Work In Progress: Glade Creek Grist Mill, Update 6

The Preliminary Composition

The Value and Color Sketches are meant to get the values balanced and to make sure that I’m happy with the color choices. They do not contain more a minimum of detail. I do have a problem in that any time I put pencil or brush to paper and work up sketches, I start to look at them critically – as if I was working on the finished drawing or painting. I then start to add detail, and that’s wrong. I still have to tell myself that I’m interested only in relationships and general composition and stop myself from developing a more complex piece of artwork. Maybe after I’ve gone through the process a thousand times I’ll feel comfortable doing the sketches. I like all my artwork, whether sketches or finished paintings to look finished.

The Value Sketch, and to some degree the Color Sketch, began the process of building a composition. I used the Value sketch to help balance lights and darks, but also to begin adding elements that would draw the viewer in and focus on the Mill. Now that I’m building the compositon I have to keep those things in mind and add to them. As I add complexity to the composition I have to keep those things in mind as I decide what to leave in, what to remove and what to change. At the same time I have to keep in mind that I am now working on the composition, not doing a value drawing. I like pencil work, and drawing is an important part of any painting, but I’m not doing a full fledged graphite drawing, so I’ll add a bit of shading to get the feel of three dimensions and how some objects relate to one another, but try not to go any further.

Starting on the left side, I used the evergreen tree on the creek bank as a starting point and added to it. You’ll see three more trees behind it helping to fill in that side. I also was able to change the shapes a bit to, I hope, make them more interesting. I also added branches further down the trunk.

Some of the deciduous trees on the left of the Mill I felt were unnecessary, so I left only two in, one near the creek and one further back nearer the bridge. This simplification, I think, made the left side look better.

There was also very little snow on the evergreens in the photo, presumably because there was some wind with the snow and it kept much of it off the tree. I did add some in the drawing and I’m not sure yet how much I’ll have in the finished painting.

You’ll notice that I increased the density of the evergreen shrubs on the creek bank. In some ways filling that area in more solidly simplifies the composition because I don’t have to add as many holes. But I will need to add snow to the shrubs.

On the right hand side of the drawing are the trees that help frame the Mill as well as stop the eye from wandering off the picture. I wasn’t quite sure of the type of evergreen here. It looked to be a pine but my mind said that it should be a hemlock. So, I did some research, found some photos of hemlocks, and worked up the tree as a hemlock. In the photo there are a multitude of branches on the tree and I thought that could be simplified some also. I reduced the number considerably, left most of them near the bottom to help frame the Mill, and thinned out the top. Some of the limbs were blocking the view of the Mill in the photo, so I removed them. As I transferred the sketch of the hemlock tree to the final drawing surface I eliminated some of them.

Before I go on here I want to discuss briefly how I go about putting the final drawing together. I don’t draw all the elements on the final paper in their final positions in one pass. I draw all of the major elements (the Mill, the major trees on the right and the left, the deciduous trees) on separate sheets of tracing paper, then shift them around to get an arrangement I like. It also makes it easier to draw each object because I don’t have to draw around other objects. I can concentrate on the structure of each one individually. When I tape them all up on a sheet with the background, I can place an overlay of tracing paper on top and draw the whole thing. It’s additional work but it works for me.

I left in the two thinner deciduous trees on the right – the ones that are leaning inward. They help to break up the form of the hemlock, which could become a problem if left to stand by itself. I’m just not sure of the diameter of the foreground tree. It may need to be thinned a bit.

As it stands right now, the darkest elements nearly encircle the Mill. The dark value starts on the lower left with the large rock, travels upward to the evergreen trees, then passes by means of the bridge and the darker values behind it to the Mill. The darker values behind the Mill also contrast sharply with the white roof. The dark values continue from behind the Mill to the trees on the right.

All I have to do now is paint. I will try to have that update posted by Thursday. Then I’ll be nearly back on schedule.

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Work In Progress: Glade Creek Grist Mill

Work In Progress: Glade Creek Grist Mill, Update 6 Some unforeseen business has suddenly reared its ugly head and I won’t be able to post Update 6 tomorrow. I will try my best to get the Update posted by March 28. I’m working on the final composition but have had to postpone work because of other pressing matters. Things should be back to normal by post time next week.

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Work In Progress: Glade Creek Grist Mill, Update 5

The Color Sketch

After working up a number of color sketches, I believe I’ve come up with one that looks good.

When I looked at the photo something about the sky caught my attention. It was very subtle, but it was there. The lightness of the sky just above the background trees suggested a very light yellow color. I don’t think the yellow is really there but every time I looked at the photo, I got that same impression of a very light yellow – as if the sun was off in the western sky, not real low, maybe late afternoon. Maybe that was just my mind working, but I decided to include it in the painting – and I think the effect is nice. I put in the sky first – a light wash of new gamboge wet into wet. Then, I did a graded wash of Windsor blue wet into wet, down into the new gamboge.

