This year I posted fewer paintings than any of my previous years. There are a few reasons for this. First, I painted less. I spent a good bit of effort this year on practicing drawing. I tried learning more about perspective in particular, because I want to be able to depict the things I’m trying to paint more confidently. Next year, I intend to spend a lot of effort on figure drawing. I usually draw late at night with a true crime podcast, a YouTube debate, or a cooking show playing in the background. When I stop drawing, it’s usually late, and the drawings are usually pretty crap – so I don’t bother posting.
Next year, maybe I’ll post more of my efforts at drawing – maybe that will encourage me to draw more. Honestly – if I have noticed anything that helps me paint the way I want to, it’s drawing. Nothing seems to improve my painting more than spending time drawing things.
Here is proof that I’m practicing perspective, and proof that these sketches are usually pretty crap:
While I’m at it – here is proof that those sorts of exercises help a lot. This is a drawing I made to study the model skull I have. Artists are supposed to draw skulls or something. I am proud of it.
So – I haven’t posted much this year. Oh well.
Regardless, I have now been painting with watercolor for four years, and as I like to do, I decided to paint that Farm Road photo. I have done this every September since I started painting, and I like it. It’s a really great way to watch my painting evolve, and maybe over time, I’ll see my style mature into something recognizably my own. That’s not my goal yet – my goal right now is just to feel more confident, and to keep painting what I like.
Without further ado, here is the photo that I am painting:
Here is the very first version of the painting:
Before I tried to paint this again this year, I decided to first experiment with some thumbnails. This is something that became very important to me after I entered the Proko Landscape Thumbnails contest (and… did I mention I won that thing? Holy crap!!! I know.)
Anyway – Here are the thumbnails I painted. I started in the bottom left, then painted the bottom right, then the top right, then the top left. I don’t know why I painted them in that order – but who cares.
I learned a lot by painting these.
First, I learned that all the other detritus in the photo isn’t needed. The barns in the distance, the second tree, the hen house… none of it. This photo is about that house. This painting has become a sort of totem for me, dedicated to calm, quiet, nostalgia. And for that reason, the more elements I omit that are in the photograph, the more the image matches what I want to convey.
Second, the house needs to be at least a certain height. I tried making the house smaller, in an attempt to make the image feel more atmospheric, but it didn’t work.
Thirdly, the perspective of the house is very important. After spending so much time working on perspective this year, it comes as no surprise to me that it should be so important. If the vanishing points for the house get angled up too high, or down too low, they actually change the surface of the ground that the house is resting on. I used to think that drawing “downhill” meant putting the subject lower in the frame, but I see now that this is not correct at all. In order for something to appear like it’s going downhill, the vanishing points need to be oriented above the horizon. For something to look like it’s going uphill, the vanishing points should be below the horizon.
Fourtherly, the sky is massively important in this painting, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be complex. In fact, I really liked the impact of painting the sky as one gradual faded wash.
Fiverd, the road doesn’t need to be overworked. Everything in this painting is supposed to be at peace. By muddling additional textures and sprinkling in bits and bobs, I just detract from that sense of orderliness. It’s important to have some level of detail in order to sell the illusion – but too much just gets distracting.
Sixst, the grass looks best when its soft strokes of color. Because the sun is low in the sky, there isn’t a lot of contrast between the colors, but there should be enough to indicate that the landscape rolls gently.
Sevenderly, the sun needs to be sufficiently high to give the eye a reason to move into the sky. If the sun is too close to the horizon, then the road, the house, and the sun all fall into the same line. By moving the sun higher in the sky, like it is in the photo, I can make the weight of the image a lot more balanced, and more comfortable to look at.
So – with those lessons learned… I painted this year’s version of the Farm Road. I’m proud of it.
Edit: Someone on Reddit asked for a print of the different versions of the painting. I put the collage together below that shows all of the paintings at once. I cropped the 2019 painting because I want them all to be the same size. If anyone else wants to print this off, go for it.