Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The anatomy of a painting. (II of III)

So. To continue.

The preparation of a support is tremendously important. It is, very literally, the foundation on which a painting is built. In a sense preparing a suitable canvas requires a lot of time and effort. So much so sometimes, that it's almost a shame to paint on it.

But that aside it's time to start the set up, which looks something like this:

Sight size. It's where it's at baby.

So what are we talking about here? Sight size. Basically, sight size is a method of drawing where the canvas and your subject are set up to be exactly the same size. You can see I've marked out the board (a spare shelf from my tré-chic IKEA bookshelf) with blue painters tape at a 10" square on the button.

At this point I feel I should confess something. I am measuring addict. I have several methods of measuring when I'm drawing I use a plumb line nearly as much as I use a pencil much in the manner shown here:

Incidentally, this isn't a photo of my hand.
My hand is much more muscular and manly.

And while I don't use a ruler, I do use a stick to measure similar distances. (I'm not going to post a picture of a stick. That would be silly). To do this I simply mark the distance between two points on my stick and compare the same two distances on my drawing. If one is bigger than the other, I fix it. If it's not, I leave it. I do this with EVERYTHING (and I mean everything). If you do it correctly you will end up with something like this:


You can see pretty clearly that all the important dimensions and shadows are appropriately marked. I've also used some place holder sketching to mark my shadows. I am a painter who is big on notation. I do not thoroughly draw everything but I do mark just about everything for later use. If you look closely at the picture you can see pieces of tape affixed to the edges of the wood. Those tape pieces are color-note numbers which match color swatches I've mixed on a small piece of canvas near my palette.

A good tromp l'oeil is dead sexy. To make tromp l'oeil work, the depth of field needs to be incredibly shallow. In my opinion a convincing illusion can be maintained with a depth of field of up to 3 inches. Anything more than that requires the viewer to be standing in just the right place for the illusion to work. Granted there have been very successful tromp l'oeil ceilings and even chalk sidewalks paintings. but again, if viewed from the wrong angle, the illusion fails. (for example of this check out more of Julian Beever's sidewalk art and check out the last one (http://www.squidoo.com/julianbeever)

In order to really nail down that depth of field the lighting has to be correct. I have several studio lights that I use for paintings. And fortunately, both are out of frame in this shot (fail).

"Unnecessarily complicated" Party of 1, your
table is now available.

I have a 600Watt spot light which is coming in from the side and a pair of daylight corrected fluorescents over the set up. The Macgyver'ed paper towel roll contraption is to prevent me from having two light sources on my subject, as I wanted the shadow on the right hand side to be as strong as possible to reenforce the shallow depth of field. (Eventually I would reconsider that decision)

After all is said and done, this is what the final painting set up looks like:

The taped-off board is actually
a mystical unicorn in disguise.

The next installment will cover the painting and it will be the most awesome post of the three. To prove this, here is a picture of a stapler:


Which has very little to do with anything.


1 comment:

  1. I can't wait for the next installment! It's like reading a Harry Potter book. I'm waiting for the next piece of magic. Mom