Before I actually start painting, I need to do a couple of things to prepare...
Touchup & Spray
Now that I can forge ahead with painting, I want to make adjustments to the drawing then cleanup stray charcoal dust from the canvas surface. I take a moment to view the drawing in reverse through a mirror to catch any visual imbalances. This is most important when doing a symmetrical painting such as this. I then spray a couple light layers of fixative outdoors with the painting in an upright position.
To minimize lung inflammation, I leave the canvas outside for a time. Meanwhile, I look over my color reference board, reference photos/slides, and client's room pictures once again. The more familiar I can become with the subjects and colors, the more intuitive my painting sessions will be and lessens the reliance on references as the painting progresses.
I notice that the client's room colors are much cooler than are found in the natural landscape. The biggest challenge will be to create a natural-looking painting while incorporating these bright, jewel-like hues.
"BUILDING" THE PAINTING:
The Base Coat
The canvas is first sprayed lightly with water then I apply my alizarin wash, and allow it to dry. As you can see in this illustration, the wash is in broken strokes, not even tones. I'm trying to break the white of the canvas. It looks a bit messy at this stage, and will for awhile, but will make sense as I paint.
[TIP: While working on any painting in the studio as opposed to en plein air, try to use the same approximate lighting as the artwork will finally be viewed when installed. Also, take the painting into other light (outdoors, incandescent, florescent, etc. to see how the painting fares visually. It may not work perfectly everywhere, but you can sometimes site areas that need improvement you would not otherwise find.]
The first layer of paint...
This layer will be shown on this and the following pages. The paint is heavier than the base layer, but not as thick as it will be later. I'm covering the canvas with masses of color. No attempt at detail, not for a long time yet. The largest areas are added first, but I had to key-in the teal green in the small trees early to match my color board.
First the sky is applied in a medium color (cobalt + yellow + white) which will be developed more later. Notice however, that darker sky to the left in the painting. The sun will be coming from the right so even now, I am considering the light source. Next the river color is added, which reflects the sky and has many of the same sky colors, only darker. Next, dropping in a few masses of trees and hills (viridian + yellow + deep brilliant red). No real value changes here yet, just some solidity of form.
Blocking-in the mountain & architecture...
Just before painting the pillars and upper arch, I complete blocking-in the mountains (diox purple + thalo + deep brilliant red + yellow) in different color quantities, first spraying the surface of the dry canvas with water to allow the paint to flow. The mountains will be cooler and grayer later on, but for now quickly lay-in a wash of these colors.
Next, the pillars and upper arch are painted in the same color as the client's wall. Since value is important to make the architecture convincing, the approximate shadow areas are applied (using a thin layer of diox purple + cobalt + yellow + white in varying quantities.) Then an overall creamy color (Unbleached Titanium + Parchment + white.*) Like the rest of the painting, I will return to further develop the pillars/arch later.
*NOTE: You may be asking why I have chosen to use the tube colors (in Liquitex) called "Bleached Titanium" and "Parchment". When I matched up the client's wall colors, these two tube colors most closely matched. I could easily mix these colors from white + cobalt and/or ultramarine + red. I will need large quantities of these colors. Using the tubes available will assure I always start at the same place. Then I can add other colors as needed into these.
Until now, I have concentrated on large masses of color. Now I will start working my way around the painting to fully develop the image.
Majority of painting
Now that I have the bulk of my blocking-in completed and have established the architecture, I can begin painting in earnest. This is where I really begin to enjoy the process.
I first go through a "redraw phase" quickly reestablishing the column structure and any other areas that need the edges more crisp. I have to be aware of places that will have "soft edges" to give more space and atmosphere to the painting.
I work on the sky and base of the clouds, hop down to work in the river a bit, then further down to play with the grass and shadows cast by the architecture. I am very aware of the sun as the light source and how it effects everything in the landscape.
I lightly re-sketch the trailing foliage over the architecture (see detain) then rough-in with paint before going on to the details.
Completing the painting
This painting will be viewed from a distance, therefore, I have kept the detailing to a minimum. If I worked too tightly, the scene would appear too static. Plus, the client prefers a looser treatment.
I work on the shadow areas incorporating the violet tones found in the room. The most difficult color to bring in was the alizarin to rose tones. I used these colors somewhat in the background and with more intensity on the vine stems.
The massive green lawn had to be broken up by modulating the greens and strengthening the path. I also toned down the vines on the far side of the arch so they had some visual distancing.
I will do only minor adjustments to this painting before varnishing. Most of the time, I have a painting sit for a week or two before calling it "finished" (studio paintings only). But since this piece entailed so much planning and painting, I was able to control the finished product.
CHANGES & FRAMING:
My client lives in another state. When I deliver the painting, if adjustments are needed I will do them on-site and touch up with varnish. Hopefully, the color references were enough to paint on key.
I usually frame and install my own paintings. In this case, upon delivery/approval from the client a local framer will complete the installation.
Hope you have enjoyed and gained some insights into Painting a Landscape on Commission!