Usually, I “paint with my eyes” two or three times before I even pick up a pencil. I look to see where the photo wants to be a painting and reacquaint myself with the reasons that attracted me to take the photo in the first place.
I first stretch a sheet of Arches 140# paper with glue on a wooden board. When it is dry, I draw in the necessary lines with a 2H pencil, trying to avoid the need to erase at all since I feel as though even a kneaded eraser changes the texture of the surface.
Architecture requires more drawing; nature is pretty forgiving.
I work from light to dark. Often, this seems like back to front but it is the amount of pigment to water that sways my decision. Invariably, at this early stage, my paintings tend to disappoint me and I have grown accustomed to the feelings of doubt that haunt me during the first few washes. I used a graded wash of Phthalo Blue and a touch of Ultramarine for the sky, making sure I mixed more than I knew I would need to complete the sky. Running out is a real disaster. A light wash of Shell Pink put a base on the traditional Bermuda architecture.
The marble wall took some time as I tried to give a sense of the individuality of each slab. The rhythm in the shadows of the trellis and the decorative railings began to take their places, although I knew that I would be going back to them at a later point to darken them. The border is a great place to test colors and I have learned that a limited palette is as valuable as a concise speech.
It is important for both the water to reflect the sky colors as well as the bleached white roofs to offer a touch of the same blue. Other than that, the white paper is left to its own voice for the characteristic roofs. By now, I am really thinking “background to foreground”, “darker and darker values”. The trunks of the palm trees gave me a chance to employ charging, allowing the colors to bleed gently into each other and give the trees so much more interest.
Contrast is the name of the game here. I have come to love to learn how a frond gracefully waves and grows. Sap Green is my main color and I use several blues and purples to get the depth and darkness that I need. It is rewarding at this point to see how little of the original washes show through and yet how one-dimensional it would be without their peeking presence. I also enjoy going back to “finished” areas and touching down a completely unpredictable color from another part of the painting. It creates emphasis and spontaneity at the same time that it unifies the whole painting.
I usually play with titles as I am painting and most times know what it will be called well before it is finished. This one threw me. Yet, as I recognized the Paradise-like setting and admitted the dare and temptation of the complexity of the scene, I knew “Eden” was its name.