I continue to focus on composition in my paintings. That is the basic structure of the painting. When the composition is strong it attracts a viewer's eyes from across the room and then takes them on a journey through the painting. A big part of this is simplifying the subject. Looking for a few big shapes and reducing all the various shades (values) of dark and light to 4 or 5 shades. That means massing similar values into one value shape. Each color has its own value. It's often hard to "see" that value.
I decided to take a new approach to my painting process by making a value study of my subjects before I begin the actual painting. At first I used pastel pencils on toned paper to make the studies. The pastel was too easy to blend and didn't force me to make simple shapes. I switched to gouache on white or toned paper. I use 5 tubes of gouache: white, black and 3 grays. These studies are approximately 4" x 6". I don't spend time trying to get the drawing correct. I'm focusing on values and shapes. This process has helped clarify the structure of the painting for me. Sometimes after doing the value study, I realize the set up is not working. I then can make changes or decide to abandon the idea.
Here's the process for my painting "Syttende Mai". I painted it from a photo I had taken on a recent trip to Norway.
|My gouache palette|
|6" x 4" gouache study|
|Sketched on canvas|
|The finished painting "Syttende Mai".|
18" x 14", oil on linen.
Here is another example. This was a complicated set up with an antique patterned coverlet, objects and reflections. I liked the subdued colors and close values in the composition. The study helped me organize the values and shapes.