This painting is my attempt to recreate a photo that I took one morning just after sunrise at Deer Creek here in Ohio. I went fishing in the morning, and stopped for a moment on the dock to take some pictures. One of my favorite photos was this one:

After a few weeks of having that photo in my “things I want to paint” album on my phone, I finally decided to try to paint it. I felt like it was a good subject to paint after my realization about incorporating simplicity into a composition so that the eye has somewhere to rest. This photo has three very distinct fields of view: the background, consisting of the water and distant trees with their reflection; the midground, consisting of the boards on the left and top; and the foreground, consisting of the boards on the right and bottom.

For the background, I simply wetted everything except for the boards, and then painted wet-in-wet. I used a mixture of yellow, blue, and red to create a grey, which I painted in the bottom-right. Then I used clean water to bring that toward the horizon, quickly fading to clean white. Then, I warmed that grey a bit and painted the reflections, and finished by cooling the grey to paint the trees. I wasn’t happy with the shapes that I got, but I knew that any attempts to fix these shapes would have just ruined the background. Since it’s not the focus of the painting at all anyway – I decided to leave well-enough alone. And, I’m happy that I did, because that’s probably my favorite part of this painting.

Once that was completely dry, I painted the mid-ground and foreground. I noticed how yellow-green the wood appeared in the source photo, and wanted to try to emulate that in the painting. Unfortunately, what I didn’t realize until now is that the wood in the mid-ground is yellow-green, and the wood in the foreground is grey-green. Had I noticed this at the time, I think that slight change in tonality in the foreground would have really helped define the image a bit more.

I also ended up painting too many details in the mid-ground, and had to scrub them out. This resulted in overworking the mid-ground. When I go to paint this again – I’ll have to remember to keep the mid-ground fresh and blurry. Let some failures exist there – they aren’t the focal point anyway.

Too much detail in the mid-ground, and you can see where I should have stopped on the board at the bottom-left.

 

Finally, I painted the details in the foreground. This is where I really need to spend the most time. When I went to paint this, I started with the board on the bottom-right. That was a mistake. I painted that first because I am left-handed, so it won’t get in my way. But – I really should have started with the two-by-four in the middle of the painting, because ultimately that’s where I want the focal point to be. By focusing on the board at the bottom, I started with a lot of detail in a spot that shouldn’t be the focal point – which made it more difficult for the focal point to stand out.

Finally, I added WAY too much detail to the board at the bottom-left. I should have left this as mostly blurred so that it would recede. Instead, I worked it over like Muhammed Ali, and it shows.

I tried to soften some of the details in the mid-ground, and overworked it a bit. I also tried to add details to the board at the bottom-left, and overworked it a lot.

I’m really happy with the background, and the two-by-four in the middle of the painting. I also like the cracks in the 1×6 that is the top railing. The rest has room for improvement.