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Painting Workshop 59
 
 

"Boat Repairs" 14 x 14" Oil on Canvas by Richard Robinson.

"Jonathan Seagull" 15 x 15" Oil on Canvas by Richard Robinson.

 

 

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This Month's Challenge

Jonathan Seagull

Paint a portrait of a beautiful seagull. Learn how to draw a seagull more accurately, how to sculpt the form with large planes, how to create an elegantly subdued colour scheme using a simple palette, how to use just a few sharp details to bring your seagull to life, and a lot more. Follow me step by step or use the resource photos to paint something more your own. Enjoy!

Click image to enlarge.        
         
Resource Photo   Resource Photo   Resource Photo
         
Resource Photo   Resource Photo   Resource Photo
         
Resource Photo   Resource Photo   Resource Photo
         
         



The Process

Here's the general process I follow when painting in the studio:

1. Find a scene that moves me.
2. Find the visual concept for that scene. What's the big idea?
3. Draw or imagine the notan design. What's the dark/light design?
4. Paint or imagine a limited value study. Where will I place the main values?
5. Paint or imagine the colour study. Where will I place the main colours?
6. Paint the final painting. Dark to light, big to small, thin to thick.

Visual Concept

Every good painting begins with a strong visual concept. This is something that beginners usually miss completely because they are so concerned with trying to capture the likeness of their subject.

Here is a list of visual concepts:

  • Strong Contrast
  • Active Diagonals
  • Horizontal vs Vertical
  • Atmospherics
  • Light shape against dark shape
  • Spotlight
  • Intricate Complexity
  • Powerful Colour
  • Calm Horizontals
  • Backlighting
  • Tumultuous Movement
  • Mood
  • Interesting Shapes


Note that they are concepts, not things. For example it's not a 'beautiful tree' or 'big
clouds'. A good painter begins with a strong visual concept to base a painting on. The
visual concept is usually suggested by the subject itself, especially in plein air painting,
but you can just as easily apply your own visual concept to the subject or even begin with
a visual concept in mind and find a subject to suit your idea. More often than not the
visual concept will be the very thing that you love most about the scene, the thing that
compels you to paint it, like the dramatic lighting or the strong colour or interesting
shapes. The important thing is to clearly understand this motivation at the very beginning
and write it down so you keep it in mind through the entire painting process.

Here are a few examples of some of my own paintings which began with a strong visual
concept:

visual concept

Notan Design

Notan is a Japanese word meaning the balance of light and dark. Using small notan designs is the best way I know of to begin designing a painting. Most of the way we see our visual world is in terms of
light and dark patterns. Colour is really just the icing on the cake. Our brain recognizes the silhouettes of objects first and needs very little other visual information to work with.

When I see a notan design I see the absolute core of a painting, the skeleton that everything else is built on. Notan is a great way to sort out the placement of the major masses before you dive into your painting. What I try to achieve with my small notan designs is an interesting abstract design which expresses something about what I want to say about my subject, or the 'visual concept'. To help with that I often write the visual concept at the top of the page which sums up what I want to express in the painting. In the case below I wrote 'Bold Shapes, Strong Contrast'. Then I went ahead and did a few different notan designs.

Resource Photo   photo
Original Photo by Lorna Allan   Notan Designs
     
     
  
Can't see this video? 
Watch it on Youtube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PQa3N8KGWfE

 

Limited Value Study

We've looked at Visual Concept and Notan and the next step is to figure out the value structure of your painting. We can see the value of a colour if we convert it to grayscale, like in a black and white photo. Value gives us form. When everything is the same value, like in a whiteout fog, we can't see anything. Your limited value study or studies will be based on your favorite notan design.

Goals for your limited value study:

1. Design a strong value structure from your scene based on your visual concept and your notan design.
2. Learn to see colour in terms of value.
3. Understand the principle of conserving your values. That is, practicing compressing the entire visual range into 5 premixed values.
4. Explore the elements of your scene and how they relate to each other.
5. Explore the possibilities of variations in sharp and soft edges. How far can you push these to help enhance your focal areas?
6. Keep a simplified value structure by keeping your pre-mixed values separate and don't create large gradations. Soft edges yes, gradations no. Simpler is stronger. Don't mix the values together on your palette either.
7. Paint from dark to light, big to small, thin to thick.
8. Use your palette knife if you wish.
9. Enjoy the freedom of using expressive brushwork without the worry of colour mixing.

photo   shadow and light families
Notan Designs   Limited Value Study

For more information on notan and limited value studies please view the workshop video or refer to these earlier workshops: Workshop1 and Workshop2.

