Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Tracing, Gridding, & Virtual Paintout: Hong Kong!

hi there!

the last four/five days have been really busy - visiting with my boys, yardsale-ing, watching movies, medical stuff . . . and having computer troubles! but i've a new video card & all software updates installed & it seems to be running on all four burners! unfortunately, that means that - procrastinator that i am! - i didn't get the painting for the month-long Virtual Paintout July challenge done - until August 1! i'd been planning to do it, & had my picture chosen . . .

this is the original pic (the link is here)

and this is how i cropped it - plus i added a more interesting sky & revved up the colors a tad:

this was, i thought, going to be quite a challenge for me! i've done sky only a couple of times - and not to my satisfaction. & i'd never done buildings, palm trees, walls . . . ! i knew i'd need to be careful with the composition, so i decided i' have to copy the main forms of the original pretty closely. but how to do it?

in starting the dog painting, i had gone with tracing, taking a piece of parchment paper, placing it over the source photo, and using a pencil to outline the salient forms, like so:

i then scrubbed the back with the pencil (in the future i'd use charcoal), placed the tracing over the canvas (which is roughly the same size as the photo), and retraced the lines. this left the image on the canvas so i should have less trouble with proportions & placement:

but i wasn't really happy with this - plus the city photo was a different size than the canvas i was going to use. so i decided to do gridding.

i've been avoiding gridding because i thought that i might get too caught up in putting in all the details, getting the painting photo-realistic, etc. but i felt unsure enough about my perspective skills to give it a try!

as a guarantee against trying for exact copying, i made this grid:

it's on a piece of lexan (or is it plexi-glass? or lucite?!) that i had around left-over from making a palette for a pochade box (i'll have to tell you about that one day!). i marked the lines, with the width of my ruler as the guide (rather than measuring exact inches, etc.). i then stood it up in front of the picture, displayed on the digital picture frame:
the photo measured 5 squares high & ~3.5 across - so i marked that many squares on the canvas (5x4, toned in gold & dry) - here's the first set of dots:

i then was able to sketch in the outline, using ultramarine blue:

in all, i'm really glad i did it this way! i was able to immediately see what detail (whole lots!) to leave out, and was able to use the gridlines as guidance only. and i'd have had such a hard time getting the right angle for the receding side of the building without the grid! it wasn't an exact copy - which was exactly what i wanted! also, i think that, because i didn't get so tangled up in trying to get the outlines acurate on my own, i was able to have more fun with it & paint more loosley - which i've been wanting to do!

here's the supplies i used:

the paints are: ultramarine blue, cerulean blue, veridian, cad yellow light, alizarin crimson, & titanium white. the brushes are: two flats (4 & 6 - for the bulk of the painting), my 0 sable filbert (for details), & a 4 fan brush (with i think artificial sable - it's soft, anyway! - for the clouds). the q-tip was for the front of the building - i didn't like the color i originally had it, so i wiped it away & started over - worked great, much better than trying to load new paint over old! the fan brush turned out to be just right for the clouds! i had wanted them to be somewhat more defined than in the manip, but still wispy & soft.

to do the colors - & i have to apologize here - i have no inbetween steps for the actual painting - it all went so fast! - i first mixed that pool of ultramarine blue & white that you can see on the bottom left of the palette for the basic sky color. once that was on, i added hints of straight cerulean in areas.

i then mixed some of the pool of blue into a lot of white for the clouds. this became, with a bit more blue in it, my atmosphere color as well. "atmosphere color" is what i call that color that i've determined is the color of light in the picture. it goes into every mix i make. in paintings where there is more atmospheric perspective, i put more "atmosphere color" the further back in the perspective of the painting i go.

the clouds lay in well with the fan brush - i had to be careful, tho, to stop myself adding more - & also to stop from trying to blend them into the sky! & i'm happy with the result! you can see how many details got left out, & where i chose to change some things in the rest of the painting, too.

for the palms, i made a darkish mix of atmosphere & veridian for the base color, then used straight veridian for shadows, & atmosphere plus a tad of veridian for the highlights. the building is, basically, atmosphere plus the alizarin & yellow. the concrete wall really came together when i added the sunlit highlight on the top edge, which really created a lot of the perspective in the painting overall as well!

and that's it! it went quickly, due to the gridding, & was lots of fun!

thanks for stopping by - take care till next time!



  1. Nice painting! Looks so realistic! Intersting process...thanks for showing.

  2. thank you! it was fun to feel so free with this one!

  3. Thanks for posting all that you do-
    the books, the knowledge, the compositional cropping, the process! Great blogging. So True- we can teach ourselves SO much by studying Art via blogs.

  4. thank you! i'm so glad if what i post is helpful to folks - i have learned so much from others - and it's such a fun adventure!

  5. Congratulations on your first art challenge and thank you for the compliment of you joining my blog. What an honor. I love your painting I encourage you to paint more often it will take you to new places in your love of painting.

  6. thank you! my health's in a decent period just now & i'm able to paint more frequently than in the last two years - very exciting!

  7. I love the way the clouds came out - just perfect! Thank you for sharing your process. I used to use the grid technique method a lot when I worked with oil pastels, because I love how it broke the painting up and made me feel like I was working on a lot of mini paintings instead. It's the perfect way to not let yourself get overwhelmed with a painting.

  8. thank you! after how much i liked using the fan brush in this one, i used it in the next one, too - something different but i really like the way it came out! (am doing that post now) that's a good idea re gridding for more complex paintings - i've a number of ideas i've put off exploring because the whole seemed too much...


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