I saw a picture by u/le-croissant on Reddit r/MostBeautiful about a month ago, and I loved it. (Instagram @the_casual_iphonographer)
He gave me permission to paint it, so I gave it a shot.
The first time, I hated it. Actually, I should be more clear—I liked it a lot, until I decided for some reason to retouch the tower. At first, it was very subtle and washed out, and lacking detail. Then, I thought that the tower was warmer in the reference photo, so I tried to add a smidge of warmth. That wasn’t right so I added a smidge more – and a smidge more… you get the idea.
I finally gave up and just smashed water everywhere. Which is a good sign that I should stop painting for the day.
So I stopped. And I went and painted other things. And they were terrible too. It went on like that for a few days. I wasn’t happy with anything.
Today, I figured I’d give the Eiffel Tower photo another try.
First, I painted the Eiffel Tower very lightly. I want this painting to hint at the tower without focusing on it entirely. Sure, there are about eleventy billion more lines and bars in the photo, but I didn’t want them all in the image – I only wanted enough to convey the idea of the Eiffel Tower.
Caution: The following is me pretending like I’m a real artist. Just play along…Beyond here, there be dragons.
I firmly believe that the most enjoyable part of viewing a painting is participating in the creative act. This is why I like expressionism so much. By alluding to an object, without portraying it in excruciating detail, the viewer is afforded the opportunity to fill in the gaps. This process forces the viewer to create interference and spontaneously imagine details that aren’t in the painting. If done well, a loose expressive painting not only conveys a feeling that I have as an artist, but it also gives the audience the chance to create, and hopefully feel, along with me.
That’s why I chose to include only a few details on the tower. I want the viewer to reach into their memory and pull out what they remember the Eiffel Tower looking like. It’s not likely that they will remember every beam, so I include a few to remind the viewer of what details might be found in the structure, and let them complete the image on their own.
The bridge and river are both started very simply, with little detail. I probably could have just omitted them entirely, but I think including them grounds the tower much like a cast shadow grounds an object on a table.
I then suggested some branches and leaves with a loose wash of reds and oranges. The branches in the reference photo are much more sparse, but I wanted to give the viewer a feeling like they were under a canopy, and thought a more dense foliage would help put the viewer in the scene.
When that dried, I went back with some stronger reds and purples. Again, this is much more dense than the reference photo, and perhaps I went a little too far. But there’s part of me that likes the way it feels. If I try this painting again, I will likely try a much more sparse canopy to see how that reads.
So there you go, not a detailed write up, but this is the thing I painted tonight.
Oh, and I’ve been working on some very basic paintings lately, trying to study value, edges, colors, and light, I’ll post on those after I’ve studied more so I will actually have something useful to say.