My friend Cris asked for a painting of New York City to put in her office. Her office is decorated in a largely black and white color scheme, so I tried to paint this in black and white. I decided to punch it up a bit with some yellow, as a tribute to the taxi’s in NYC.
My first attempt wasn’t what I had in mind. The composition is close to what I want, but the painting itself is not.
I started with a hazy, foggy sky, and a light value of the same color for the Empire State Bldg. That’s pretty much the only part I like.
As I painted the initial wash, I thought to myself, no wonder watercolorist enjoy painting city scapes so much… these are gorgeous, and pretty simple!
As I moved from the horizon to the foreground, I deepened the values, and added more details. By the time I got to the foreground I had crammed so many bits and bobs that I definitely had a “Junk Drawer” painting.
And that was BEFORE I painted the cars and people.
With all that detail, I added more noise and basically just destroyed any sense of cohesion that might have been there at first.
As I painted the cars, I tried to get the yellow cab color to mix and bleed on its own – that worked a little too well. I accidentally dropped a huge drop into the wet road, and I couldn’t pull it cleanly.
That caused me to consider painting over the whole road with yellow – SMH. What am I thinking?!
So, this was a failure. I posted it on Reddit and asked for feedback, and I got some really good suggestions:
- Use Yellow and Purple for grey/black instead of UM Blue and Raw Umber. This will help get that yellow into the skyline.
- Work on the lines – they aren’t straight enough, but they look like I’m trying to make them straight, and as a result they look sloppy, not stylized.
- Define a focal point. Add the most details there, and fewer details everywhere else.
- The smoke reads as just an unfinished diagonal line, it adds atmosphere, but doesn’t contribute as much as it distracts.
- Try to paint this in a way I’ve never painted before.
So, I tried again…
The second attempt was better in some regards, and worse in others.
I like the road. I like the reflections. I like the lines in the crosswalk. I don’t like most of the masked areas. I don’t like the yellow on the right. I don’t like the figures. I don’t like the yellow signs. I don’t like the cars. I don’t like the figures.
On my next attempt, I’m going to try something I have never done before, I’m going to paint it with masking tape on the edges to define the lines well. I’ll also drop the yellow, maybe just one cab… I will sketch it roughly the same, and definitely reduce the amount of details pretty much everywhere.
I dislike both of these, I’m curious to see how it goes when I try again later tonight or tomorrow.