Monday 15 May 2017
Arctic Corsair - painting from a sketch and believing in the sketch
The worst thing about painting from a sketch is that you've already made most of the decisions about what to leave out.
When I made these two sketches, I wasn't really thinking about whether or not I would use them for a painting, I was just enjoying sketching. Which is what I usually do. Still, with detail in the line drawing, focussing on the boat, and colour in the drawing of the buildings alongside it, I thought I would be able to do a passable job of recreating the scene.
The following is a description of how I painted this. I used a painting knife with oils on a clear-gesssoed linen canvas.
I started by blocking out where the dark areas were going to be using a mixture of burnt umber and ultramarine. Then I wiped my knife clean and blocked in the sky (with clouds) using phthalo blue and titanium white. Because the canvas is that lovely natural linen colour, I like to leave some of it showing; the sky is often the most loosely painted area in my work, and a nice place to leave bare canvas. I moved on to the refletions in the river without wiping my knife, picking up extra white and a bit of extra colour and then placing some suggestions of greys and oranges where I thought they would work best.
I did other things, too - added the masts, fleshed out the buildings and the path, had a go at representing the river-water patterns in the mud. And the river: the water was pretty much done by this point.
But the mud was too cold and blue. I wanted a bigger contrast with that chilly shadow.
So I made the mud more orange. It was beoming a blue and orange painting - I liked that.
That evening, I looked again at an assortment of photographs of the Arctic Corsair on the Web. It dawned upon me that my sketches were right - the angle at which I was viewing the boat meant that I could only see the top of the bridge, the white part. The black thing was its funnel and assorted other gubbins. And - less importantly - the painter wasn't always blue. Some photographs showed a chain and a white rope. But I could make it more subtle. I also looked at the shape of the hull and the size (and colour) of the hawse pipes and decided that, here, at least, I could improve on the information in my sketch.
And as for the railings - well I had barely seen them when I was sketching them. They shouldn't be such an obvious part of the painting.
So today I scraped off the clumsy "correction" of a bridge and repainted it according to my sketch. The railing reappeared only as a narrow scratched-in suggestion. I de-sharked the hull and refined its shape. I made several other, largely pointless, minor changes, and rephotographed it: