The Path and the Process

The Path Final

I suppose I should talk a little bit about my process.  Every artist goes about her or his projects in a different way.  Most will sketch whatever comes to mind and come back to it later.  For me, I don’t use sketch books.  My ideas usually hit me either when I’m out getting some exercise in nature or in the middle of the night.  I have funky dreams, which, though they are detrimental to sleep, are a rich source of ideas.

‘The Path’ was an idea that showed up while I was out on my favorite, err, path.  I loved the sunset and how the light hit the trees, while at the same time leaving everything below in a semi-gloom.  When I use this trail I get the feeling of being alone – sure there are tonnes of cars speeding by, but they are in a different world.  The figures represent the human condition juxtaposed against the beauty of nature and the people traveling past blissfully unaware of the events unfolding around them.   The harsh light of the headlights is a metaphor for how we don’t see what is occurring before our eyes.

Th Process

I start out with the item visually farthest from the viewer, in this case the sky.  I love painting the sky, it’s one of the initial factors that got me into painting in the first place.  I wanted to do a rich sunset with the Sun just over the horizon, but wanted to keep it abstract at the same time.

The background sky. The sun is just over the horizon.

The background sky. The sun is just over the horizon.

Clouds started. I did some preliminary sketching but ultimately had to go back out an see where I was losing the composition.

Clouds started. I did some preliminary sketching but ultimately had to go back out and see where I was losing the composition.

The Sky

After the sky was to my liking, incorporating horizontal and swirling elements, I began the landscape portion. In this case I wanted the view to be from about 6 feet off the ground.  My initial sketches didn’t capture this, so I had to spend more time outdoors studying perspective.

The Point of View brought back down to the ground / the viewer as if she were on the path. Roads started.

The Point of View brought back down to the ground / the viewer as if she were on the path. Roads started.

After the roads were blocked in, I had to start the foliage. I used a method of dabbing that has been in my inventory since my spray-paint days. Since foliage wasn’t the primary focus of the work, I went with greens that we mostly take for granted in our daily lives.

Foliage blocked in and road surfaces complete.

Foliage blocked in and road surfaces complete.

One of the things I’ve noticed is that roads always have an almost silver-like sheen from the cars passing over them. I think I captured it. On the other hand, walking paths tend to be darker and have more leaves and such along the sides. Another thing I hope you notice, is that I like to fully paint what is behind the subject, even if it is never seen, it’s a detail I pride myself on, and future spectroscopy will bear this out.  I paint the cars traveling past next.  I use a photographic technique for this, overexposure I think it’s called – but maybe I’m wrong.

Once the background is complete comes the part where I have the most trouble.  Although I like my work so far, now I’m forced to potentially destroy it.  It’s scary.  Before I set brush to canvas in this stage, I take a picture and import it into Paint.net (a free program akin to Photoshop).  Once in the application, I use layers of drawings or images to figure out object placement.  It’s very easy in this stage to get it wrong, e.g. the person is too big for their place on the path, and so on.  Once I have it figured out, I make a printout for reference using points in the painting (a cloud or a tree).

After the cars are added comes figure placement.

After the cars are added comes figure placement.

I generally go darker first and paint out from there towards highlights.

003

Lighting is a problem. There’s a few sources, e.g. the sky, as well as the cars coming from the bottom and the top of the painting. I did my best.

004

As artists, we sometimes mess up. Here is an example. The woman in front looks like something out of the “Walking Dead” series.  I took a long break and then went in the next day and fixed it.  The awesome thing about art is that there is nothing irreparable.  Et Voilà!

The Path Final The Path Face

Note the use of highlights for the car headlights coming towards the woman, and her mascara. She is supposed to be the same figure that is walking and crouching behind her.

So this is an in-depth look at my process. There’s a lot of little things I haven’t covered, e.g. color choices and so on, but I wanted to give you an idea of what it would be like sitting next to me as I paint.  Comments and feedback are always welcome.

Have a great day!

Rob

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