This weekend I was invited to go paint at the Fort Worth Stockyards with a group of painters. We had beautiful weather to paint in on Saturday morning. After considering several interesting sites, I chose to paint this view of Fincher's Western Store because I was so drawn to the shadows against the white building and the clear blue sky. The view reminded me of something Edward Hopper (Early Sunday Morning) might paint and after spending the day painting it, I can better appreciate why he chose his subjects for a painting. For me, scenes like this are all about the abstract patterns, like the way the chimney on the roof creates a nice break in the big blue (sky) shape behind it. I am also attracted to the way the windows and shadows create interesting shapes in the big white space of the building's wall. These shapes are really what I was thinking about when I painted this.
Here's what my painting looked like when I brought it home from a day of painting:
Once I was done with my painting, I took it home and spent the rest of the weekend making mental notes of little things I wanted to fix before I considered this painting finished. I wanted to fix some of the colors in the white building side. It's hard to tell from this photograph, but some of the red from the windows got caught up in my brush and into the light color paint. I also wanted to fix the signs up a bit, as they were one of the last things I added, and I really just put in a few little color notes on them. I also thought about painting in a light pole to the scene to help break up the picture a bit more with an added vertical shape. It also helps that the stockyards have pretty neat looking light poles. Uncertain if I wanted to add this or not, I took an image of my painting into Photoshop along with an image of one of the light poles and experimented with different placements until I was happy with it.
Here's what it looked like in Photoshop. I wasn't that concerned with getting the light pole perfectly integrated into the photograph. I really just want to make sure I'd be happy with the placement. I tried it in a few different places, but this is the one I felt worked the best. It does a nice job of breaking up that large white area of the building and tends to pull the eye up towards the windows and cast shadows of the roof, which is where I want my center of interest.
Rodeo Plaza ©
Larger Version available here
Size: 6x8 inches on canvas panel.
Medium: Original Oil Painting
Signed on front. Signed and dated on back.Comment on or Share this Article →
Perhaps the single most useful program I've ever used on my computer is Photoshop. Now, don't get me wrong. I've used some extremely high-end graphic packages - the stuff capable of making all those special effects in the movies, but for an artist there's almost nothing more useful than Photoshop. You can use it for developing all those digital images you take, preparing files for shows, creating website images and promotional materials, and for composing the next painting. That's the topic I want to cover here briefly. The other uses would make great blog posts on their own, so we'll leave them for another day. This blog does assume you have some basic Photoshop knowledge and can find your way around the program fairly well. Hopefully you'll pick up a few tricks and ideas on how to use this application to improve your work.
Here's the photograph that originally inspired me. It's a little rough from a painting point of view, but I think I can make something of this. I took this image a few weeks ago while visiting with our in-laws. That's actually my father-in-law driving the tractor out on his ranch bringing hay to his very hungry cows in south Texas.
Okay, so to make this a more paintable subject, I want to crop in more tightly on the tractor. There's too much space around it on the right hand side and along the bottom. The first thing I do is create a digital matte by creating a new layer in Photoshop. Then I use the marking guides and rulers to mark off an area that's the size of my intended painting or that has the correct proportions of my painting size. In this case, I'm going to be doing a 6x8 inch painting. I do this rather than crop the image, since it gives me flexibility throughout the process to continue to adjust which part of the image I use. If I just cropped it right off the bat, I would be stuck with that portion of the image the whole time or forced to start over later if I wanted to make a change.
Notice how my selection area (those marching ant lines) isn't centered? I do this, because at this point I'm not sure what part of the image I want to use, but I do know the size I want in the end. So by making the correct size first, I can move the selection area around my image until I find the approximate area I want to paint. It doesn't have to be exact at this point. I can fine tune it later on. The important thing at this point is that I have the correct size, or aspect ration. Once I find the approximate area I want to paint, I invert my selection and then fill in this area with black. This gives me my digital matte. Now I can duplicate my background layer (the original image) and move it within my digital matte to fine tune the area I'm going to paint. You might have to rearrange your layers so the digital matte layer is on top of the duplicate background layer.
Here's where I'm at so far. Notice I also moved my guides so I can see where the center of my image is. Now I can move the background copy layer around until I'm happy with my composition. You might also notice that the foreground has changed a bit in these images. Truth be told, I added that little suggestion of a path in the foreground at the end by using the dodge and burn tools. When I was deconstructing my Photoshop file for this blog, I realized I had done this on the base layers, so for now just ignore that they are there.
So far so good, but now I'm not very happy with the tree line. I don't like that the taller trees are on the same side of the image as the tractor. It makes the image feel too heavy on the left hand side. To try to balance that out a bit I'm going to flip the trees horizontally. The first thing I do is use the lasso selection tool to roughly select the trees. It doesn't have to be super accurate at this point. I'll clean it up later. Once I make the selction, I can just copy (CTRL + c) and paste (CRTL + v) it, and Photoshop will automatically put it in its own layer. Then I can use the menu Image>Image Rotation>Flip Horizontally. The trees don't look very good at this point, but after adding a layer mask and feathering them back into the other layers, it's pretty hard to tell they've been flipped. Here's what it looks like:
Things are starting to come together now, but there's still a few things I think I can improve before I start to paint. First off, that sky is just way too plain with not a cloud in sight. Now, I know Texas is in one of the worst droughts it's had in a long, long time, but I like to paint clouds when ever I can, so I'm going to add a few in. First thing I need to do is find an image that has a sky I like and that has about the same perspective as the image I'm working on. Here's the image I choose to use. This is actually from North Texas ,but I won't tell anyone if you don't. :)
This image also has the added benefit of having a grassy foreground that may just work to add a little more variety to my foreground. I simple drag this image into my Photoshop file and it's automatically placed on a new layer. I re-arrange the layers so the clouds are under my digital matte layer and then I turn the transparence of the layer down a bit so I can see some of the image below it. This allows me to adjust which part of this image I'll use. Once that's dialed in, I'll turn the transparency back to 100 percent and add a layer mask. When I make this mask, I set it so everything is hidden and then slowly paint the mask out to reveal the clouds and a little bit of the foreground.
Notice the slightly greener foreground now? That image worked out rather nicely. I'm just about done now. There's only a few things I want to do before I start painting. The first is to pump up the color a little bit on the hay and grass. It just looks a little too drought-stricken for my tastes. To do this, I'll duplicate the background layer one more time. Just make sure the one you duplicate is the one that's already in the correct place. In this case, I duplicate the layer called "Background copy". I then adjust the color of this layer using a variety of the tools under the menu Image>Adjustments. In this case, I used Vibrance to get more color into the layer. It can be a little over the top since I'm not going to use the layer as is. I'll add a layer mask to it and lightly paint in a few spots to bring the color up.
Ah, that's better. The very last thing I did, like I mentioned above, was to add the hint of a path in the foreground. It's an old trick to lead the eye into the painting and one that's easy to over do. I want there to be just a slight suggestion of the path in the final painting to have enough to break up the foreground a bit and add something of interest to it.
Well, that's just about it. The only other thing I'll do before I start painting is to actually crop the image to the size of my painting. Now on to the painting! Check back tomorrow for a step-by-step blog on how the painting goes.Comment on or Share this Article →