Saturday, 16 April 2011

Which comes first?

  Watercolour on Fabriano Extra White 300gms  48x33cms

One of the questions I get asked most about my work is which do I do first; the subject or the background. I have to say, in all honesty, that there is no hard and fast rule and I can paint a piece of work either way.
When I was starting this painting, I did give it some thought and realised that it was not as random as I might think, and there are factors which influence the way I proceed.
My backgrounds are deliberately very loose and produced with a great deal of water and wet-in-wet painting. I do it this way to help counteract the formality of the subject which can be painted quite tightly ( not something I necessarily want to achieve, but that's just the way they come out). They are therefore quite spontaneous, and do not take too long to add to the work, but they can be quite hit and miss. So, the rule of thumb tends to be the more complex the flowers, the more likely I am to do the background first. I do not want to spend hours painting the flowers and then to mess up the background. Simple flowers are painted first and the background added afterwards to give them some contrast.  White flowers often have their backgrounds painted first as this helps to define their shapes within the picture.
Having said all that, these complex rhododendrons, almost white should have had the background done first, but contrary to all I have just said, I did in fact paint the flowers first. I cannot give a reason for this, it is just the way it progressed.
I am really glad I did it this way. I did a detailed drawing taken form a couple of snaps of the flowers in my garden, making sure that the sun was in the right direction in both photos.

I painted the two main blooms, and realised that the composition was unbalanced, so to rectify this, I added, from another snap I had, a large bud to the right hand top corner. (The leaf coming from this bud towards the right could have been a little better placed as it tends to skim the top of the upper right trumpet.)
My reason for pointing this out is that had I painted the background first, I would not have been able to make these adjustments and the painting would have been that much weaker.
Another point in favour of painting the background last, is that I do like to include some of the flower colours in the background to link the two elements together, but it also helps to give the impression of other blooms behind the main elements.
So there we have it. 'Rhododendrons' first, background last.

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