Here's how I used this photo to create a painting.
I came across this old farmhouse high up in the hills inland from Benidorm in Spain, and immediately knew that i wanted to paint it. But access and parking were difficult, so I only had time to quickly stop the car, reverse back and snap a photo or two.
Back home I did a quick pen sketch in my sketchbook so that I could play around with the composition and decide what needed to be included and what didn't, and to think about the tonal structure of the picture (where to put the darks and lights). I added a dark shadow right across the front as I wanted to concentrate the viewers' eye to the house and this is a neat way of doing this.
When I was pleased with this I was ready to paint.
I used water mixable oils on a small 6" x 6" board which had been coated with gesso and then painted with orange acrylic paint.
I just used ultramarine blue, alizarin crimson and cadmium yellow, plus white.
As I painted I referred to the photo less and less - really only using it for the detail of the farmhouse. I used my sketch for the rest. In this way I was free to paint with any colours I thought would work and to let my imagination run wild, especially with the foreground. I left large areas of the orange undercoat showing through.
Towards the end I wasn't looking at either my sketch or the photo at all, just seeing what needed to be done to make the painting work. I hope it did!
John Singer Sargent (1856 - 1925) was an incredible watercolourist, and a man ahead of his time. One of the things I love about many of his paintings is the exquisite way in which he handles light. Just look at the two examples of his work below. Doesn't the sunlight just blaze out of them? And he makes this happen by his smart use of colour in his shadows.
Even though both the ships and the ox are white, he brings amazing colours to them by the way he handles the shadows. There is colour everywhere and the paintings 'zing'. He has been clever in his use of complimentary colours from opposite sides of the colour wheel, with the blue and the orange ochre bouncing off each other - always such a good combination of colours. But more than that, his lively brushwork and confident mark making, putting just the right colour in just the right place, tell of a man at the top of his game.
Shadows do not need to be boring! Next time you paint (and why not even have a go at copying these paintings here?) liven up your shadows with bold colour, and see what a difference it makes!
Woodland scenes are beautiful (just take a walk in one or search for woodlands in google images if you can't. But there is so much going on! There are trees everywhere, leaves everywhere, and the wood just seems to go on forever. How do you capture all of that in a painting?
The answer, as ever, is to simplify. Squint your eyes and all the detail will disappear, just leaving you with the large masses of tonal shapes. These give you the 'skeleton' or framework for your painting. Once you have seen the few basic tonal shapes that make up the scene you can plan them out on your paper. And once again, when you come to paint, don't get bemused by all the details. Paint big simple shapes and slowly add more detail if, and only if, you need to.
This woodland scene I painted today was from a photo, but I altered and amended and simplified it right down to the basics. But I think it works. Why don't you have a go? (There will be a video of me painting this picture on my new watercolour landscape course in a couple of months time.)
I put a few pieces of fruit onto a blue plate and then took a photo from above. From this I cropped it on my laptop and then painted the picture on the left in oils (only small, 6" x 6"). I then had another go at the composition, cropping the photo in a different way and painted the picture again. But this time I decided I would change the blue plate and paint it red. The fruit had to be in realistic colours, but I could also play with the backgrounds, using a bright orange to compliment the blue plate and blue background to show off the red plate.
So here's the painting tip - You don't have to paint what is there! You are the artist and you have the ability to play around with the scene in front of you. Change things! Improve things! Paint them in any way you like! But, most of all have fun!
In the old days people learned to paint by being apprenticed to a master artist. they spent years mixing paints, studying the way the master painted, then copying what he did, and finally painting small sections of paintings. It was a long and tortuous route. Today we prefer to get things done more quickly.
But there is so much to be gained by copying a painting from a master. I do this often, and with each painting I learn. I learn composition, I find out how he used colour, I learn about brushstrokes and tonal value. I learn what makes a good painting.
A few years ago I painted this Sorolla. It's a copy of his El baño del caballo. What a master of light he was! And what an interesting composition. And it opened my eyes to see how many colours there are in a white horse!
So, if you want to learn to paint, I really do recommend that you find an artist you like and copy his work. You will learn so much.