What Makes A Painting Work Art Blog
One thing I have noticed time and again in the effort to create better paintings--get the shadows right first. This is particularly important for the plein air painter whose light source is continually moving. With shadows in place, there is support for the memory as the light changes. Once the shadows are in, values can quickly be sketched for light/bright spots hit directly by the light source and the mid-tones between.
This pastel painting was literally saved by the shadows. I began in last October on a sunny day sitting on my patio and viewing long the south wall of the house. Because it was during open studios, it was a demo painting that I couldn't possibly finish on the spot. There was too much hopping up to chat with the visitors and give them the stories of other paintings on display. The interaction doesn't finish a work of art, but it does sell the art. We left on a shot vacation immediately after. By the time we were back the weather had turned and the garden was not the same, with the hollyhocks and zinnias beaten down by rain. One thing I had completed was those shadows on the pathway and the overall color areas were blocked in. Some details of the flowers were established.
Months went by before I got back to it. Then I needed to complete it entirely from memory without any photo references. I worked definition into the elements on the left side of the painting and was pretty happy with that side. The vines spilling over the fence worked into shape that had some depth as darker values moved some areas back and yellow greens came forward. Then I almost ruined it. The right side of the paper looked rather dark. Sitting indoors in a windowless room, I started to brighten the area up. Then I took a second look at the shadows. They reminded me that the plants against the south facing wall were in full sun and those on the right side were self-shading much of the visible area. Thanks to those established shadows I have a charming garden scene on a sunny October day instead of a bright-all-over painting that would not ring true.