I wanted to keep the colors on the cool side, and then play them against the warm highlights on the snow and the sky. With cool on my mind, I mixed a cool gray with windsor blue, new gamboge and permanent rose, tilting toward the violet, to wash in the background trees. I washed in a darker combination down behind the bridge and the Mill.

The color of the snow was not an easy choice. Many artists have used cobalt blue or ultramarine blue. My first attempt included cobalt blue but I wasn’t happy with that blue, so I switched to windsor blue. For me, the cobalt blue was a bit too grainy and strong. I wanted the blue to be smooth and uniform and the cobalt blue didn’t seem to work that way for me. I’ve always been partial to windsor blue, especially for sky color, so I decided to use it for the snow as well. Since I had already used it for the sky, I wanted to be consistent. Keep the palette limited and use the same colors for all the mixes.

For the entire area of snow I first washed in very light tints of new gamboge and permanent rose. I did these washes separately, wet into wet, making sure the paper was dry in between. Then I went in with a final light tint of windsor blue, mostly in the areas where there would be shadows. I left the sunlit areas devoid of any blue.

After the under washes I started back over the shadowed areas with a combination of windsor blue and burnt sienna I built up washes of this same combination to strengthen the shadows.

The trees and shrubs were hookers green, yellow ochre and windsor blue in various combinations. The tree trunks were windsor blue and burnt sienna.

I mentioned in the Value discussion how much the Mill stands out because of the light roof against the darker background of the trees. Now that I’ve added color it stands out also because of the warm browns against the cool blues of the background trees. The Mill colors are burnt umber, burnt sienna, raw umber, yellow ochre and windsor blue. When I do the final painting I may change the look of the Mill a bit from that shown here. I want a bit more gray in it, to give a more weathered look.

I still have a problem doing color sketches. My nature is to make detailed paintings. Even when I’m rendering color sketches there’s a part of me that’s looking critically at the detail in the painting. I have to keep telling myself that the purpose of the color sketch is not detail or final composition, but the relationships of color within the painting. How well I’ve rendered objects in the color sketch is irrelevant. The focus is color. Details are for the final composition. Whenever I become too focused on detail in a sketch I stop, get up and walk back away from the paining, viewing it from a distance. I also turn the light off and look at the painting in subdued lighting. Sort of like squinting. That way, I look at the overall arrangement of colors, not at how well I’ve rendered the Mill. Color sketches are meant to be quick and loose, so if I’m not happy with the relationships, I can go on to the next, without having invested a lot of time in details.Yes, color sketches is an area I continue to work on.

Now that I’ve done my color and value sketches I’m going to work up the final composition – put in the detail! For this I’ll work up some pencil sketches based on the original idea sketch and the photos. I may want to add more trees, grasses, branches, shrubs. I’ll add more detail to the snow. Ideas and changes are a constant. Even when I’ve started painting I’ll think of something else to add – or something to remove. It’s an evolving, changing process from beginning to end. After the final compositional drawing, I’ll start painting – at last!

 

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Work in Progress: Glade Creek Grist Mill, Update 4

The Value sketches.
The purpose of the Value sketches is to explore alternative layouts that give balance to the composition and highlight the center of interest – the Mill. As I looked at the photo of the Mill I could see that a lot of the work had already been done. Still, I don’t want to be lazy and assume the photo has done all the work for me. So, I still want to go over it, pick out its strong points, note them, and see how I can use them. Then, I’ll see what elements of the picture need to be changed or enhanced.
First, we’ll go over the strong points of the photo as it is.
Without making any changes to the original photo, the Mill already stands out because of the white roof, surrounded by darker forms around it. The bridge itself is dark but the snow on the post tops and on the rails creates a dot and line trail that helps lead the eye directly to the Mill. Even the snow on the waterwheel helps to outline it. The trees on the right side, though they have light valued foliage, have dark limbs, and the dark limbs overpower the lighter value of the foliage.
This is how I see the scene: The large darks of the evergreen tree on the left are picked up by the dark forms of the shrubs along the bank, and also the bridge (as well as the dark forms behind the bridge), carrying the eye toward the right. These dark forms are aided by the white dots and lines on the bridge. The eye moves to the right, where it becomes engaged on the white roof of the Mill. The evergreen tree on the right side, with its dark limbs, helps to frame the Mill, as well as stop the eye from moving off the picture on the right. The large form, as well as the dark tree trunk, balances the dark forms on the left. The white foreground is wedge shaped and narrows down to a point just below the Mill. This also helps to draw the eye in toward the Mill.
I worked up a number of value sketches based on the photo. The first sketch (4A) is fairly simple but gives a good impression of the value pattern: a dark wedge form on the left that points in the direction of the Mill; the dark form on the right stops the eye from moving off the paper; the white roof becomes the focus of attention in between. I left the Mill dark in the first sketch.
In the second sketch (4B) I lightened the side of the Mill. The sunlight is coming from the right, so the far right side of the Mill is in sunlight and would be light in value. The left side of the Mill is facing away from the sunlight and is in shadow, However, I made made that side lighter than the surrounding darks to help it stand out a bit more.
I purposely left the snow in the foreground and the sky the lightest values.
The third value sketch (4C) is similar to the second, just a bit more refined and a little more detailed. I darkened the side of the Mill in shadow and lightened the side in sunlight. I also added some mid tones to the snow. One other addition to the last sketch was the rock formation in the lower left. The darks of the rock as well as the shadows between it and the left side tree connected the whole mass on the left, adding to the sweep of forms leading the eye to the Mill. The rock near the bottom picks up the eye and leads it up toward the left and then sweeps around toward the right where the white roof of the Mill (and the tree on the right) stops the eye. Hopefully, then the viewer will explore the Mill, its old wooden sides and the waterwheel below.
Further enhancements can be made with color. Though the scene is dominated by light and dark values, there is room for suggestion of subtle color, in the Mill, the sky and the snow, and we’ll go into that next week as the final step in planning stages of this painting.

