This painting was a real challenge. I was so happy to see one little solitary bloom on the gorgeous geranium plant. Because the plant was in front of a window I am dealing with back lighting and some side lighting. Because of the snow the light is very intense. My challenge is to keep the forms of the plant believable while suggesting the dramatic light in the background.
1. My first intial reaction was to start with all of the angles and shapes. I like to try to find a pleasing two-dimensional pattern first. This helps to establish the compositon and directional lines invite the viewer into the painting and out again. I did not use a monochrome stain on the canvas this time. I am working on a white canvas.
2. After loosely applying a gestural drawing I take time to measure. Besides using directional angles and big shapes I am using a system of measurement. Using the flower as a unit I can determine how many units high and how many units across . The height and width which ends up being about the same , as a unit of measurement. It looks like the composition is nine units high and sevenish across. I don’t measure with a ruler or any kind of mechanical device I simply pick one unit or size and using the brush handle measure up, down and across. Notice the lines of demarcation on the painting. Measuring first is very helpful instead of jumping into the full painting only later to find the drawing is wrong.
2. Next I establish the darkest darks which is in the left corner. The dark blue pottery and a few choice leaves are approximately the same dark value. On a value scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being the lightest and 10 the darkest, I would say it is at least an 8
Having a digital camera handy is a great tool for comparison. As you can see the breakdown of values is very clear. The darkest dark is the pot and a few leaves. The lightest light is in the snowy background. The rest of the painting is in middle value. Here is a value chart that I refer to . I always prefer to work from a real set up as the values and color in a photograph can be severely distorted.
End of Day 1. I feel like I have a good start! I have kept the painting “open” to changes and I am sure there will be some tommorrow. I like working in this “organic” way rather than in a precise hard edged way. Keeping the paint loose at this stage will help with this feeling of openess.
I have been fascinated with the work of Kathleen Speranza. https://www.kathleensperanza.com/ If you do not know her work you should check it out. She also has very good tutorials . I bought one in the series which dealt with the Munsell Theory of Color. I have been interested in the Munsell system since art school thirty years ago but never really applied it in a strict sense. I am impressed with the discipline and success Kathleen Speranza has with using this system and the results are stunning. Speranza explains and demonstrates how to apply the system to painting in a very informative and easy to understand way. I highly recommend her videos. It is never too late to learn something new and to be motivated to try something different in our work.
I think the painting has progressed but definitely has a ways to go. Tommorrow I will have to address the color and value of the leaves and distant background which has changed twice. I have to decide on either morning or late afternoon light. Remind me never to set up with “back lighting” again. It is extra hard.
Day 4: and counting This painting is almost finished but I think I have to stop working on it this morning and give it time. I will look at it again tommorrow and decide how to pull it together. If you notice the backgroundhas been simplified and changed somewhat due to the new snowfall. I have toned down the warms in the leaves and also lighted ever so slightly the darks . Now everything must come to a screeching halt and move in slowly
One final little study of the bloom which is opening up beautifully. It is a very complicated subject so it s important to try to see shapes and rhythm first.
Final Study. I think I will keep it as is. I don’t want to bring all the forms into full color. Sometimes it is helpful to separate the value from the color.