Saturday, September 12, 2009
Beginning a painting
Thumbnail sketches give you a great way to work out different compositional ideas, quickly and in miniature. They allow you to spot compositional weaknesses, and work out patterns of light and dark, all before you ever begin the painting in earnest.
Here are three thumbnail sketches of a pear I drew as part of a class demonstration in the last couple of weeks. (Please pardon the images showing through from the handout on the reverse.... See? You don't even have to use nice paper for these. They're quick and easy.) Looking at the three, I decided I preferred the composition on the top right. I worked out the lights and darks. Then I was ready to turn to my painting.
When you begin your painting, remember that you can't get to the end when you're only just beginning. Often students are tempted to focus on some lovely detail in some small part of the painting - like the lighting and surface details on that juicy pear - instead of working all over the whole surface. It's going to look sketchy at first - that's okay! That is actually a very good thing!
The important thing is to get your composition worked out and make sure you like it. Turn it upside down. Is it balanced? Are the negative spaces interesting?
Then, after you've made any changes to the initial composition, block in big shapes of color. Don't leave white spaces! (I know this is hard for watercolorists.) If you leave a space white, that white will assume more and more importance as the painting progresses - and you will become more and more nervous about what to do there. Be kind to yourself - you can avoid a whole lot of stress by just putting color there. Don't worry. You'll change it later anyhow. Trust me.