Southern Comfort, part 2 – Painting the Composition

Last time I evaluated a photograph to adapt the subject for painting. Once my preliminary evaluation was complete, I began by developing the composition for the painting. Sketching out the revised composition, I moved the focal point at the rabatment of the rectangle (extrapolating a square from one end, based on the length of the short edge of the rectangle). I also took the opportunity to relocate the overhanging branch.

Applying a few initial light washes to establish placement, I then sketched in areas of lowest values.


A series of glazes followed, to build up layers of color, indicating the shadowed and sun-enfiltered foliage and the dappled verge and roadway.


During my ongoing evaluation of the developing painting, I realized that the overall appearance remained too cool. I used various combinations of yellows, browns, and reds to warm the foliage and beards of Spanish moss in the middle ground, as well as the middle ground verges. Incorporating judicious touches of violet, I increased the value contrast around the moss beards to allow them to appear more strongly backlit. Although it’s not readily apparent to the viewer, I also created a red “thread” throughout the composition and pumped up the saturation in the foreground.

Most of the rhythms—the tree trunks, moss beards, cannonballs—seemed to be working in harmony. The main branch of the overhanging limb running counterpoint to the angle of the main drive helped to balance the composition. But I felt that the upper right arm of that branch distracted from the “melody,” so I desaturated and softened it to reduce its prominence, while emphasizing the lower limbs that echoed the line of the circle drive.


The finished painting was obviously not intended to replicate the photograph, but I feel it succeeds in my goal of evoking the sense of history and atmosphere suggested by the photo.

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