Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Anatomy of a Painting

I thought I would give you some insight on how I wind up painting, and how I am being taught to paint.  This is the first 50% of this project, and all in all, it took me about five hours from start to finish.  

First, you start on a toned canvas.  I combined black and white acrylic gesso to come up with a mid-value gray.  We are using a full palette, so I mixed up a combination of burnt umber and ultramarine blue for sketching the composition.  I figured out the arrangement I wanted in a thumbnail sketch, and then looking at the still life from life, started to sketch.  I've learned to basically use triangulation in order to get everything proportionate and in the correct positions.  Needless to say, I got as far as the sketch above before I realized I had the completely wrong proportions from my thumbnail.  So I dipped a rag in turpentine and wiped it all off, to start over.

An hour and a half later, the finished sketch.  Sometimes the drawing is the longest part of the whole process for me.  Last semester I had several drawing classes, and I have seen a huge improvement, but it is still an effort.  The triangulation lines make it look a bit like a mess, but you can easily paint over it, and by checking all of the angles multiple times, I can get a much more accurate drawing.  My drawing skills aren't so good that I can wing it yet, so this helps me a lot in the meantime.  Another method some artists use is a grid.  That involves many more lines and that explanation is more detailed, so I'll save it for another day.

First major step is to establish the background, shadows and mass tones.  I started with the farthest background and the foreground because then I can compare those hues and values to the rest of my painting.  Similarly to the angles I drew, you walk through the entire painting process by continuously comparing.  As you can see, the angle lines disappear easily underneath the mass tones I am laying in.  

A mass tone is the overall average hue and value of an object.  Basically you try to paint in about 3 values cast shadow, form shadow, light side.  You don't worry about the highlights or reflected light at this point.  Right now the painting is about 50% done.  I know I need to adjust some of the shadows, they are a bit dark, and the book needs to be less of a warm blue and more of a violet color, but overall this is a good beginning.

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