Saturday, March 5, 2011

Zion National Park

Painting 1.38 Zion National Park. When I thought I had finished this painting I stepped back to look at it and it just felt wrong. I spent the next couple of hours glancing over at it while I was watching a movie trying to put my finger on what had gone wrong. When I woke up the next morning I came out to look at it while I was brushing my teeth and it was so obvious: The little trees in the distance weren't casting shadows on the wall behind them! They appeared to be just floating in the air in front of the wall.

This kind of mistake is easy to make in a painting done from a photograph. Its easy to get caught up in recreating the basic form and location of blocks of color while ignoring the environmental source of those colors. Looking at the trees I saw green with some dark areas behind the green. I was more worried about not messing up the trees and I just added some dark spots in around the trunks to make it look like they were at least rooted somewhere. In the meantime I was carefully recreating the shadow of every other feature on that wall. Because I put so much focus on the shadows of everything else, the implication is that the trees were their own light source, unaffected by the shadows around them and creating none of their own.

This all underlines the importance of really studying a subject while painting it. If there is a shadow, figure out what is casting it. If there are overlapping features, try to imagine what is going on behind the overlap. Just copying shapes will leave things looking disjointed, especially in a medium like painting where features are often implied rather than laid out in explicit detail as they might be in an ink drawing.

Giclee Print

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