Thursday, 19 November 2015

Watercolour Architecture - Using digital software to plan a traditional painting

As an artist, i'm happy to use any tools that help me create my artistic vision. Over the centuries artists have been pretty amazing at creating simple tools to translate the incredibly complex world around them. The viewfinder is a perfect example of this, as is the plumbline: a rectangle with a hole in it and a piece of string with a weight on the end. Awesome.

But, the user still needs to understand the proces of using these simplistic tools. If you don't understand the idea of negative shapes or how to find a good composition, a viewfinder is not going to make you an artist. It'll make you into someone looking at the world through the hole in a rectangle.

Digital tools come under this same class for me, although I appreciate they are more complicated to work at times then the trusty viewfinder. For my most recent paintings of Kedleston Hall I wanted to focus on the architecture and how light plays off the different planes of the building. I didn't want to just draw a fancy house, I wanted to add my own creative flair and vision to what I saw.
So, I kept my colour palette simple. Like, really simple. Three colours in total to create each painting, which would keep things nice and harmonious so I could concentrate on the interesting compositions instead.

In photoshop I adjusted a reference photo to play with tonal contrast and composition, the best way I find to do this is when it's in black and white. Then I go back to the original photo and play around with colour. This helps me visualise lots of different combinations. Doing it digitally like this is a lot faster then trying to do it with traditional mediums, plus I can tweak them cleanly. The last image above has been pixelated so its easier to focus purely on the range of colours and no the compositions details.

Once I have my colours sorted, I can then choose which colours to have in my palette. From there I do a small mock up to help me figure out the best way to apply them and to get me used to mixing the colours. Then, when I come to create the final painting, i've already done all my prep so a lot of the stress has been taken away and I can relax and enjoy the painting process.