Monday, June 2, 2014

So What's the Story Behind That Painting?

"Disconnected", watercolor,  38 x 30"     $3600

With each painting I create, I make it my goal to tell a story, evoke an emotion, or create mood. When a painting can do all three of those things, I get pretty excited.

My paintings start with a photograph, often taken while strolling around and encountering a scene of some sort. Because it is taken quickly and surreptitiously, I usually don't start with a well-composed photo. I have to do some designing on the computer by moving things around, and combining several photos and backgrounds. 

My original photo

In my original photo, I am drawn to several things: the tenderness between mother and child; the woman's beautiful face and hair; and the bright sunlight on her head and body.Those are the details I want to keep, the rest I can disregard.

As I study the photo, I start imagining a story of two people being connected to each other, but disconnected in society. As the imaginary story grows, I start to think about all the ways in which people are disconnected: culturally, economically, spiritually, and emotionally.

My color study

Once the story takes shape, I develop my color study. I add a church (specifically the stained-glass image of the Madonna and child) as a supporting background to the story and proceed to work out the colors and design.

I decide to work with an Analogous + Complementary color scheme. In this case, it is Blue, Blue Violet, Violet with a complement of Yellow Orange (which is opposite Blue Violet on the color wheel).

As the painting develops, I continually evaluate the design and composition:

1. Because of the bright colors and small, busy shapes, I know that the window behind the figures could easily take over the painting as the focal point. With that in mind, I retain the highest contrast (lightest lights and darkest darks) for the figures. I slowly darken the window behind the figures and keep the shapes flat and without detail. 

2. I use diagonal shapes in the painting to move the viewers eye around. For instance, the shadow on the upper left brings your eye down to the highlights of the mother's hair, which in turn brings the eye further down the painting and back to the figures. The other diagonal starts at the blue blanket and leads to the baby's elbow, then the mom's shoulder, through the shapes in the window and back around to the figures.

3. The shape of the mother and child creates a pleasing triangular shape. I reinforce that shape by adding an extra detail (the broom) in the finished painting.

So, how do you develop your painting ideas? Do you have a similar process, or totally different? I've love to know.

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