“Holy Isle, Arran” – Composition exercise

landscape demo holy isle o

Here is an exercise that Anji, from my Monday group, wished to explore; The process of taking a landscape photograph towards a finished painting.

I was given this photograph of Holy Isle, Arran to work from.

holy isle

It’s nice and clear, the subject is detailed and the water is bright and colourful. There are issues to resolve, though, and the first that comes to mind is composition. It’s not very exciting as it stands. The island is too close to the top edge for me so I would like more sky. The grass bank, bottom left, doesn’t add anything so I’ll take that out. The mossy rocks are a bit grim, so I think I will lessen their prominence.

I like to visualise a painting in photographic form before I do anything on canvas. I use Paintshop Pro to do this. Once the image is scanned and in the computer I can chop and change as I please, to get what I want for the painting to begin.

I‘ll briefly outline the stages rather than try and faff my way through a Paintshop demo

Step one: I increase “canvas size” on the photograph to give me the workspace to paste other layers on top.

holy isle increase canvas size

Step two: I googled “sunny clouds” (and variations) to give me images of sky with clouds in them. I can then copy a few suitable versions to paste onto my original until I find a compatible pairing.

Step three: I also look at colour at this point to make sure the whole image harmonises.

Step four: I can now decide on crop and format for the painting. I like the square, so I think it will work for me here.I lower the horizon to give more sky and less rocky shore. Below are some of the variations I looked at.

holy isle square 1 500

holy isle square 7 small

holy isle doublesquare 1 small

holy isle square 8 small

The image above is the one I opt for.I now have my image for painting. Next thing to consider is style of painting. My recent landscape demos have been painterly alla prima jobs, so it’s probably wise for me to continue in this way . I also have to practise what I preach in class – “more paint!”.

It is amazing the amount of paint you have to use to gain a foothold in the bravura style.

My palette here is titanium white, ultramarine blue, ceruleum blue, alizarin crimson, yellow ochre, ivory black, cadmium yellow and cadmium red.

It is painted on white ground, cotton canvas. 14” x 14”.

I only used three brushes, A largish (technical,eh!) filbert, a Medium /small round and a small watercolour brush for a few slim lines.

The paint is put on in thick strokes and moved about as I progress down the canvas from the top. The sky is almost complete before I tackle the land or foreground.

You can see the painting is unfinished at the bottom and bottom left. I may take it further but probably not, as it is an exercise.

The four steps above, on reading, look straightforward. It wasn’t as easy as it sounds. It was quite time consuming cutting and pasting and I tried many variations of sky and land combinations. I also tried a few differing canvas shapes but plonked for the square in the end.

Here is the photo and painting side by side. I changed the cloud formation slightly, I thought the balance was lopsided so I brought a small cloud in from the left and cut the top left corner one.

photo painting comparison 2

~ by David Reid on August 26, 2013.

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