The Thinking Painting


​"Venetian Canal Waters" 20x16 oil

This next painting is from my Italy trip last year that I painted for my oil painting class.

The Sketch from class

One of the main things I stress in class is to know your subject and then forget it. What I work on before I paint sets up the painting starting with the thumbnail sketch.

Here I am making changes to the sketch to get the bridge and its reflection out of the middle of the painting. I did this by sliding in the left side of the sketch. Nothing of interest was on that side there anyways.

Next, I sketched in my sketch in oil on the canvas. Keeping the bridge out of the middle was my big concern from my sketch.

The few minutes I spend here can keep me from breaking a painting. With just a few composition fixes this sketch is ready for the canvas.

Palette of colors: Titanium White, Cad Yellow light, Cad Red Light, Alizarin Crimson, Venitian Red, Ulta Marine Blue, Burnt Sienna, Burnt Umber.

Mixing my colors ahead of painting helps me really concentrate on the painting and not the color mixing.

Put in the darkest colors first starts to give the painting structure right away. These being very old buildings I like to apply my darks generously knowing that nothing needs to be tightened up for a while.

After the sketch is on the canvas I mixed up my palette of colors. Since this is a two class painting I just need to mix up the colors for the buildings on both sides. The sky and light water will be put in the next class.

Here is where I left the painting at the end of the first class. The boat was the last thing I put in for this class.

One thing to keep in mind when painting reflections is remembering what is being reflected. Sound simple but when you are working fast it's easy to forget that point. In this painting, the doorways and buildings reflected straight down. ​

Detail from painting so far. Pretty simple one-point perspective in this painting. The hardest thing is making the correct brush angle for the doorways.

End of first class

Detail from painting

The reflections were running straight down. Painting them in as simple as possible is the trick. All the hard stuff was painted in the first class and all I had left to do for this one is making sense of the sky and water.

Detail from painting For the sky, I was thinking, "Don't make it too light!" to myself. I wanted the buildings to blend into the sky so I thought about paint edges here, knowing that softer edges recede in space.​

Getting depth in the water but keeping it fresh looking is always tricky and fun. Here I used contrasts in colors to create depth.The brighter oranges come forward as the darker greyer oranges recede in space.

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James Swanson Fine Art .708.606.2742 . james@jamesswansondesign.com  © james swanson 2017

James Swanson OPA AIS Signature Artist

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