I’ve come to realise the importance of preparatory study before diving into a final painting. This post details the steps prior to the finished artwork, I hope you find it both interesting and useful. Photo was taken just outside Ranfurly, New Zealand during a wonderful weekend of teaching.
The original photograph. I was drawn to the strong verticals and tangled horizontals of the fallen branches. There was much detail that I needed to simplify before deciding on my final composition.
Notan* – using a marker pen and pad I laid out three formats; square, portrait and landscape to decide which one (or two) captured my interest the most. 1
The notan studies were then translated using charcoal and soft pastel on primed cartridge paper. This gave me a clearer idea of which format suited the composition and also which one I was more drawn to.
Notans and colour studies side-by-side.
I found a lovely blue printing ink at my local art store and decided (after priming my large A3 sketchbook with clear gesso) to roughly block in a background. Sometimes just randomly laying down a base colour breaks that white page apprehension, and I guess for me is an excuse to have a little fun, which of course is important!
Following on from my notan I lay down the basic composition using black gesso. Dense, matte and gorgeous to work with!
For the next layer I used acrylic – a blend of colours from a recent art supplies purchase. It wasn’t quite the composition I was looking for, so I went back to the original photograph and established stronger foreground trees and detail using charcoal.
Here the charcoal and a deeper study of the photograph has brought further definition to the work.
Much learning during this study with so much more I wish to discover of this impressionistic way of working. Challenging, but thoroughly satisfyingly. There are probably further adjustments I could make, but for now I will leave this study as it is.
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