Facebook: #1

For this painting I wanted to practice lighting planes on a geometrical shape and working with perspective and atmosphere. I haven’t been happy with how my shapes have been defined in terms of their lit/shadowed sides lately, and I thought working with big angular shapes on manmade surfaces would help me learn more about light and shadow so I can improve that is organic shapes. This is a great exercise, I’ll try this again.

I wanted this to feel like the viewer was looking in on someone else’s house, as if the viewer wasn’t entirely invited, but also not entirely unwelcome. This is the feeling I get sometimes scrolling through a Facebook feed, I get to see something of what is going on in the lives around me, and the people whose lives I’m looking into have no idea that I’m there at that moment. But at the same time, I’m seeing what they want me to see, so while I’m a silent visitor, I’m not unwelcome. There is also the interesting absent presence of what it is that people aren’t sharing, the things behind those dark and mirrored windows. I can only guess at the shapes and contours of what is inside those unposted moments, and I wanted to paint those as shadowy uncertain shapes in the windows. 

I thought a good way to allude to this voyeuristic feeling would be to have a single focal point for perspective. I thought this would make it feel like the viewer was standing dead parallel with the shadowed side of the house. It turns out that this does work, I think it does have the feeling of being uninvited but not unwelcome. The viewer is standing mostly out in the open, not hiding the fact that I am clearly lined up with the shadowed side of the house looking in. But this turned out to be a problem as well, that I didn’t realize until it was too late. The face of the house is wrong. It looks like the house is built at an obtuse angle instead of having 90 degree corners.

Next time, I’ll use two focal points. Maybe that sense of voyeurism is not at all related to the viewer being straight on with the side of the house.

I then started with the sky. I wanted it to recede so I intentionally went with a gradient wash with no detail. I think this does push the sky back, but it feels a little dead. Next time I’ll try some hazy clouds.

I also intentionally didn’t use any masking fluid because I have not been happy with the way it created crisp edges on other paintings. But this painting is composed almost entirely of crisp edges! I really should have used fluid on this one, that will be for the next version.

After the sky I carefully painted the shadowed side of the house. I wanted the house to be white, so I painted a soft blue-violet shadow on that side. Unfortunately, I then went to the shadowed face under the porch – and made it entirely too saturated. This resulted in having to saturate the lit side of the house, which meant it couldn’t be white. 

Then, my soft blue-violet shadowed face was wrong, so I warmed it up to try to get it to read as the same color as the lit side, but in shadow. This didn’t entirely work but I knew I was only a few brush strokes away from mud, so I had to give up.

I then painted the grass. I wanted the grass to be anything but green, because I didn’t want this painting to evoke the “grass is always greener” cliche. That ended up being the right move – I like the orangey/yellow/brown grass. Unfortunately, I tried to make the grass appear more blue as it approached the horizon – because I can’t get that out of my brain. I need to remember – atmosphere doesn’t just make things look blue. Or – I can’t just add blue to magically make anything appear to be affected by atmosphere. In many cases, the atmospheric effect in after is better communicated by a reduction in saturation – and I think that’s the case with this grass. In the next one, I’ll have the grass desaturate as it approaches the horizon as well as turn more blue.

Then I moved on to the tree. I wanted this to be very silhouetted, and wanted the shadow of the viewer on the tree trunk to further the impression that the viewer was standing in the composition. Unfortunately, I forgot that the light source necessitates that the viewer’s shadow falls away from the tree – so there wouldn’t be a viewer’s shadow on the tree trunk. I realized this after painting that shadow down, and needed to soften it out. This quickly started making mud – a demonstration of how important planning is in this medium.

When that fiasco was done, I went back to painting in some more shadows on the house to give it a feeling of more detail. As I did this I realized that I had no lost and found edges, which is something I really want to explore more. I tried adding some in, but chickened out and tried to clean the edges with more shadow. This just made more mud – and started to destroy the value structure I needed. The more I shadow one part, the more I have to shadow everything on that plane. The more I go over glazes, the more mud I make, and the less luminance I have. I need to try harder to allow mistakes to be.

I think that’s more than enough for now. I’ll try this composition again.

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