Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Three Versions of a Subject

(Posted by Bill)
Some months ago, I was interested in a creek formed by the falls in Yosemite. The dense foliage created interesting light effects and the overall darkness suggested it would be good subject for my first use of a black surface, the Richeson Premium Pastel Surface on Gatorboard. I spent about 45 minutes on it, proving to myself that a dark scene like this would would let me concentrate mainly on the highlights with a few middle values, letting the black surface remain untouched. I was amazed by how fast it became a believable representation of the scene. (Left, Below the Falls I, 9x12 pastel, © Bill Canright.)

Quite a while later I used a photo of the same spot to do a little study on white Wallis paper. Of course, simplification was automatic on such a small panel. I was able to guess at a portion of the stream that didn't make much sense. But I still spent close to two hours on this version. (Left, Below the Falls II, 9x6 pastel, © Bill Canright.)

A few days later I tackled a much larger version on a white surface (Richeson Premium Pastel Surface, Hardboard) with a split underpainting, using a light turquoise for the top half and a green/brown for the bottom half. Underpaintings can be created in a number of ways, from a complex drawing and color layer to a single tone of color on the surface. I like to do simple shapes, or as in this case, use just a couple of colors.

In this larger version, I had to resolve the weird shape near the middle of the stream, which I had handled with simplification in the small versions. The shape might be of a log, a chunk of concrete, a very smooth rock or a moose carcass for all you could see in the photo.

It proved the rule, "never try to paint something if you don't know what it is." You'll either make up something based on a subject you know well, or paint something stupid looking. Eventually, toward the end of the second full day I eliminated the whole problem with a placid pool of water. By providing the eye with a quiet place to rest it actually improved the overly busy scene. (Left, Below the Falls III, 20x16 pastel, © Bill Canright.)

Looking at the three together, it's interesting to see the similarities and the differences.