Posts Tagged ‘painting from a photo’

Southern Comfort, part 1 – Planning the Composition

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

A friend showed me a photograph she had taken recently, explaining that she hoped to paint it someday but didn’t know how to approach it. I agreed that it was a lovely scene, evocative of the Old South. The more I considered the image, the more I wanted to paint it myself, not because it was perfect but because it offered some challenges I wanted to figure out how to address. She encouraged me to undertake it.


(Photo copyright 2012 by Laura Emmick, used by permission.)

Some of the problems I immediately identified included an almost symmetrical composition, an elongated aspect ratio (very different from those of standard painting grounds), an uncompelling focal point, a limited and low-saturation color scheme, and limited pattern definition.

I began my preliminary work by considering the overall composition. Cropping the image and moving the focal area off center, taking advantage of a “golden section,” and including the adjoining field and fence at the left, evoked in me a sense of expansiveness and gentility. The overhanging branch (which almost paralleled the lines of the road edge) would be retained but moved farther to the left to help balance the curves of the road underneath it.

I decided, also, to replace the car and figure in the focal area with a horse and rider, thereby enhancing the sense of history and gentility while providing an opportunity to introduce some contrasting colors to play off the muted greens surrounding it. Variations of the contrasting colors could be repeated in the trunks and foliage of the trees to provide color threads throughout the painting, serving to enliven and unify the color harmony.

Finally, I wanted to enhance the sense of depth, so decided to warm the foreground and reduce the warmth and saturation as the road and field recede into the distance.

These decisions gave me a starting point for my painting. Follow along next time when I pick up my brushes and begin the actual work.