|FIVE GREEK CATS - PASTEL ON BOARD|
Tuesday, 17 April 2012
WORKING IN LAYERS
I have been watching the progress of a painting on the Wetcanvas website where the contributor has provided a series of photos, showing the working method.
I am aware that no two people work in the same way, and that there are no rights or wrongs. However…there are dangers to some ways of working.
The image I have been watching was begun in the top left hand corner of the support. Gradually, small sections are being developed, TO A CONCLUSION, leaving the rest of the canvas or paper untouched. When one small area is complete, the artist begins to work on the next area.
I suppose, if you are copying a photograph, this approach might work, since you will be copying each shape, colour and tone accurately. (If that is what floats your boat!) But if you are working from life, or from a notan/thumbnail sketch, made with colour notes to give you a guide, or if you are developing a pic from a series of photos and sketches, using a bit of artists’ licence along the way, then this piece-by-piece approach is fraught with potential problems.
Perhaps the most important problem you may encounter, is that you may well find that as the image develops, tones are strangely out of whack and colours don’t look quite right; what you THOUGHT was fine for colour and tone in one area, in fact, looks totally different in another part of the picture. This is because a colour can actually be changed visually by what surrounds it. A lovely cool green, surrounded by warm colours, may look icy cool, just perfect; in another part of the picture, the same colour, surrounded by cooler colours, suddenly looks much warmer!!! It is hard to believe how some colours can look so different, when the same stick of pastel, or mix of paint, is used.
Tones too – what looks bright and light in one area, particularly when surrounded by strong contrasts of tone, might look quite subdued in another, where it is sitting alongside similar tones.
This shows the issue well
It is hard to believe that the central strip is the same in each case, isn't it.
here's an animation that is interesting to watch:
Suddenly, as you make progress with the picture, you may find that you have to go back to adjust areas that you had completed – and HERE IS AN IMPORTANT THING TO APPRECIATE..and another problem to deal with.... the reluctance to change work you have “finished” is enormous. And emotionally costly. And, I have noticed, with myself admittedly as well as my students, is often avoided at all costs…even to the cost of the image…..but I promise you will never be satisfied with your picture if you KNOW you should have made adjustments – and didn’t, for fear of messing up finished work.
To minimise this potential for heartache for myself, I work with what I call “layers”. I begin with an overall sketchy loose start, making sure that the tonal pattern of the whole image is established right from the beginning. I often show my lightest lights, and darkest darks – even just small touches helps, I find, because it gives me a scale within which to work. Then, over the whole image again, I begin to work in medium tones - working in layers over the whole support, gradually adjusting tones, colours, and shapes. Later, I finally establish highlights, and darkest darks, to add punch and to bring the image to a conclusion. I find this method works for both drawings, and paintings.
I am not trying to suggest that my method is “best” or even “necessary”….I just wanted to point out the pitfalls of working in small sections from top to bottom, finishing each section separately. If you still prefer to work that way, so be it…but don’t say you weren’t warned!
Here is a work in progress. First, there is the sketchy early stage. I have not put in my lightest lights in this image; I simply left the board blank where I knew those lights would be. I had previously done a thumbnail sketch, so I felt confident to do this. There is a reasonably careful underlying drawing...because given the subject, I felt it was important to get the perspective right, and the steps drawn properly. The foliage, however, is left undrawn and I simply added a variety of dark blues and turquoises in the general shape of the overhanging foliage.
In the next image, quite a few more layers have been added, now we can see the light areas, and we can see that more variety of tones have been worked into the shadow areas.
And finally, here is the finished image, with yet more layers added, and the darkest darks, and lightest lights, stated firmly, defining the shapes positively at the same time:
Before I go – I just wanted to mention, to those of you who like to read or see books on an ipad, my book of 130 paintings and sketches is now available, from Blurb, as an e-book for Ipad or Ipod Touch. It is very inexpensive to buy, and the pictures look very good on the Ipad screen. As you know, you can enlarge them to the full size of the screen– it’s fun! And gives you the chance to really study the picture, see the technique used and find all my mistakes… :) …..BLURB BOOKSTORE - CLICK HERE