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Sunday, January 22, 2017

When the Star Wants to Shine....Thoughts on Focal Points



'Nestled'               11x14           pastel           ©Karen Margulis
available $175
The evolution of a painting is such an interesting thing. Sometimes the painting takes on a life of its own and moves away from the plan....no matter how hard you try to bring it back! Sometimes the star of the painting just has to shine. Even it was supposed to be the star!  This happened to me yesterday during the demo at my winter workshop.

I selected the subject because it checked all the boxes of winter landscape elements. I had covered my top 10 tips and techniques for painting winter landscapes and this particular reference photo covered many of them.....evergreen trees, bare trees, distant trees, sunlit snow, shadows in snow. I was excited about it.

I made my plan. I did a value thumbnail and a small color study. I chose my pastels. I started the painting with a warm and cool dry wash underpainting. My intention was to showcase the sunlit trees at the left end of the stand of trees. These trees would be the stars and I would direct my snow path to them. 

But the little evergreen tree grew larger as I added layer to my tree stand. I should have know it would happen by looking at my color study. I didn't intend for it to be the star but it was making its presence known. Once I added the snow to the branches it was all over. The tree was the star....or was it?

Painting with a Plan: thumbnail, photo and color study
After the morning session we took our lunch break. I studied the demo painting wondering what I would do to finish it. Back on the easel for the afternoon session I discussed the finishing process with the group. We all agreed that the evergreen had become the star. I had two choices.....make it the star and direct the viewer's eye to the tree of downplay the tree and clarify my original star.

With a flourish I took a piece of pipe foam and scrubbed the little tree until it was a shadow of its former self. I pulled some of the orange tree over the evergreen further diminishing it. (see photo above)  I made my point....have a plan and stick to it even if it means brushing out a perfectly good tree. But the story isn't over.

a quick color study 2.5 x 3.5 
This morning I was looking at the painting and it bothered me. I wasn't sure what it was but something was wrong. It was the evergreen. It really didn't look right hidden in the woods. It WANTED to be the star. So against the plan the painting started to come alive as I restored the tree to it's place as the star. I orchestrated some marks in the snow to bring the eye back to the tree. I added a  bit of bright now on the branches and called it finished.

Moral of the story: Listen to the painting. Don't fight it. When it starts to stray from the plan let it happen and make the new plan work!


Winter Painting Sale!
I have 25 pastel painting in all prices and sizes inspired by winter. I am offering a discount of 25% on these paintings for one week only. See them all in my Etsy shop and use coupon code WINTERART at checkout.  Link here:https://www.etsy.com/shop/KarenMargulisFineArt?ref=hdr_shop_menu&section_id=19718587

1 comment:

robertsloan2art said...

That happens! The painting takes over and it has to be what it's becoming, not the previous plan. Some element that was supposed to be supporting comes out wonderful and must be the star. I love it when that happens, the paintings are always full of energy.

It happens in novel writing too. I remember one novel where a throwaway side character who was supposed to get maybe two paragraphs and a line wound up becoming the protagonist, turning the previous protagonist into her romantic focus. It was great and turned out to be better story than what I had planned, she was memorable and grew a lot during the story while the previous protagonist was much less conflicted - he was actually a perfect support character. Just as your sunlit trees are in this painting!

The light in your painting is lovely and beautifully consistent. It's not yet the Golden Hour. That lighting might throw your original focal point into stardom, but you'd have to spotlight the chosen trees with direct near-sunset bright orange cast yellow touches and then shadow the evergreen so it becomes more a supporting character, not kill its contrasting snow but darken it with blues to push back its contrast. It could work if you did the same scene at a different time of day.

Ever since I read about the Impressionists painting fast before the light changed, I started paying attention to that in paintings and in life. Sometimes in just a few minutes everything changes dramatically.