Tuesday, November 11, 2008

End of Year One - Dubrovnik #2

Click on image to enlarge.

9"x 12" Oil on Ampersand Gessoboard. November 2008 nfs

To celebrate one year of a my return to painting or, more accurately, my first year learning to oil paint, I thought it would be interesting to repaint something that I painted in October a year ago. Two years ago in October of 2006, I had a wonderful trip abroad and returned with a great number of photos from which to paint. That trip was the genesis of my desire to begin a new adventure into fine art. A year later in October 2007, I finally began painting and this subject of a narrow street in Dubrovnik, Croatia was one of the first paintings that I produced. Above is the painting that I just produced these last few days and below is the painting that was painted a year ago.

I'm encouraged by the improvement, and hope when I paint it next year I'll see even more. Maybe I'll continue painting it each year about this time to see the steady growth. Wouldn't that be a cool thing to have, maybe fifteen paintings from the same photo, each a year apart?

9"x12" Oil on canvas board ( really cheap canvas board!) October 2007

If you view the photo reference below you will see that last year's painting was pretty much a copy of the photo. Not a bad job, but it doesn't say or add anything beyond the photo. The focus becomes the mother in the orange top, your eye follows the street in the foreground up to the mother and pretty much stops there. Well, maybe your eye goes back and forth to the red shirt on the guy beyond. The point is that these two people are what you notice and the great setting takes a back seat in my opinion.

In my current piece, I gave some thought to many considerations before picking up a brush. I tried to remember the day, the light, my emotions, my mood, how the street made me feel, etc. My strongest impression was of the narrow streets, only open to foot traffic, contrasted by the tall buildings on either side with the occasional light coming down into the darkish corridors. The other thing that made a huge impression on me was the actual streets themselves. This was a ancient walled city built by the Romans and had no grass or land anywhere. All the ground was paved with large flat stones that were worn so smooth by all the years of foot and hoof traffic, that they shone as polished marble. The streets reflected everything on the surface as if they were wet!

I wanted to emphasize these impressions and also correct color and value in the photo, which now I recognize is not to be trusted. I also made some changes to the composition by adding and deleting elements hoping to create more interest and to draw the eye farther down the street and give a sense of distance. I wanted the eye to go to the figure in the middle standing in the shaft of light and then wander beyond a bit. By creating a new light source, moving the sun a little forward, I was able to create more dramatic light on the upper buildings and that strong shaft of light breaking through the narrow alley cutting across our street. This pattern of light not only adds interest and leads one's eye to the focal point, but it also creates movement by leading your eye around the painting.

Although, I'm aware of some weak elements in this piece, I think I really worked out some good solutions to achieve my purposes. It was a great learning experience and fun to see how differently I approached this painting with a lot of gained knowledge and experience. One thing I know, is how much MORE I would like to know. The more you paint, the more you improve and grow, but also you learn how much you don't know about painting! It would be boring to get to a point where you know it all and there is no more to learn. The challenge of stretching, experimenting, studying, and staying inspired is the best in living! Such happiness and fulfillment has come to me this year in my journey. Blogging and meeting new friends and artists has been such a blessing also and I thank you all who have visited and shared in my journey this year.

Photo reference from trip in October 2006. Dubrovnik, Croatia.

Close up of new painting. I may like this cropping better, but the painting is on board!!
Besides that, some of my favorite parts are in the upper parts of the buildings.


Tiffany Harvey said...

The change is quite dramatic (and impressive).

The first thing to really catch my eye on the new version is all of the subtle color changes on the buildings, especially towards the tops of the buildings. Because of that, I do prefer the current arrangement more than the cropped version.

There is a lot of detpth there, and I was even more impressed to see this was all done on a pretty small scale.

Marilyn M. King said...

Thanks, Tiffany for your observations and kind thoughts. I too like the top of the buildings and would hate to loose them. I'm not really going to crop this painting, it is for learning purposes only and will not be for sale. Maybe next time I will attempt a larger format and then reduce some of the foreground.

Jennifer Young said...

Congratulations Marilyn! Has it really only been a year since your return? Impressive! The shaft of light really draws the eye into the scene. Very nice touch.

It's funny what you say about learning. The more you learn the more you realize what you don't know. So very true! And learning is our ever-dangling carrot, the moving target that satisfies only momentarily before you set off again.

But I think in the beginning ignorance can be a blessing. When I look back at some of my older paintings I can't help but think it was a good thing I didn't realize how bad I was. I see these really early works and I'm like, "Wow. I didn't know that I didn't know!"

You don't want to stay there, but in the beginning my ignorance was my bliss. If I knew how bad my work was I probably would have chucked my art supplies right then and there and gone back to my bank job. Then again, in 10 years time, how will I look back at my present work? I shudder to think. LOL!

Marilyn M. King said...

Thank you for the congrats and I agree with everything you said. When I first began last year, though, I had my head full of images from all the blogs I had studied and had a good idea of how I wanted my painting to look. I knew they were bad! I just didn't know how to get to where I wanted to go. I know a little more now and am happier with what I am accomplishing but I'm still not producing images that I see in my head! So I can't really say I've enjoyed any of that ignorant bliss this year! LOL

Debbie said...

Marilyn, Congratulations on your year of painting!! How wonderful to have a year of work to look back on, and to see what new things you've learned over that time, and to realize how much talent and skill you had a year ago as well. It's fun to see how our abilities evolve over time. It's interesting to see both of your paintings, thanks for taking the time to share them.

Dar Presto said...

The earlier work is faithful to the photograph, and the later one thoughtfully represents the spirit of your experience. I am struck by the confidence of the second one. This is exciting to see, and a helpful illustration for me. Thanks!

Marilyn M. King said...

Debbie and Dar,
Thanks for taking the time to leave your thoughts and kind words. I'm glad the comparisons were helpful and interesting to you. It's always an encouragement when we are able to "see" progress as a result of hard work!