High Noon, 12 x 16 inches, oil on panel
Well! It has been an interesting and fun experiment to see all the different interpretations from the same photo. Thanks to all of you who participated! I was really surprised by how many responses I received. When I posted the challenge, I seriously thought, "meh, I'll probably get five or six responses." Boy was I wrong. If we were to do this sort of thing again, I'll have to think about how to do it more efficiently. More thoughts on that in a future post.
But for now, here's my own contribution, with a couple of thoughts on the process;
First thing, I cropped. The patterns of dark/light created by the back lit traffic was what interested me, how the shapes could be linked to make abstract patterns and yet with a little bit of visual cues you can tell exactly what's going on. with this in mind, I determined that the sky was not part of my concept, so I cropped that out.
The farthest left car and buildings didn't have much to offer in way of dark /light pattern, so I took those out, too. I also needed it to be a rectangle of 3 : 4 proportion, since I already had a 12 x 16 panel ready to go.
Next I converted the reference photo to black and white. When I do cityscapes, I usually like to work from a b/w reference so as to not be dictated and distracted by predetermined colors. If I really need local color information, I can always go back to the original photo, but I rarely do that. Actual local color isn't relevant in the way I work.
I made a grid on my reference photo in order to transfer the drawing onto my panel.
...like this. By "transfer the drawing" I just mean using the grid as a guide to draw. As mentioned above, the panel is 12 x 16 inches, and I'm using a gessoed surface on this one. I seem to have an easier time controlling values in underpaintings, on a gessoed panel surface than on oil primed linen.
Next I establish my simplified design using two or three values. This is the underpainting. I do rely on underpaintings when doing cityscapes, because drawing is so critical. I want to make sure the design reads at this stage, and the drawing is more or less accurate.
The underpainting is done with just one dark color (in this case, Ivory Black) and a medium like Liquin. It's painted entirely transparently, and I try to keep the value structure as simple as possible.
I then start painting opaquely, keeping very close to the simple value structure established in the underpainting. Where I start to move away from the crude 2 value design (separating the distant areas from the closer areas, for example) , I do so slowly, and carefully, making sure I'm not fragmenting the overall structure.
As the painting develops, I start sneaking in color variations. In doing so, I make sure the value of the added color stays very close to what's underneath, unless I have a very good reason to do otherwise.
I also start integrating adjacent shapes and manipulating edges, sometimes sharpening, sometimes softening or losing entirely. I try to make variety of different types of soft edges, so that they have interesting qualities on their own, in a purely abstract way. Sometimes I do that with the painting upside down so that I don't think about the "thingness" of the shape I'm painting.
And that's it~
I really enjoyed seeing all your interpretations on this little challenge. And I hope you did, too!