Painting Demo: Stage 3

Before I get started today, I must address a subject that a follower wished I had discussed in Stage 2--the lighting. I had been to Sydney and Jackson's house several times before I realized, with much excitement, that the huge window in their living room was north-facing! Why, might you ask, was I excited about this? Because for many artists including myself, north light is the preferred light source. This is for a couple reasons:

1) Windows facing other directions will allow direct sunlight to come through at various times of the day. There is nothing wrong with painting a subject under direct sunlight, but it can be difficult, since the artist must work quickly to capture his subject before the sun moves too much or hides behind a cloud. North-facing windows provide consistent light all day long. The brightness of north light may change due to cloud coverings, but the temperature will remain the same (cool light and warm shadows).

2) All types of natural light are beautiful, but north light can be especially picturesque. It provides a natural balance of color that creates gorgeous color harmonies in a subject. Also, it is highly diffused, producing soft, delicate shadows that are especially ideal for portraits (direct sunlight can cast hard, unsightly shadows across a person's face).

It was a blessing that Sydney and Jackson's north window was large enough to cast its light not only on my models, but also on my canvas and palette. OK... now time for Stage 3!

Digital Value Study

Digital Value Study
I know there are some purist painters viewing this demo that are shocked that I would trade the tradition of brush and canvas for digital stylus and tablet. But I view the digital medium as simply another tool in my belt. Never fear, I am an oil painter at heart and probably always will be. Still, I sometimes make a preliminary study on my computer, since it allows me to alter my image more quickly and easily than any other medium. In short, it's a huge time-saver. And before jumping into the painting for this demo, I realized I needed to fully establish my composition's value pattern and eye-flow, since my preliminary sketch left these elements somewhat unresolved (check Stage 1). Comparing this study to my preliminary sketch, you'll notice I "quieted" the bookshelf in the background by darkening and softening it. Now it fulfills its purpose of adding realism to the setting, but without distracting from the figures.

I rendered Sydney's face more completely than the rest of the study to make myself feel better about showing such a rough sketch publicly!

My Composition Analyzed

Because of its somewhat-subjective nature, the concept of composition is a difficult one to discuss. Many compositional decisions are made simply through the intuition of what "feels right." There are, however, some basic "tricks" that can help the artist make the viewer's eye go where he wants it to go. I won't reveal all my secrets right now, only a few that I utilized for this piece.

Figure "A" reveals a large pathway through the piece. It acts as a road, down which the eyes are naturally drawn (as shown by the dotted line). Along the path are my main centers of interest, the two faces.

Figure A

Figure "B" shows some lines that point back to the main pathway, just in case people try to go a-wandrin'. Stay on the path!

Figure B

Figure "C" displays two circuits that are naturally formed by the kids' poses. These act as refreshing oases for the eyes to park at as they make their journey along the main path.

Figure C


Toned canvas (22" x 30")

Tone (A.K.A. "Underpainting")

Well, I promised you I would show you some actual painting on my final canvas, didn't I? I usually start a painting by applying a tone over my canvas. I know what you're wondering--"Why on earth did you paint your entire canvas bright yellow-orange?" Believe it or not, there is a purpose to my choice. I am planning to have an overall blue-violet color harmony in this piece. Blue-violet and yellow-orange are complements (on opposite sides of the color wheel). When an artist juxtaposes two complementary colors side by side, it produces a dazzling effect to the eye that cannot be produced by simply mixing the two colors together. By only partially covering my underpainting when laying down my blue-violet colors, I hope to produce such an effect. We shall see!

OK, that's enough for today. And in case any of you are bored to death of hearing about my preliminary process, don't worry--its all painting from here on out! Be sure to come back tomorrow, Wednesday the 9th, to see the next phase!

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