Thursday, 9 December 2010

Tough Task

This month's challenge from my friend Peter ( is a complicated image presenting a number of problems for the watercolour painter. However, it was just what I needed having been absorbed in preparation for the recent Art Fair. The opportunity to sit and think through what would be required to attempt this as well as as dust off the brushes.

The first thing to notice is the fact that the picture is shot against the light, rendering many of the important areas, like the face, in shadow. Secondly, the picture has great depth from front to back. Thirdly, there isn't a huge range of colours in the image.

Obviously, the key to a successful piece would be to ensure that the value range reflected the light conditions and give the impression of sunlight and shadow. Here the problem was getting sufficient depth of tone in the shadows and I found it very difficult to produce this in one pass.

Recession in pictures is always important and working from front to back with increasing amounts of pigment is a partial key to achieving this. With this picture there is a further complication in that the dried grass strip reads darker in tone that the paved area which can make for confusing aerial perspective issues.

Altering mixtures of pigment in fairly subtle ways was my solution to the colour issue, although I couldn't resist reducing the colour scheme of the seated character with his back to us in red and white stripes.

After all that I decided to do a little savage pruning of the vegetation and street furniture.

I'll leave my viewers to judge how far I've gone along the road of addressing the issues identified in my initial thoughts.

Photograph - Charles Reid at the easel

Charles Reid at the easel - Watercolour 16" x 12" on Rough paper


Caroline said...

You know Mick I went over to see Peter's version of the photo and it is so interesting to see the difference in each of your paintings. Peter's flows with great energy and life it is as if the arm of the painter is still in motion of putting paint onto the paper, the palm trees are full of life, the painting beams with colour. Your painting has a quiet elegance maybe you are careful and afraid to really move with this one, yet I like it, the very bright sun shines here and I do wonder if the palms would have made a difference to the painting maybe the viewer would have moved away from looking at Charles to take more in of the scene around him. Yet I love this painting the way light is the focal point how it lights up Charles and brings unity to the portrait. The limited palette really works well here too. Well done!

Peter Ward said...

An interesting way to tackle it Mick. I have the advantage - if it is one - of having a whole series of photos taken at the scene. My way was to more or less paint it as it appeared. I have elaborated on my post some of the question marks although so far no comments! The figure is my main doubt and you have emphasized him much more than me. Mine too literal an interpretation?

Mick Carney said...

Caroline - You're correct our two approaches are so very different. I've been thinking about it and as I've written on Peter's blog I think that my monochrome photography continues to be a big influence in how I see the world. As I wrote earlier, one of my intentions was to try and transmit the feeling of light and shade and if that comes across I've got to be pleased. Thanks a lot.

Peter - You are definitely a colourist in your approach and it makes for joyful images. Married to a loose approach it really works. For me with this one my aims were as outlined in the post. I decided that a wide value range was essential in translating my vision. I also used it to emphasise what for me was the main subject, that is Charles.

Caroline said...

That is very interesting about the monochrome photography! I also work from monochrome photos too. It does help to see the tonal values and the light too. It can be artistic too if I can use such a word, but it can give it a more painterly appearance.