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Work In Progress: Glade Creek Grist Mill, Update 3

As I do with every painting, I’m going to go through the planning and thinking stages as well as the painting stages. I find it very worthwhile doing this each time I create a painting. It keeps me from rushing into the painting process before I think through the composition. No matter the subject, whether it’s building a piece of furniture or teaching a class or designing a garden, taking a vacation, or painting a picture, I find researching it out beforehand enables me to do a better job. The research I did on snow made me realize how much more there is to snow than just white.
The first thing to think about when you’re contemplating a painting is “what is the subject?” What’s this painting all about? Deciding on the subject helps with the composition. In this case the subject is the mill – Glades Creek Grist Mill. That’s what I want viewers to focus in on. Everything I do in composing the scene after making that decision has to help focus attention on the mill. You, of course, want viewers to look around the painting, see the other things you’ve done, but you want them to be led to the mill as a focus or center of interest. I took a lot of photos of the mill and its surroundings and had a hard time narrowing the scene down to one photo that “says it all”. That’s where artistic license come in. Changing this a bit, adding something, removing something else. It’s rare that a photo has everything you want.
First of all, how do we create a center of interest. There are a number of ways of doing it but they all come down to contrast. Contrast draws the eye. It’s something very different from its surroundings. The contrast can be color or shape, hard or rough edges, small marks or value. Value is probably the best and most important way of creating contrast. And, although contrast is the most important means of isolating the center of interest, the other methods should be employed as well whenever they can be worked in.
In the case of the Mill, the white roof, covered with snow, naturally, even without further development, stands out from the darker background. That’s a good start. The trees behind the mill contrast sharply with the Mill’s roof. The Mill’s wood siding is very dark on the left side, and that’s good. And if I added a bit of brown, maybe with reddish highlights, the color and value would contrast with its surroundings. The darker color of the Mill also contrasts with the snow beneath it. I like the bridge leading over to the Mill. It serves an important purpose which I’ll go into in a moment. The fact that it, too stands out from the background because of the dark shrubs behind it and the snow capped posts is a happy coincidence.
Placement of the center of interest within the picture is important. If it’s placed too close to the outside, the viewer’s eyes may find it too easy to wander off the picture before exploring all there is to see. The rule of thirds becomes very important here. If the picture area is divided into thirds both horizontally and vertically, the center of interest is best placed, and will be most noticeable near the intersection of the dividing lines. That gives us four spots to place the Mill. I purposely cropped the photo in four different ways to see which looked better. The one I chose places the Mill in the upper right intersection. That way we get to see a lot of the snow, the bridge leading to the Mill is effective, and not too much sky is shown. We wind up with a lot of variety.
The other reason the bridge is important is that it helps to lead the eye to the Mill. After making the center of interest stand out from its surroundings, there are things we can do to lead the eye to it. One is the bridge. It’s a line of white dots and lines pointing to the Mill. Maybe all we have to do is strengthen it a bit by removing a few trees in front of it. I’ll have to see how that works when I work up some sketches. The trees on the right and left prevent the viewers eye from passing out of the picture. I’m just not sure of the one on the left. Is it too dark and distracting? Trying out some sketches will help.
The last thing I want to discuss (so I don’t make this too labored and boring) is the orientation of the painting. Vertical or horizontal? I tried both and preferred the horizontal. Vertical orientation, shown in photo 0296, doesn’t due justice to the surroundings, and the surroundings are important to the Mill. To get the full impact of the foreground waterfall you need width. The bridge also requires width. Although I want the Mill to be the center of interest, I want to show the beautiful surroundings. Horizontal does the best job. I did try a wider format, photos 0297Aa and 0297c, but then the landscape becomes a little too important and the Mill less. It was a tough choice. I did like the wider formats a lot. Maybe I’ll use them in a later painting. In the end, I stuck with a 1:1.25 format, shown in photo 0293c. The painting will be something near 30” wide and 24” high.

Next week I’ll present the composition, value and color sketches.

IMG_1212 Update 3 IMG_0297c Glade Creek Grist Mill IMG_0297Aa IMG_0296bGlade Creek Grist Mill IMG_0293c Glade Creek Grist Mill