Apologies, this post should have been posted immediately before my post on assignment 4.
Chose a subject you are familiar with and make 3 drawings
- A linear study
- A tonal study
- A colour study
- Paint a final piece away from the subject and preliminary studies drawing on memory of the subject.
I took some liberties with this exercise to fit with the circumstances I found myself in. There is a copse of trees on a hillside that I don’t see very often but I have always admired it when I do see it (too far away to visit in a day). The mental image of the scene is one that tends to stay with me. I love the way that the light shines through the gaps of the tree trunks, the view of the horizon below (the hill is at the top of an escarpment) and the wind-swept nature of the trees up the hill. So when I found myself passing the hill recently with my sketchbook, coloured pencils and a tin of water colours in the car, I used the opportunity to stop and draw the scene. I started with a simple line drawing, which I repeated twice changing the position of the trees within the frame to create a stronger composition: the trees leading off to the edge of the image. In doing these quick sketches (and they were quick) I became even more aware of the negative shapes between the tree trunks, and the light coming through which ha attracted me in the first place. The whole composition was actually very simple. I took a reference photo and continued on my way. later, using the linear sketches and the photograph I completed a quick tonal study of the hill and trees using charcoal. It became immediately obvious that this image was one of strong contrasts. There was variation in tone in the tree tops (especially where the light fell on the top surfaces) and on the grassy hill, but the biggest contrasts were between the hill-tree structure as a whole and the sky around it. The negative spaces once again leapt out at me. I then completed a colour study in watercolour (the only paints I had with me). This was a little unsatisfactory as it was hard to get the darks dark enough and I am not very good at actually handling the wateriness of watercolour, so the light tones (denoted by lack of paint) ended up in slightly the wrong places on the tree tops. The negative spaces also were less defined in this medium. However back home I decided to continue using this image for this exercise and proceeded to complete my final piece in acrylics.
Working on my success of the previous exercise, I concentrated on keeping my marks for this piece loose, fluid and quick. I worked on enquiry with paint, in this case being driven by the negative spaces between the tree trunks.
I completed this painting from memory of my sketches and only came back to look at them after I had finished. Using an A3 sheet of acrylic paper, I started by blocking in the area occupied by the trees and hill using a variety of greens and browns in quite a haphazard, loose way using broad brush strokes. I didn’t’ stick to an outline rather just covered the general area with haphazard paintbrush marks of various shades and tones. My reasoning behind this was that it was the negative shapes that really interested me and I wanted to emphasis them by blocking them in on top of the existing painting. I blocked the main area of the sky in a pale wash of paynes grey, starting to pull the form of the trees into shape. The horizon below was blocked in with a darker wash.
I then used raw umber to darken the tree trucks and emphasis the shadows on the ground and in the tree foliage. Then, taking titanium white made dirty by paint on my brush, mess on my palette and bits of wet paint being dragged on the canvas I set about defining the negative shapes of the tree line. I kept my brush marks loose in order to create an atmosphere of cloud. I also let the colours already on the paper ‘shine’ through. Finally, I consolidated some of my ideas and experiments in using other implements to remove paint, and used the side of a palette knife to scratch in the tree top highlights in a very textural way.
What went well…
I am very pleased with the resulting final painting. I have managed to maintain the loose style I have been aiming for and have created some interesting textural areas by scratching back. There is a sense of space in the painting, created by the aerial perspective of the horizon and the emphasis on the negative shapes around the trees. I am particularly happy with how my treatment of the negative spaces worked out. Putting them in last allowed their ‘lightness’ to be emphasised which is what had drawn me to the scene in the first place. I feel this is an enquiry into that light shining through.
The three preliminary sketches undoubtedly helped formulate this final piece. I had a strong memory of the linear and tonal sketches and drew heavily on those memories for the final piece. The colour study was less useful to me, probably because I had used the slightly unsatisfactory watercolour paints. However as I wasn’t too worried about keeping colours 100% realistic this probably wasn’t an issue.
I am very pleased that I have managed to consolidate my more successful parts of other paintings here: the sense of enquiry, the application of paint (and the removal of paint too).
I think that being away from the subject when I painted it was a great help in allowing me to maintaining the looseness and freshness of the piece. I couldn’t get bogged down in detail as I had no memory of it and wasn’t able to look it up. This was in fact quite a powerful lesson and one that I will take forward.
What could be better…
There were a couple of features that have been lost along the way that would improve this piece. Firstly, the sense of the hill receding from the viewer has been diminished from the linear sketch to the final piece. The hill now looks a little flat. More information regarding warm and cool tones on the hill-side would help rectify this. Secondly the windswept nature of the trees has also been lost. I am not sure this matters so much in terms of the subject but some of the drama of the scene is lost as a result. Whilst I was very aware of this when making my linear sketches, details are not present in the tonal or colour painting (done from photographs). It is as if being away from the scene took the importance of this from my mind and I haven’t really considered it. My trees become more upright as I go along! I could add this back in my changing the negative shape around the tree line, however I didn’t want to lose the atmospheric texture of the present skyline so have left it.
Over all I feel that this is one of my more successful paintings.
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