Shoot it, Sketch it: Abandoned

Anna Cull Moeraki Boulders (two)
Moeraki boulders (two) – acrylic on canvas, 305 x 405 mm, 2014. SOLD
Moeraki boulders #2, Koekohe Beach, 2013
Moeraki boulders #2, Koekohe Beach, 2013

Please visit last Monday’s post to see the work-in-progress photos (and if you’re wondering about the heading).

Shoot it, Sketch it: Moeraki (two) WIP

Moeraki boulders #2, Koekohe Beach, 2013
Moeraki boulders #2, Koekohe Beach, 2013

I’ve been working on Moeraki boulders (two) over the last week and thought it would make a good WIP slideshow. The photographs (below) show inspiration, evaluation, exuberance, regret, pity and perseverance. I’ll post the last stage, abandonment, next week.

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A truth

Villa 10, detail – ink and watercolour, sketchbook, 2009
Villa 10, detail – ink and watercolour, sketchbook, 2009

“Here is a truth: often a painting is done just so the artist can get to do a small favorite thing, or idea.  Entire paintings are done just to get to put highlights on a glass, or shadows on a lemon or sunbursts in the distance.  Whole landscapes are painted just to show a small flower in the foreground, or a water drop about to fall from a rose petal.  A moment of inspiration to render an idea, so simple a truth that it cannot be rendered simply, but surrounded by complexity of seeing our world, lest the idea be lost. When done, often the original intention of the painting goes unperceived to the casual viewer, but it is there.” Eight Decades blogging on StoryDoors

Shoot it, Sketch it: First impressions

Dunedin, photo montage, 2013
Dunedin, photo montage, 2013
Work in progress # 1 – underpainting
Work in progress # 1 – underpainting

I was so impressed with Dunedin’s gorgeous architecture when we were there on holiday last month that I went mad taking photographs ― but then I couldn’t decide which one to paint first… So I arranged a few favourites based on a nine-square grid (editing it in Photoshop and adding a few extra cabbage trees here and there). And now I’m painting it. This may take a while.

A sparrow’s tale

Work in progress #1 – the underpainting
Work in progress #1 – the underpainting

These photos show the progress of Sparrow (Monday’s In the style of…) painting. I started with an underpainting of Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Umber ― I’ve fallen in love with these two colours because they blend together to make the most beautiful black (see the note below about chromatic blacks).

Work in progress #2 – painting the background and the body
Work in progress #2 – painting the background and the body
Work in progress #3 – filling in details
Work in progress #3 – filling in details
Work in progress #4 – adding black and white
Work in progress #4 – adding black and white

I’m a big fan of chromatic blacks (made using colour rather than a specific black pigment). It’s so satisfying to mix your own ‘black’ and achieve subtle variations of colour — it’s much more fun than simply reaching for a tube of Ivory Black (although I do that too). I’ve used both kinds of black in my little sparrow painting.

Work in progress #5 – no no no no no
Work in progress #5 – no no no no no

I got a bit carried away adding white to his feathers and ended up with a colour I didn’t like ― a sort of pale grey-brown ― so I waited for the unfortunate, dreary colour to dry and painted a more cheerful pinky-brown over it (see below).

Sparrow – acrylic on canvas, 200 x 255 mm, 2013
Sparrow – acrylic on canvas, 200 x 255 mm, 2013

I also made him a little bit fatter and a whole lot fluffier. And I still really like that strand of spider silk in the corner.

Thanks for reading.

Unexpected outcomes, part three

The colour of snow – underpainting and final.
The colour of snow – underpainting and final painting.

I started experimenting with underpainting a few weeks ago and I have to say I’m thrilled with the results. It’s given a beautiful depth and richness to my art. Colours seem to glow from within the picture making my acrylics look like oils. I wonder what oils would look like? I’ve been using the technique to establish my compositions (what goes where) and to work out the tonal values (light and dark) before building up the colour.

I read somewhere that underpainting can also make the final artwork more vibrant. The earthy orange I used gave a lovely warm glow to the trees in The colour of snow and helped to produce a wonderfully dramatic sky in Between the lines.

Between the lines – underpainting and final
Between the lines – underpainting and final painting.

I haven’t put all of them to the test (yet) but these are the traditional underpainting colours:

  • grey-green makes skin tones more vibrant
  • blue-grey works well for landscapes
  • a monochromatic underpainting, usually shades of grey, helps to achieve a more realistic painting
  • warm browns such as burnt umber or raw umber are good for high contrast

Adding colour in transparent glazes allows the underpainting to influence the final colour while opaque colours can be used to obscure the underpainting. As far as I can see, there really is only one downside ― it takes a lot of time to build up the layers of colour. A LOT OF TIME. But I’m convinced it’s worth it.

Behind the lines

My painting Between the lines has taken me on quite a journey over the last couple of weeks. Some time ago (at the end of posting Paradise), I asked: How CAN you tell when something is finished? Fellow blogger/artist Gabriel Garbow commented: ‘…at some point you have to say, “I’ve taken this as far as I can. I’ve learned all this painting has to teach me.” That’s when you sign it and *move on*.’

I’ve taken Gabriel’s words to heart. Asking if a painting has anything more to teach you really is a useful way of telling when something is finished (with the definition of ‘finished’ being ‘it’s okay to stop now’). I’m happy to declare that Between the lines is finished. And it has taught me a lot…

Work in progress #1 – underpainting – figuring out the composition, the lights and the darks
Work in progress #1 – underpainting – figuring out the composition, the lights and the darks

WIP #1  I used an earthy orange colour (a mixture of yellow ochre and naphthol red) for the underpainting because I wanted the sky to be dramatic and the sunset to glow. I added ultramarine blue (almost everywhere except the sky) and titanium white.

Work in progress #2 – building up colour with glazes
Work in progress #2 – building up colour with glazes

WIP #2  I was tempted to stop at this point because I really liked the simplicity of it and the colours looked stunning. But I felt there was more to learn, so I kept going…

Work in progress #3 – continuing to build up colour, adding details and texture
Work in progress #3 – continuing to build up colour, adding details and texture

WIP #3  I added more layers ― experimenting with transparency/opacity ― and ended up adding so much white that I lost a large chunk of the sunset. I kept going…

Work in progress #4 – adding more layers
Work in progress #4 – adding more layers

WIP #4  I began putting lights over darks and darks over lights ― which, rather predictably, kept turning the sky green and so it needed to be repainted ― and slowly, something magical began to happen. Encouraged, I went on to paint the power lines (thank you rigger brush #2), made a few adjustments to the trees and the cityscape… and signed it.

Between the lines – acrylic on canvas, 305 x 405 mm, 2013.

This is only the second time I’ve used an underpainting (the first was The colour of snow) and I love the results. The way the colours glow is not just a trick of the light coming from the computer screen. Underpainting really does add depth and luminosity.