Thursday, January 14

Perseverance, A Most Important Factor in Painting

Today’s Image
"Pennsylvania Avenue"
Watercolor on Paper
Copyright 2010

Well, I posted my latest watercolor as Today’s Image. It’s not quite finished, but I decided it’s finished enough to post on the blog. I’m blogging about it not for any praise or to promote it (honestly).

I’m blogging about it as a lesson in perseverance and stick-to-it-ive-ness on my part, and I hope this will help other artists.

I’m neither organized nor forward-thinking enough to plan my motifs ahead of time. That is, I do not “set up” any motifs, such as a still life, to paint, either from a live view or as a reference photo.

No, I just take pictures of views I think are interesting when I’m traveling or just out shooting photos. It’s only later when I’m looking at my photos that I select ones that, in my humble opinion, will make a good painting.

That was the case for "Pennsylvania Avenue." The reference photo was from October, 2009, on a visit to Washington, D.C. There were a couple of shots from this viewpoint; I chose this one because it provided the look and feel I wanted for the painting.

The photo, as well as the painting, reminded me of an Impressionist-type painting of a Paris street scene from that era, so I decided to paint it. Please, don’t take this to mean I am comparing my painting to any of the masterpieces of the Impressionists.

I like to paint architecture, not all the time, but it interests me. However, as I began to render the image and to paint, I began to think that maybe I had gotten in over my head.

First, the angle is somewhat unusual. I was on a fifth- or sixth-floor balcony looking out and down on the street. The camera caught the building across the street (the main building in the painting) as tapering down to a vanishing point somewhere below street level in addition to having a vanishing point high above the top of the building. It was distortion from the camera lens, and it didn’t make it any easier to paint, that’s for sure. This aspect was so troublesome that I actually had to start completely over. In my first attempt, the angle of the building just did not look right and never would, so I began again with a new sheet of watercolor paper.

Second, it’s just an odd building architecturally. I haven’t researched what building this is, but it appears to have been built in the early 20th century—at least the bottom part. You will notice that the top part looks as if it were added on with obviously much more modern architecture, maybe sometime in the 1980s (I’m guessing).

Then there’s also the sharp angle of the street, which is Pennsylvania Avenue, as you look down on it.

Other difficulties for me were capturing the proper light and light source on a very overcast day. Oh, and did I mention it was raining? I had to paint the pavement to reflect that.

Finally, it was suggested that I use a color palette similar to the Old Masters. I had never painted with that palette, but I will tell you I liked it very much and will use it again. The palette is: Indigo (the blue). Brown Madder (the red), Raw Sienna (the yellow), Green Gold, and I had to add Hooker’s green to get the darker green of some tree leaves.

I tell you this, not to complain, but to let you know there are always obstacles to overcome in a painting. Do not get discouraged. Think of the obstacles as opportunities to learn and to create a painting of which you’ll be proud.


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