Colour Study

Painting a small colour study before getting to the final painting is a great step towards figuring out your colour scheme and ironing out any problems before you commit to a larger painting. Bigger painting, bigger mistakes. It's often easier and faster in the long run to correct those mistakes on a much smaller scale.

Resource Photo   Completed Painting - click to enlarge
Original Photo by Lorna Allan   A completed painting showing notan design, limited value study and colour study as well as the gamut mask used for the colour design.


Here's a video explaining how to analyse colour and value with a colour checker:

Can't see this video? Watch it on Youtube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kVny7BswdqY

Get The Ultimate Painter's Tool here: http://www.livepaintinglessons.com/ultimatetool/index.php

 

You can learn more about using colour here.

Note: If you can't see the videos on this page (above) or on Youtube, I can't help with that sorry - there will be something wrong with your computer settings, but I'm no computer wiz. You would need to contact a computery person to fix that problem.


 

Gallery of the Month's Workshop Challenge Entries  





Painting Critiques

 

Student Painting

"Jonathan and his girlfriend" 12x16" Acrylic on Canvas by Tone Larsen

Great work, Tone - I love the painterliness of this. The drawing of the birds could be a little better but they have a certain sweet charm about them anyway. A viewer will be entranced by your suggestive brushwork, making them much more a part of the painting as they try to decipher the strokes. Love it!

 

Student Painting

"Gail Gulls" 10x10" Oil on Canvas by Gail Richardson

Good work Gail. A polar opposite to Tone Larsen's painting, above where you've carefully delineated each segment. Great job capturing the form of the birds including beautiful warm halftones. Same goes for the translucent and reflective water. Not easy but you did it well. If it were my painting the only thing I made change would be to add more glowing light bouncing of the brightly lit chests as I demonstrated in the video. It's just one of those little touches we painters can add to out-do the photograph.

 

Student Painting

"Flying Seagull" 24x30cm Oil on Canvas by Elena Sokolova

Elena I love this painting and also the other one you did of the seagull on the post. I've been trying to figure out how you did this because it seems to be a departure from your usual work. There are parts of this that almost look photographic and other parts that are so painterly they speak well of the action and spirit of flight. Frame it!

 

Student Painting

"Seagull Snack Time" 25x30cm Acrylic and Oil on Canvas by Jessica Futerman

Nice work Jessica. The drawing is good, the surrounding colours too. Modelling of the head is good but unfortunately you've gone a bit too light in the shadows so we're not getting that round feeling as in the head. I spent a few minutes darkening the bird's shadow areas in Photoshop to show you what it would look like. Note that I didn't touch the lights - the darker darks also make the lights look brighter. If you remember I talked in the video about thinking of the large egg shaped form of the bird throughout the painting of the details therein so that we don't lose sight of the big shape, the big effect of light on form. Squinting always helps us to see the forest for the trees.

Student Painting

 

Student Painting

"I THINK I'VE FOUND LUNCH!!! :)" 15x15" Oil on Canvas by Silvana M Albano

"Local gull found in the Atlantic Ocean. 'Brown Hooded Gull'. It's a really funny looking gull with a great expression!! It seems to be a cartoon.... but it isn't!!"

Looks like you had lots of fun with this one Silvana! Nice off balance design implying movement and action. Good modelling of the bird from light to dark, although you could possibly have made him even rounder by darkening the shadows a little. eg.

Student Painting

That's a minor thing. I love how you've made this painting part realism part abstract by exploring all the textural possibilities in the wet sand. Great work!

 

My final painting


"Boat Repairs" 14 x 14" Oil on Canvas by Richard Robinson.

"Jonathan Seagull" 15 x 15" Oil on Canvas by Richard Robinson.




brush

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Demo Painting from workshop

Painting Workshop 59
Jonathan Seagull

Paint a portrait of a beautiful seagull. Learn how to draw a seagull more accurately, how to sculpt the form with large planes, how to create an elegantly subdued colour scheme using a simple palette, how to use just a few sharp details to bring your seagull to life, and a lot more. Follow me step by step or use the resource photos to paint something more your own. Enjoy!
 
 
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