Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Old Barney

"Old Barney"
Lighthouse at Long Beach Island, NJ
Acrylic on 22x28 stretched canvas
image continues on all 4 sides
Commissioned piece, NFS
Email me if interested in commissioning a similar piece

This has been my major project this April. This is Old Barney, the lighthouse located at LBI in NJ. This painting was commissioned by one of my Home Portrait clients. This was an interesting painting to create, work on & finalize. Partially because of the large size (22x28 is larger for me), but also because of the various items involved.

This project started it's life as an old, faded poster of the lighthouse that the client wanted replaced. She sent me a photo from her phone camera, but said she wanted it to have more color. And to be more vibrant. When I saw the original poster, which is dominantly blue, I knew I was going to need to change the sky. Here is the original poster photo:

Working with this in mind, I chose to combine the lighthouse image with a light & color filled sky. I cropped much of the foreground out & simplified it. And added the birds at the clients request. The lighthouse needed to be the main focus of the painting, but I wanted to create 3 levels in the image. The background is the sky, middle ground is the lighthouse & supporting structures & elements, the foreground are the leaves. 

This painting went through multiple stages & steps.

Step 1: the sky
I picked my colors to work with, grabbed a large brush & went at it. Much of the color was applied from tube to canvas - mixed & blended right on the canvas. The sketch was done first, actually - but was so faintly done with light colored pencils, it would not photograph well. The small photos in front of the canvas were printed by me. They are my photoshop "mock ups" of what I intend to do. I often use photoshop & combine assorted elements, along with adding colors & shapes - to create a "sketch" of the final product. Then I use that as my guide.

Step 2: the lighthouse
I knew exactly what colors I was going to use for the lighthouse. But it took some painstakingly placed paint lines, with thin brushes, to create the lighthouse top. I wrestled a bit with getting the 2 sides of the lighthouse top to match each other in shape & curve! The cylinder was done with larger brushes & a series of darker washes to create the "round" look. This went through a few nights of painting, as I layered washes & changed lines & values. I also added the base and a bit of the horizon line of the land to anchor it. (photos taken with iphone, sorry about quality)

It was at this point that I stopped. Something was wrong and I couldn't continue. But I couldn't figure out what. They say it is often composition is off, but there weren't enough elements in the painting for it to be that. So I stood it up on the wall, and looked at it with fresh eyes every time I walked past. In a few days it hit me - my perspective was off! The lighthouse appeared top heavy because the base was not wide enough. Using my ruler I was able to confirm that the base needed to be wider - the ratio of the top to the bottom did not match with the poster ratio. You can see in the 3rd photo that it is off and it was what was bothering me. It was not until the base & horizon line of the land were in place that I could see this. So I spent the better part of 1 day fixing it. I widened the cylinder base of the lighthouse - not just widened it, but adjusted the angles so the base became wider, not just the cylinder. When I finished I was happy. On to the next step.

Step 3: the land & leaves
I don't have photos of the painting with only the land. I disliked the sand so much that I worked & reworked, never taking a photo. I soon realized I needed that foreground of leaves to be able to "see" this final stage, so the leaves were added along with the fencing & sand. Originally I was only going to have the leaves across part of the front, but the composition was off doing that. So I continued the line across, making one stalk much larger to help encircle the lighthouse. Lastly I added the 3 seagulls into the right side of the sky. 

I think all the elements help to bring the eye around in this, from sky to ground & back to sky. I'm pretty happy with it - I sent a photo off to the client & am waiting to hear back.

Fingers crossed!

Sorry about the longish post - but thank you for letting me share this with you!

1 comment:

CrimsonLeaves said...

I love that you have collectors of your work, Nancie. I guess I am one myself, since I have two pieces that I love.

This piece came out brilliantly and how cool that you figured out the ratio/perspective was a bit off. I also think that sky is gorgeous and that it is so cool that the customer/client wanted this poster reproduced in a fresh way.


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