Saturday, September 24, 2011

After Merrow-Smith - an Exercise in Oils

After Merrow-Smith Pont D'Avignon, 2011
5x7 oils
(click image to enlarge)
This is an exercise in the traditional sense - copying a master's image in order to learn the techniques and gain an understanding of the gaps that need to be addressed.  The master in this case is Julian Merrow-Smith, whose blog "Postcard from Provence" I follow. Below is the image which enchanted me enough to attempt to copy it.

 You can see why I wanted to paint it - it's a beautiful painting which glows with soft light, executed with minimal well placed strokes that give the impression of vast amounts of detail in a small size.

Looking at my painting, at first glance it's not bad.  The resemblance is quite strong, The colours are off in tone  - attributable to the fact that I painted alla prima, only took 2 hours to do it, and oils are not my primary medium.  (in other words, inexperience).
But it's close.

Close but no cigar, as the saying goes :_).  This is what the exercise is all about - what's wrong with it, where can I improve it?

What I did was to superimpose (in Photoshop) Julian's image over mine, to see where the issues were, with respect to the construction - the drawing phase.  Below is the result - my primary drawing was way off in terms of the buildings in the painting - as you can see by the yellow lines.

Interestingly enough, the horizon line, the bridge beginning, and the reflections are very close - but then I got sloppy.  This is where I start to learn: -
  • use the right size brush for the feature you are painting (I tried to use the largest brushes I cold get away with, which didn't work out too well)
  • measure measure measure! (seems I really like to center things, and again I rushed. I drew with charcoal, but didn't check against the original, just eyeballed it.  )
  • don't over-correct (my trees on the right 'grew' as I tried to fix the colours. This happened under the bridge as well)
Finally, the colours.  I don't normally paint in oils - allergies etc.  In my other mediums (acrylics, pastels, charcoal and graphite) there is no wait time, and if I make a mistake, well it's easily corrected.

In oils, you have to be careful - very deliberate, and very delicate where it's warranted.  I'm so used to fiddling until it's right, that I tried to do that here - and as a result contaminated the colours. You'll notice that there's blue in everything.... 

Now I could let it dry and go back and correct, but my main reason for painting alla prima is that I want to paint en plein air.  I want to be able to take my pochade box and set up in a location and capture the essence of what's before me.

So I'm leaving this as is, to remind me of what I need to improve, before I step out there and try to capture reality the way Julian does.  I feel good about this exercise, and am looking forward to doing more in my journey to plein air :-)

Happy painting!



No comments:

Post a Comment