Gervasi Gazebo: #1

When I was at the Gervasi Vineyard a while ago, I took a photo of a gazebo because the light was striking in an appealing way.

I wanted to paint this gazebo, so first I decided to take my time to create a strong sketch/value study.

I particularly liked this sketch, and decided I would try to capture some of the feel of the sketch in the final painting. There are a few reasons why I like this sketch.

First, the merged shapes. Though the I attempted to carefully represent the photo with the sketch, I did allow many of the planes to merge because the values were very similar. This is easiest to see in the shadow across the top of the gazebo. I also really like the way the curtains were drawn.

The first step of my painting was to try a couple of value studies, which didn’t pan out at all. Both times, I tried to paint the shadows at the same time as the base wash, and – well it was a mess.

I decided that the error was in not used graded washes on the base layer, and trying to paint the whole thing ala prima. For the full-sized version I decided to try to paint it in several steps as seen in this tutorial by Tim Wilmot Here.

1: Planning

2: Drawing

3: Graded washes

4: Darks and shadows

5: Details and highlights

I love the results Mr. Wilmot gets with this strategy and wanted to replicate his style here. Unfortunately, I also got it in my head to attempt a photo-realistic painting… which I abandoned relatively quickly. Then I got it in my head to try to paint from top down – including all values. Then I decided to – well you get the idea. I started painting and ended up trying a dozen different strategies at the same time, and ended up with Frankenstein’s monster.

Oh well. I’m going to try again, but I will stick to the five stages on the next try. Here’s my weird attempt to replicate Mr. Wilmot’s steps – and a quick explanation of what went wrong:

Step 1: Planning

Oops. I forgot about this step – clearly.

Let’s go ahead and consider this my plan for the next one.

For the next one, here’s my plan: I will sketch the image with more detail. I don’t want my final piece to be very tight, but I do want to make sure the man-made shapes are accurate.

I also want to have a figure in the painting lighting a cigarette. I think that will add some interesting light/shadow in the gazebo. This will be difficult to do, I will need to invent a figure, and invent shadows caused by the lit match, and I’ll need to invent some structures inside the gazebo for the light to hit. I will also need to have the color of the flame from the match impact the color of the curtains, and the color of the columns, and the color of the figure. So, when I lay down the graded washes, I’ll need to include a good amount of intensely warm tones right around the figure, and cool tones beyond those in order to ensure a contrast in tonality. I also need to make sure that the shadowed part of the gazebo feels like part of the image instead of just a giant negative shape. I think I can achieve this by choosing a color for the shadows, and sticking with it, the shadow on the columns will be a less-saturated version of the same color used to paint the darkest shadows.

The trees, sky, and brushes will not be sketched. These will all be simplified as much as possible and shouldn’t take center stage.

The most important part of this image needs to be the light from the match. That’s difficult because I’m inventing that element – so – yeah. I’ll also want to lift some pigment to give the impression of smoke around the figure – but not a lot.

Step 2: Drawing

In the first image, I sketched with an HB pencil. This is fine. But recently I have enjoyed the way I sketch with a mechanical pencil. I get more of a calligraphic effect for whatever reason. I’m going to try using a mechanical pencil on the next one.

I also didn’t take as much time with the drawing as I did when I sketched it originally. This is fine, but next time I think I’ll sketch more details than last time so I can allow some of the pencil to show through. I won’t sketch the plants at all.

Step 3: Graded Washes

In this version I had all hard edges in the sky, no variation in the gazebo, and I didn’t paint any graded washes where the shadows ended up.

Next time, I will lay all of the washes with two values: bare paper, and a value 2/5 wash. The sky will be a very simple wash of blue to grey, with the diagonal clouds – which I will need to exaggerate the lines for perspective, and get some lost/found edges. The gazebo will be primarily yellow ochre with some cerulean and some warmer Quin Red here and there, and some cooler Quin Purple where the shadows will be. I will reserve highlights for the figure’s head, hand, and the curtains. The trees will be washed with a warm earth tone on the left, and a brighter/warmer earth tone on the right. The ground will be washed with cool earth tones.

Step 4: Shadows

In this step I’ll use a cool purplish grey value 3 to paint the shadows as one connected shape. I’ll paint them all with an M3b Quin Purple+UM Blue+Yellow Ochre. I’ll use a medium round for this so I can get tight lines for shadows on the columns, and large strokes for shadows under the gazebo. I will need to be disciplined in painting these shadows from the top down.

Step 5: Details & Highlights

In my first version I painted details pretty much everywhere. This was a mistake. I shouldn’t paint the roof as detailed in the next one. And – I need to figure out what to do with most of the architectural details – which I’ll be discarding. There will also be a question of what parts will need more highlighting when I’m done. We’ll see when we get there.