Archive for February, 2014

Planning a New Crop

Saturday, February 15th, 2014

Selecting an interesting subject is only the beginning of designing a successful painting.


When I shot this photograph of Victoria Harbor, I was interested first in the colorful trim on the houseboat at the right. But I also wanted to capture the calm of the harbor and the variations in the houseboats in relation to the sailboat across from them. As I considered cropping the image to paint later, I took a more critical look at it.


Cropping to include both areas of interest presented a number of problems. The strong horizontal at the distant waterline was almost vertically centered. The red and yellow trim of the houseboat railing did not work well with the color harmony of the rest of the image. And the rebatement from both ends of the rectangular format fell within the uninteresting white mass in the center. So I decided to try a different crop, to feature either the railing or the sailboat, but not attempt to include them both, as they detracted from each other. So I experimented with two different crops.


The first, featuring the railing, contrasted the saturated colors against the muted colors of the other houseboats. The left edge of the railing also fell at the rebatement of the rectangle. But there still seemed to be a problem with shapes being too evenly spaced. And I felt that the image was no longer so compelling.


The other crop featured the sailboat. I liked the vertical line of the mast and bow (repeated in the piling and its reflection to the left as well as in the verticals of the houseboat reflections). Also the gently curving lines of the vessel contrasted with the very straight horizontal and oblique lines of the houseboats, their reflections, and the ship behind them. The waterline horizontal no longer cut the image in half, and the more saturated blue of the isolated sailboat contrasted well with the muted browns and grays elsewhere in the picture. I moved the bottom border to avoid ending the oblique of the pier directly in the corner of the image. The reflection of the horizontal bar from the piling also helped to keep the viewer’s eye from following the line downward and out of the image plane.

Comparing Mediums

Saturday, February 1st, 2014

Since I’ve begun working in multiple mediums, a number of people have asked which I prefer. My response is that it depends on what I want to convey with the painting. My decision is based less on the subject than on the concept I hope to express through the finished work, and what I want the viewer to think about.

Although it doesn’t necessarily hold true for every artist or every style of painting, in my own work I find that oils and acrylics both provide richer colors and greater opportunity for control and correction for detailed work. They also offer a somewhat more “solid” feel in the finished painting. Watercolor, on the other hand, is looser and tends to create a lighter, airier impression.

131201a Golden Arches, Rhodes

In these paintings of an arch-spanned walk on the island of Rhodes, the acrylic version (#131201, above) emphasizes the solidity and rhythms of the masonry arches themselves, whereas the watercolor version (#131202, below) emphasizes the play of light as it filters between the arches and the rhythm of patterns it creates along the walk.

131202w Sunlit Arches , Rhodes

I like the control that oils and acrylics put into my hands. But I also enjoy the free-flowing serendipity of working in watercolor.

Working in acrylic is like a child led by the hand, kept close and under control.

Watercolor is like a child with a mind of its own. Much like its parent, I try to guide it into the areas I want it to occupy and then let it run as it will. Sometimes it needs coaxing, sometimes it needs to be limited or corralled a bit and “encouraged” or directed to behave as I want it to. Occasionally it takes off on its own and I have to race to catch up, rethinking and adjusting my original plan on the fly. That’s part of the fun of watercolor.

So…which is my favorite? It all depends….