As I've noted previously, I've been enjoying digging into subjects for my paintings by working small to large. Several of the recent studio paintings I've done have had their inception in smaller plein air pieces I have painted on site. Through this exercise I have come to appreciate the method of problem solving in the smaller piece. My latest "small" is this Venice piece I completed yesterday. At this point I'm not sure if I will rework this into a larger size. I will sit with it for a while and see what I can see from it with fresh eyes, as I work on other projects.
Paintings of France, Italy, and Beyond ©Jennifer E Young
This week I am working out a companion piece to the little Venetian painting I posted the week prior. I often find that small paintings do well in pairs. Certainly a small piece can stand on its own, but it is often nice for the little guy to have someone to talk to. A pair can flank either side of a large mirror or mantle, or stack together on a tall narrow wall:
I love grouping paintings, and while it doesn't work for every piece, I have started to try and think in terms of finding a buddy for my little friends when it's possible. This is the start for our little Venetian companion:
A rough lay-in in burnt sienna gives a first pass at my light and shadow family. When I start to add color, I will keep those two families in mind. First up is the shadow family:
You can see that even some of the "white" colors (around the door frames, etc, are still in shadow and will therefore generally be a darker value than anything in the light family. The eye can really trick you once you bring color into the picture, so it is something to be aware of at all times! More to come! Stay tuned....
I had such fun with this little painting that I am thinking of doing it again as a larger piece. My goal in the execution was to keep it loose and not get bogged down in too many details that can happen so often when approaching architectural scenes; especially when working from photo references.
As with plein air painting, sometimes giving yourself a handicap can be very helpful. Squinting, for instance, allows one to reduce visual information down to shapes, patterns, and values. These days taking off my glasses serves a similar purpose (*SIGH*). Another method that I experimented with here was to "blur it up" using one of the artistic filters in Photoshop. This has the effect of removing the detail while still providing the shapes and values. I used my blurry image for most of the painting, and then referenced the detailed photo at the end to see what I may have missed and add the finishing touches. What was interesting is that I liked the freshness of my initial round so much that I found very little I wanted to add or adjust once I referenced the detailed photo. I have often used Photoshop to adjust shadows and highlights in my photo references, or to crop for ideas on composition, but this was the first time I have used it to remove detail. I really liked this method and will likely do it again, especially for complicated scenes like architecture where it can really be helpful to turn down the visual "noise".
We have been prepping for a kitchen remodel these last few weeks, so this little studio piece of Venice has been patiently waiting on the "back burner" (pun intended.) Today I got so tired of seeing its mournful state of incompleteness on my easel that I attacked it with the brush. Here is the result:
I remember the day I and my traveling companion were taking photos of this little neighborhood. It was our first morning in Venice and we had spent it pretty much as nearly every American tourist does, snapping away with our cameras and ooh-ing and ahh-ing over every nook and cranny of the place. Then we turned the corner and, almost against my will, I blurted out, "Oooh, laundry!" My friend laughed, and of course, I realized immediately how silly that sounded. But to an artist, it has the potential to add both visual interest and an element of the human presence, even on an otherwise empty street. It's a mystery to me how the Italians can make even clothes hanging on a line an intrigue. But I guess it doesn't hurt that those clotheslines are surrounded by beautiful ochre stone, magnificent architecture and, I suspect, a little bit of magic too.
P.S. If you're wondering what happened to the still life I had started in my last post, I gave it the 86. I will try again at some point, but I think I was a little overly ambitious with the size given my limited time. The flowers croaked before I could get them down, so I had to just chalk it up to one of the ones that got away.
There are some times when my habit of waking at 5:30 a.m. (on the dot, and usually no matter what!) comes in pretty handy. With family visiting these last 10 days, early mornings have allowed me a few hours each day to complete this new Venice piece:
This painting ( the bones of which you can see here) is the same size and format as the other recent Venice painting I posted a couple of weeks ago. They are meant to serve as companions to each other, though I think either would work just as well on its own.
In all the times I have been to Venice, I have still never taken a gondola ride. I wonder if it's possible to paint en plein air while aboard a gondola? A girl can dream...