Saturday, July 20, 2013

Learning To Paint Back To Front

One of the hardest things for me to learn when I started out painting oils was that you ALWAYS painted from dark to light. As any watercolor artist will tell you, you layer, often many times, to get dark darks so you paint from light to dark. That was when I realized why I always created mud with oils!

In the same token, I am now learning through guidance that you should always paint from back to front with acrylics. I should say I am learning that from one mentor. For me, that seems to work best.

Audobon Way - the photo
 Here is the perfect case in point. While on an outing with a plein air group, I spotted this gate walking around trying to get a different take on a local restaurant / store up in the hills of Sierra Madre, CA. I snapped a photo and moved on.
Needless to say the store turned out poorly and finally I threw that painting away. However, I had also printed this shot and kept looking at it but just felt I didn't have the skills to work on it. In fact, I didn't.

While it may not seem difficult on closer inspection there is a great deal going on here. Behind the gate to the left is a house, past that is some kind of shed and a stone path leads off to the right. For some reason It caught my attention and I knew that I wanted to paint it but somehow just couldn't.

Audobon Way - the painting

When I started getting more involved with acrylics I realized that many of the issues of light and dark could be resolved. If you didn't like a tone or the shading was too light or dark, you could go over it again in a few minutes. I was all set to go!

What I didn't really plan for and my mentor has told me over and over again was while you weren't restricted with the concept of dark to light, you could be restricted if you didn't paint back to front. That is a whole new game.

As I learned in my classes in Las Vegas, each artist has their own way. Reading about the lives of famous artists and the critiques of their work, it appears every artist had his or her "own" way. Of course, that is what makes us unique. You develop a style that flows through much of your work and sets you apart from any other artist. My tendency is to hop back and forth and in retrospect I realize I create far more work for myself.

This time I started with the sky then the background trees using white chaulk outlines on a deep black green canvas. It was a rather startling sight to say the least. The aqua house on the left was next so I could leave the dark space behind the palms then put in the trees that partially obscure the house. Palms were next, then the wall and path and stones. I took liberties with the wall. The red seemed a much nicer counterpoint to all the greens and works well, I think. Next came the raw wooden gate. This has many layers of color, some were done with the earlier layer still wet so they could blend.

My painting is warmer than the original but I felt it should be. The photo was taken early in a winter's morning and I remember there being more warmth of color than the photo showed. But you know, ultimately, as artists we can paint what we want.

The painting, while quite small at 9" x 12" is for me a lovely study. The gate is very inviting and you get a sense of whimsy and fun of the inhabitants beyond. You really "want" to go through that gate. If you do, then I have done my job!

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