Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Thoughts About Backgrounds

'Winter Peace'             5x7         pastel        ©Karen Margulis
available $75
It is always a bit of a dilemma when painting animals. What do I do with the background? Do I paint the animal first or the background?  If it is too busy the subject will be lost. If it is wrong the whole painting will be ruined! Oh what is an artist to do?

I have some thoughts on the background dilemma. First let me share what went through my mind as I painted this chickadee. I have painted from this reference several times. I love it but I always challenge myself to do it differently when I revisit it. That is done easily by changing the background.

For this version I decided it would be a somewhat moody, foggy and  snowy day. I wanted to hint at the tangle of branches so I used very light and muted colors. I actually painted the bird first but kept the colors I used in the bird on my tray so I could reuse them in the background. I did have to go back and refine my bird. The berries were added last to help frame the bird.

Background Tips
  • Plan the background right from the start. Don't wait until the subject is finished and perfect before adding background or you risk having your subject look disconnected or pasted onto the background. I usually block in the subject and then start the background.
  • Use some of the same pastels in both the subject and the background. this helps create color harmony. Consider using different values of the colors.
  • If the subject is complex or busy use a simple background.
  • Try to suggest or hint at 'stuff' in the background rather than painting too much detail. Remember we love mystery so leave something to our imagination!
Tomorrow I will share another Chickadee painting...a fun experiment!

1 comment:

robertsloan2art said...

Beautiful! Great example and good lesson. I like the berries you worked in too, there's this sense of abundance to it. No fear the little feathery ball will starve, it's just fluffed up against the cold in its natural environment. Love the muted low contrast background and its evocative shapes. Giving me some inspiration!