This painting just received a First Place Award in the Federation of Canadian Artists Spring Juried Exhibition (Arrowsmith Chapter). It is a little piece of nostalgia from my recent painting tour with the Travelling Brush art excursion in Croatia. Travelling Brush hosts international art excursions, based in Richmond BC Canada.
There are countless alleyways in these old town adventures with delightful scenes around every corner, overwhelming beauty, history, sights and sounds. I hunt through the streets searching for lighting that has impact, a moment in time, a story I can tell with paint. Each little scene that I stumble across is exquisite and compels me to want to share it. The initial search for images can be quite solitary, just me and my camera, trudging through streets in the heat. In this case it is a painting excursion with a group with a time limit in mind. I really had to seize the moment, hustle to get good shots while keeping up with the group. Thankfully my prayers and hard work paid off.
How did I paint this?
I used a limited palette of French Ultramarine Blue, Quinacridone Gold and Alizarin Crimson. Limited palettes seem … well … limiting at first. But never fear! The simplicity of using just 3 colours yields a whole lotta’ benefits: unity, glorious colour, stellar neutrals of greys and browns, less money spent on indecisive “What shall I buy?”.
First I drew with a 4B mechanical pencil (no stopping to sharpen right?). I determined where the horizon line was (where land meets sky) which of course we most often can’t see in narrow little settings such as this. Clue: where your eye level is. Yes YOU, with your eyes, standing where you are, viewing a sight … your eyes intersect the horizon line. That little piece of knowledge opens up the rest of the navigating. Enough said for now, check out my post here for more on perspective drawing.
I drew a basic pencil sketch of where things should be, not overdrawn, just slight marks here and there to indicate placement of objects like the bicycle, wrought iron signage, planters, windows, foliage, pavement, etc.
Next comes the paint – the big washes come first. After mixing large pools in the consistency of coffee cream (4 inches or so) of red (Alizarin Crimson), yellow (Quinacridone Gold) and blue (French Ultramarine Blue), I blocked in the big shapes first on dry paper, such as the right and left sides of the alley. Where the furthest distance buildings turn the corner I made sure that the initial paper in that section was slightly damp with clean water, thus the soft edges.
Working from biggest shapes to smallest, lightest values to darkest, I kept the colours muted and neutral. I wanted the pure hue colours of the flowers and bicycle light to pop, leading the viewer into that little focal point.
Once the big shapes of the buildings were established with a BIG brush (2 inch and 1 inch flat brushes) it was left to dry.
All the small details of dry brush texture on the pavement, bricks, foliage, bicycle came at the end. My goal is to “draw” the details with brushwork that isn’t overworked. Brevity of stroke is important. The main goal with the finishing touches of smaller details is to remember the light source. Where is it coming from? What kind of highlights does it make? What kind of shadows are happening? Light brings LIFE!