What is your background?

In order to feature the two figures in “The Challenge,” I decided to minimize the background, which, in the reference photograph, was a rather busy room.  I tried the same composition using both a dark (#090704) and a light (#090706) background.  The resulting difference was dramatic.  (This item is categorized under The School of Oops not because it was a mistake but because I learned a great lesson from my experimentation.  You’re invited to comment on the “lab” results.)

The Challenge 1

The dark background draws attention to the playing board, lit by a glaring, bare bulb almost directly overhead, which also fades the players’ features into shadow.  Focus is on the board and the impending move.  The question posed is “Who…or what… is challenging whom?”

The Challenge 2

The light background, on the other hand, draws attention to the two players, rather than to the board, and suggests a higher level of ambient light that reflects more color into the players’ faces.  The play here is only a moment away from that in the other version as the player in blue now contemplates the board.  Is he reassessing the position into which he’s just placed his opponent, or is he evaluating his own predicament?

Not only does the background I chose for each version affect how the viewer interprets the scene, but it affected my own approach and response to the subject matter as I painted.  My treatment of the details in the two versions is somewhat different, partly because of the tone set by the different backgrounds.

I would be interested to hear comments regarding your preference of the two versions and why you feel about each the way you do.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

2 Responses to “What is your background?”

  1. I love the light backround, it really makes a difference, the painting makes more sense, The players really stand out. I never thought about trying that, or it would make such a big difference.
    Sometimes I’m not sure if I should use a dark or light backround I will experiment from now on…Thank you for sharing.
    Love your work…

  2. Charlotte says:

    Sometimes, if you’re using a photo reference, you can cut up a copy of the photo (either physically or digitally) and try it against several different backgrounds. That doesn’t take into account any variations in paint colors within the subject, any texture you might add, or the bleeding of colors that is characteristic of watercolor. But it can provide a starting point and help you narrow your choices.

Leave a Reply