|December Morning |
12x12 inches - pastel on acid-free construction paper
© 2011, S.Johnson
Based on a photo taken the same day and not far from the same location as the painting from the last post, this one of three gals walking along the Animas River Trail (ART). Even as I took this quick snapshot, I knew immediately that: 1) I had to paint it; 2) it would crop perfectly to a square format.
When analyzing the photo for any compositional changes I wanted to make, I actually decided I liked just about everything (save for an off-leash dog...definitely out!), and that they were all important to the design and meaning of the painting. It got me thinking about the importance of not blindly following a photographic reference, and asking oneself: "is adding or keeping this element really necessary, and does it improve the painting?"
- the trail: this multi-use paved urban trail is one of the many things that makes Durango special. It is the source of great enjoyment and recreational value for its residents. The path itself is the lead-in to the painting, and the non-linear curves keep the viewer from racing through.
- the figures: the focal point. They also symbolize the importance and popularity of this trail to its residents by their presence. Odd number = better compositionally. I was mindful to keep the intervals between them varied. They were also by far the most challenging thing to paint!
- the lamppost: adjacent to the figures, it balances them, and adds another vertical element to the painting. Its presence symbolizes safety and comfort.
- the evergreen trees: breaks up the purple-red-grays of the winter trees surrounding it, and helps to keep the viewer from leaving the painting by stopping the pathway, and hopefully, helps guide the viewer's eyes up to the...
- snow-covered rooftops of the neighborhood houses: add a broken horizontal element to the painting and tie in with the snow on the sides of the path.
- the chamisa: even with its faded flowers, this shrub is attractive. It helps break up the rust-colored grasses and it sweeps in towards the painting.
Try covering up each of the elements with your thumb and see if you think the painting would work as well without it/them. I don't personally feel it does, but others might feel differently. Either way, I think it's a useful thing to apply to your own reference photos, and even during the painting process. I actually do the same thing when I'm painting on location.
My goal and challenge with this painting was to make it look as though there is not much detail...but, yet, it required being detailed in some areas. Does that make any sense? Little dashes of color here and there to suggest shapes and planes. Thin dark lines to suggest underlying tree structure.
I don't analyze my all of my paintings or references so carefully, but I thought sharing my thoughts behind this one might be of some interest to other artists; it's also the sort of thing I really enjoy reading on other art blogs.