Class got off to a great start. As part of the class, about half way through the 3 hour session, I do a 10-20 minute demo. This session I began a painting of a sand crane based on a photo I took while visiting down in Florida this past June. I like the position and image of the bird in my photo, but the background is just OK. So I found another photo that has a background that I like much better. I decided to combine the two, use the background from one and the focal image from the other.
This is not an unusual practice. In fact, it a great way to develop a better painting. Most times a photo will not be the perfect image for a painting. But by combining features from two or more photos, one can create a composition that is more than the sum of all of these parts.
My approach to creating almost every painting that I do is to build up the composition. Think of setting a table, you need to put down the table cloth first, then the dishes then the food. Do it out of order and you get a mess. Same thing with a painting - I build the background first, then add the featured items, then add the finishing touches.
For this painting, I first blocked in the distant trees in the upper right quarter of the canvas. I used Dioxazine purple for my darks. This adds color to my shadows and a richness and depth to the distant trees. You can also use a mix of ultramarine blue and alizarin to get a similiar color.
I also mixed in chromium oxide green, some raw sienna, burnt sienna and ultramarine blue as well as some titanium white. The photo I was working from did not show any sky color. However, I personally think that by adding some blue into the distant tree colors, it adds some atmospheric depth to the image. I softly blended the area, then did a few upward strokes from the darker bottom area up to the lighter area giving the form of trees.
The grassy area is large strokes of the same green, browns and golds, but finished with a horizontal stroke. The watery, swampy area has more blue, but also the ground colors in it. I used some raw umber to block in the tree trunks and add some shadows on the ground. I kept everything soft. This will help create the illussion of depth to the finished painting. Items up close are in sharper focus than items in the distance.
I will let this stage dry. With the background filled in, once I start adding the rest of the images, I will not have to worry about painting around things or filling in small spaces. The stage is set it will soon be time for the actors to enter.