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.