 pm

Very nice work. You've warmed up a very gloomy looking day with you sky colors and ground highlights. I really like it.

Judy

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PostSubject: Re: studio work from a photo   Thu Dec 31, 2009 12:53 am

Bravo!

thanks for taking us step by step - it's always fun to see.
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PostSubject: Re: studio work from a photo   Thu Dec 31, 2009 9:50 am

cheers Your painting is beautiful! I hope you don't mind I showed my husband as well and he loved it. Thank you so much for sharing your progress and your tips! Smile

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acadianartist



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PostSubject: Re: studio work from a photo   Thu Dec 31, 2009 10:15 am

Thanks Judy, Sofie and Janet (and Janet's husband Smile )! I'm fairly pleased with it for now. But I might change my mind in a week and hate it. I can never tell right away whether or not a painting is really successful. It takes me a while to decide.

It's been fun sharing! A great motivator too! I could have taken lots more photos, but it's hard to stop when I'm in the zone.

Today I got talked into plein air painting despite the frigit cold - right now it's -18 Celcius (REALLY COLD!!!) so I'm packing hand warmers, but not for my hands, for my paint! I'll take pictures and let you know how it went.

Happy New Year everyone!
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PostSubject: Re: studio work from a photo   Thu Dec 31, 2009 12:35 pm

You are a brave one. I have yet to try Plein air painting in the winter. I prefer to look out my window.

There is a beautiful spot on Hanwell Road, closer to Harvey end where a lake sits off to the left. We have some gorgeous autumn photos but I would like to set up there sometime next year. we have a cottage in Harvey so it isn't too far.

Looking forward to seeing your photos.
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acadianartist



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PostSubject: Re: studio work from a photo   Thu Dec 31, 2009 5:46 pm

Sounds lovely hayday... I live in Burtts Corner which is on the other side of the river of course. But I have a painting partner in Dumfries so we alternate locations. Always good to hear of new spots waiting to be discovered!

Will post my plein air effort tomorrow maybe... if I'm brave enough.
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