Archive for the ‘Composition & Technique’ Category

I have started work on a new picture. The reference is what you see here on the right (cut slightly differently, but basically the same).

What I have done so far is to block in the water in glazes of phthalo blue, sap greep and burnt umber. The style and technique so far remind me of Tina Mammoser‘s work (BTW she also likes sap green which is one of my favorite colors) although what I am looking for in the finished work will be more in the direction of a Monet water-lilly piece.

Sorry no images yet. I tried photographing it this morning in a hurry and it was hard to do justice to the saturation of the colors with the little time I had. Maybe tomorrow I’ll be able to get you something. You’ll have to take my word for it – the water looks deep and watery and the colors are looking beautiful.

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We’re almost done now… although there is still quite a bit of work to go. However this is all now the finishing off stuff.

Open issues are the (too) conical tree in the middle, sharpening up the left bank and the foreground and then seeing if there is anything else to do to make it perfect :-).

Something I’ve enjoyed here a lot is the use of ultramarine for shadows. Shadows are not colored ultramarine in real life, but it is interesting to see how lifelike blue or purple shadows can be. This is something for future work maybe.

I have a bit of a busy week this week, so I’m not sure when I’ll get this finished but keep tuned because I hope to have some interesting news tomorrow or the day after, even if I don’t have a completed painting…

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Today I will continue about how to mark out your canvas using vectors in a continuation from my post from last week.

In the image on the right, you can see what the picture I showed yesterday looks like after I mark it out. This is a scan of my hard copy of the picture after drawing compositional vector lines on it.

Looks a bit of mess doesn’t it? So lets look at this a bit more analytically. what I will do is take the lines one-by-one or group-by-group and explain where they are coming from and why.




In this first image you see on the left, I have drawn in the lines eminating from the disappearing point of the river on the top left. These eminate in a radial manner and show the concentration of the focus to this point. Note that what I have drawn in are the border lines of major objects that all link back to this point – the banks of the river and the tops and bottoms of the trees.



Now we will go on to the next set of line I saw here – the parallels. These are again the borders of major objects, but in this case they do not eminate from any single point, but run in parallels. In this picture they run very nicely in a kind of ladder that takes us from the bottom of the picture to the top bordering the foreground bit of the river and the trees on the far bank and those up the hill.



Finally I look for the verticals. The verticals are not necessarily borders but are often run along axes of objects and link the tips of things. Here we see then marking the axes of the prominent trees. the third line (counting from the left) follows the borders of the bottom left and top right trees while passing through a tree axis on the far bank on the way.




My next stage from marking out the lines on the reference image is to transfer this to the canvas. This I do by measuring out the line poisitions and then I mark in charcoal. Next stage is blocking in the objects, but that will wait for the next post.

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A while back I commented that pictures that I mark out by drawing vectors that describe relationships between the objects in the composition (rather than marking out by grid) tend to be better pictures and I promised a post devoted to this subject.

What I am going to do is make a couple of posts on this subject, so that they don’t get too long. I will probably digress later also on to how I progress from the initial marking out and building up the underpainting and then the whole picture.

Well now I am working on a new picture (see the reference image on the right) that is a section from my ravine of the Jordan river picture that I did back in 2005. That picture was by the way, my first picture on canvas. Until then I had painted on board only.

What always amazes me (though I suppose it shouldn’t) is that whenever I analyze a reference photograph that I have chosen to paint, I always “discover” compositional features that “just appeared” there without necessarily any forethought. For example, a picture that just hangs together and has great composition “just happens” to divide on thirds and have great compositional vectors so that elements just lead your eye from one object to another within the picture.

In this one, the thirds “just happen” to come out on the bigger trees on the top right and bottom left and on the start and bend of the river. Those trees “just happen” to balance each other off and the river just flows between the other third marks. “Just happens” :-).


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In case you’re wondering, the title is a pun. The picture (now finished) was painted of a view view from the end of the last street in the Nofei Aviv neighbourhood of Beit Shemesh. Hmmm. Well, I thought it was funny.

Anyway, as I said another picture finished. The image above is a bit less than optimal but it get it more or less.

The sky was done with a broad (1″) soft brush and I like the effect. It is ultramarine and phthalo blues and titanium white. Moving down, pallete contains sap green, ochre and azo lemon yellows and burnt sienna and I have used ultramarine and titanium white for getting the distance.

All in all I like it a lot. Now I just need to take a good photo of it and upload it to my website.

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So, it look likes it’s finished. I piut some finishing touches on this evening and I can’t see any more work that needs doing there.

A few comments on techniques. As I pointed out in my first post on this painting, I set out using “vectors” – lines that descibe the dynamics of the pictiure and then painted in by feel from there. This is rather than setting out by grid, that I think gives a more static feel to the finished picture.

I painted from the top down. The top represents the furthest object, so this is logical. I think the important point here for this painting is that I didn’t build up in layers, but rather started from the top down and just kept going. Relative to some other pictures I’ve done in the recent past, I laid most of the paint on more or less neat and only used a small amount of water mainly for lubrication and not in order to create a wash.

I was also a lot bolder with color. Right from the start I decided to go for the rather extremely purple shaded cliffs and to reproduce this in the path at the bottom. It followed from here that I needed to make the trees and the other colors bold. The backlighting on the trees that starkly contrasts the cliffs both in hue and in color value is what really makes the picture.

I am really happy with this one. A great start towards my exhibition (still dateless).

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I just started work on a new piece last night. It is always hard to get started on a new piece after a long break and with my trip down under,  it is almost exactly a month since I last picked up my paintbrush.

What always amazes me is how the painting just flows, even after such a long break. The difficulty in getting started is the fear of creating a bad piece – yet when I actually get started, the picture comes out just right. Well, I haven’t finished yet, so maybe I should keep quiet till I’ve seen the last brushstroke…

The painting is of a view in Nahal Kziv in the Western Galilee in northern Israel. The picture shows a view towards evening, looking down the valley showing the contrast of the dark cliffs in shadow and the bright low sun pouring through the branches of the trees.

In the bottom section of the picture that I haven’t covered yet, you can see the guide lines I put in to aid the composition. This is a technique I often use to mark out a picture. I take the reference photo and draw lines along the major compositional lines and then mark these same lines out on the canvas in charcoal. As I paint I refer to these lines to position the elements on the canvas. I find this to be a lot better than marking out a grid as it helps transfer the dynamics of the picture and not just the element positioning.

Maybe I’ll do a post about this technique some time in some more detail.

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