Work in Progress

First of all, if you didn’t already see, I’ve added a few new pieces to the Home page which I’ve completed over the last few weeks (but some as recent as the last few days). Take a look and let me know what you think!

Second of all, I’ve kept to my promise (so far) and started working on a new original composition, which is by no means finished but which you can see a glimpse of right here. It’s another in a series of paintings I plan to continue, featuring abandoned scenes and buildings (note to self: come up with catchier title for said series). I figured I’d take a minute here to share a little of my process thus far.

It amazes me a little when I see artists who start with one corner or feature of their artwork and complete that in detail before moving onto the next segment, because I simply can’t do it. I’m more of a “work all over” sort of person. As I mentioned in my last post, I sometimes do a sketch or a rough drawing of a composition before I put it on watercolor paper, especially if I’m creating a piece that I don’t have a reference photo for. That happens to be the case for the painting above, for which I’m using a couple different reference photos with different perspectives. I sketched out two different potential compositions in my sketchbook, chose the one I liked better from there, and sketched a larger version onto watercolor paper. I drew in a few of the details in the foreground foliage (which you can see in the bottom right corner of the image below) and a few of the tree trunk lines, but left the rest of the plant life more or less to chance. To me, getting the perspective and detail correct in the trains and the tracks was more important, so I drew those in more fully.

Once I start painting, I stick to my “work all over” method. Some of this is practical — I work in one area while I let the other dry — and some of it is, again, preference. In general, with watercolor, I find (as do many others I’ve learned from) that it’s better to work with your light colors first and continue to layer in darker colors (since it’s nearly impossible to paint light over dark unless you’re using gouache). Here are a few more progression photos of this painting:

Here, you can see how I worked once I began the painting. I mapped out the visible tree trunks and railroad tracks, and painted light green washes over most of the background foliage. I also added the first wash of color to the most visible trains.

From there, I began adding more detail layers to the trees along the background and painted my third train (it took me awhile to decide what color I wanted that one to be; I’m still not completely sold on my choice, but we’ll see how it goes as I add more detail). Instead of working left to right, I tend to work back to front — I start with the background and move to the mid-ground and foreground, adding layers and details. The foreground and small details will be completed last, which, along with the perspective, will give it a feeling of depth — if I don’t mess it up along the way, anyway.

Here’s that top picture again. If you look closely, you can see that the trees in the upper left corner are darker and more detailed now, as are the last two cars on the blue train. I’ll keep working my way forward on those. I layered more detail into the foliage along the left train and started working in the foreground on the bottom right, mainly because it’s going to take some time to layer that up (and also to make sure it’s going to work the way I want it to, balancing out the top left corner). From here, I’ll continue layering up the trees along the right side of the painting (using progressively smaller brushes and darker greens as I go, which will give those flat-looking branches some shape) and bringing the detail forward along the empty set of train tracks.

Eventually, I hope to have something worthy of hanging on my wall. Or someone else’s wall. Some wall, somewhere, for people to see.

If you’re an artist/craftsperson, how much time do you spend on your planning stage? Do you like to get as detailed as possible right at the beginning, or just start with a vague idea and flesh it out as you go?

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