Friday, December 5, 2014

Evolution of an Image- Winter Tree in a Mountain Valley

I did this series of paintings from a photo and wanted to share the process.

This small one came first.  It's basically a repainting/ reduction of the original image.  The photo is coming out a bit warm, but it gives the gist.  This is a small 1/8 sheet, 7.5" x 5".

I then cropped the image and and re-painted it vertically, focusing mostly on the tree.  This one was also a 1/8 sheet, 5.5 x 15".

I then blew it up and tried it big, on a 1/2 sheet.  I had forgotten how difficult it is to paint big-- logistical issues show up that I hadn't anticipated.  You have to manage the wetness of a very large area, and that can make things complicated.  Kat began to point out that the image doesn't necessarily work the same when its larger-- the viewer expects more detail in some locations, for instance, etc.

Anyways, it's not perfect, but there are some things to like in it.


  1. Im glad that im not the only one who has trouble working larger. Keeping things wet enough becomrs even more of a challenge, and as you say, more detail is necessary somewhere, even if it is just implied by texture.

  2. I've gotten to the point where I can paint 1/8 and 1/4 sheet and plan a bit less than I used to. At that level I'm primarily working in washes, and detail is only referential. And as we've both noted, the logistics are easier- washes are quicker, level of wetness easier to maintain at a consistent level, details are referenced rather than fiddled over because you simply __can't__ paint them more specifically. Bigger than that, though, and you're right- the needs of the image begins (in my mind) to change. You're painting something very similar to the smaller rendition, but either (as you say) the textural technique has to vary, or you have to include additional detail to hold the eye.

    I wish I were good enough to understand the difference better, so I could paint small and then "hop" to a bigger size with confidence, but I still usually have to screw up a painting or two at the larger size to better understand how its going to work as a whole at that scale.

    Still, although I love smaller images, it's hard to replace the experience of scale to the human body. Big images relate to a person as a whole person, object to object, like a mural does. I find it easier to step into them mentally. You can also do certain textural/ water techniques better, that simply require more space for the materials to do what they need to do. So, I'll probably keep shooting for greater competence with 1/2 sheets.

  3. In my mind's eye I cropped the larger painting by focusing on a one-inch square in the lower right corner where wispy dark grey reeds emerge rhythmically against the soft grey water and cut up into the snow line beneath the dark green masses of trees illuminated by flecks of white and wintry light filtering in ...