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Yesterday, as the jubilant chirps and tweets of starlings heralded the springtime, in the silence of my room I was doing some tweeting of a different nature.

I’m working on a landscape painting, and tweeting updates as I go. I did this one time before. As much as I like to be private in my work, this kind of exposure can be invigorating. It’s great to receive suggestions and encouragement, especially when they come from talented artists.

I am trying out some new techniques. In the past, I’ve often started drawing with a thick, heavy line right off the bat. I make a big mess and do a lot of erasing as I go. Sort of like “sculpting” the image. Often, I’ve let the messy process show through in the finished work. I always liked this because … well, I guess it speaks to the truth of art making, and of life, as a messy struggle. The painting arrives to dinner with sweat on its brow and its sleeve ripped at the shoulder. “Wow,” you say, “what happened to you? Are you okay? Can I get you some water?” “I’m fine,” the painting replies. “Now let’s eat.”

Recently I’ve been starting with a much lighter touch. I’m doing the digital equivalent of light pencil sketches. It’s been really nice to explore contour this way. I can feel a new rhythm developing. When it comes time to add color, I’ve been trying out light washes, kind of imitating the look of watercolor. My colors are simpler, and faithful to the native hue of each object, instead of attempting daredevil color combinations. Finally, I’m “baking” the images with texture overlays – stock photos of gravel or other real-life surfaces that remedy the flatness of digital painting. This technique was described to me by Ken Wong a few years ago (he used the term “baking”). Other artists use this technique so I’m trying to find an implementation that’s unique and specifically suited to my art. I don’t want it to look gimmicky or overly literal. The textures should integrate naturally.

This image of two houses by a lake is the best representative so far of the direction I’m exploring. You can see the textures better in the higher-resolution linked version:

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With that as my target, I started a much more complex piece to take those techniques further. Below, I’ve pasted in my tweets from yesterday, for convenient tweet consumption. These chronicle the start of the painting, from sketch to first color pass.

Forest ruins super sketchy sketch! I like how this is going so far, so I think I’ll tweet its progress.

Elaborating on that bridge. Feeling a little funny about the bottom left corner of the canvas now. Too active, porous?

Added a broken wall with tree reaching through at the end of the bridge. Suspect that other architecture should align…

Somehow I’ve arrived at this crazy fisheye perspective that is sort of cool but also messing everything up…

Embraced the sweep of the bulbous perspective deformation by extending the bridge. Now it’s all about this broken path.

Gave this fella some things to clamber up to reach his lookout. Also that tree would occlude his view from the ground.

Rotated the structure surrounding the big tree. Gave the other travelers a nice little woody area to emerge from.

Been spending about 5% of my time painting with the canvas flipped horizontally. Helps me notice weirdnesses.

COLOR! Just a rough pass and now I must away. Next: line width variation, color adjustment, shading, textures…

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I always find it interesting to see how paintings develop, particularly when there are big changes along the way. Once I’d drawn that bridge, it seemed to be the most interesting thing going on, so I allowed it to wipe out the right side of the canvas.

There’s a lot left to do here, so I’d better get to work!

I’ll be posting more updates on Twitter as I go.

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