I have been looking for the perfect photo to try out a new technique on … and I think I found it! What I wanted to do was to try to use the technique that I often use for painting black and white photos and try it on a colored background. Now, I easily could have used photoshop to “make” a photo like I wanted by swapping out the white of a B&W photo for say, blue, but what I really wanted was a “real” photo that primarily only consisted of two colors… and this is it …
Isn’t it gorgeous!? I was very excited to have found it. The way I see it, this photo could be interpreted as a “black and red” photo so MAYBE it can be painted like one. We’ll see. Please keep in mind that this is an experiment… it is still not finished and I am not sure what the end result will look like … but I figured I would show what I have done so far.
Normally I would trace the outlines of the photo onto a white canvas and slowly begin filling in the darkest areas, but for this painting I knew I would have to take a different approach because each petal was so distinct. So, instead of tracing the photo onto the canvas, I decided to make a flapper stencil that would help me to define the red areas and the dark areas. Below are a series of pictures that show the steps tracings and resulting stencils.
|First I placed the photo into a clear plastic folder and traced the outlines with a fine tip sharpie marker|
|That left me with a much more defined image to then trace onto tracing paper. I did this step because it was very difficult to see the details of the photo through the haze of the tracing paper.|
|I thin redrew the outlines onto tracing paper and identified the drakest shaded areas by coloring them in.|
|I then created TWO stencils. The top one reveals only the very darkest shadows in the center of the flower. The second is a “flapper” stencil that will help me define the petals.|
Prepping The Canvas
As usual I am using cold press illustration board for this painting. The photos below show how I established the red background from my experiment.
|First I taped the edges of my illustration board to protect the edges and to frame my finished piece.|
|Then I began the process of color matching the red. I sought out the lightest red in the painting. As you can see, it took me multiple tries to get a color I was happy with.|
|Every time I made a color, I tested it against the actual photo reference. The final comparison is shown here and as you can see I am a smidge light. But that’s OK.|
|Then I spray the entire surface of the canvas red. It took lot and lots coats … I sure am glad I mixed I lot paint.|
Establishing the Darks
This is the part where I KNOW you guys are all going to panic! You are going to think “What is she doing?!? That looks horrible!!” and I am totally with you! This DOES look horrible! But that’s the thing with art … it always looks terrible when you’re starting out and that is why so many people give up at this stage. They look at what they produced and groan “I might as well quit now.” – and let me tell you – I thought the exact same thing at this stage – I always do – but you have to push through it.
|My first stencil is to establish the dark area around the outer edge of the roses.|
|And this is what it looks like once the area is sprayed with watered down black paint. I kept it light at first to let the red shine through because I can always darken it up later.|
|My next stencil was cut into the first (I hid it from you in the photo) and it is to establish the dark areas in the center of the flower.|
|And, this is what that looks like when it is sprayed in. To be honest, in retrospect I wish I would have had a lighter touch at this phase, but, c’est la vie!|
Defining the Petals
Because this photo is so intricate, I did not want to rely on my memory to know where all the shadows landed to define each petal so I created a “flapper” stencil (I don’t know if that is it’s technical name but that is what I am calling it anyway!). These types of stencils allow you to peel back areas of the stencil and “dust” paint beneath them to sort of “sketch” in the shadows and define certain edges.
When making flapper stencils be sure that you don’t cut all the way to the next line so that the stencil doesn’t fall apart … you have to leave bridges or else you’ll end up with a pile of paper and not know which bit goes where.
|This pictures shows my flapper stencil. All the lines shown in the photo have been cut with an exacto knife.|
|This shows how each “flap” can be pulled up to expose an area of the canvas below. Using the photo as reference, I carefully determined which edge of each flap needed shading and painted it in.|
|I continued to do this with each flap until I was satisfied with the “sketch” that was left behind.|
|And here is the result of all the stencilling … pretty ugly right now but it will look better shortly.|
Cleaning it up
Now for the hard part. Working at it until it begins to resemble something more than just some red and black blotches. For this phase I use really watered down black paint and carefully shade each petal constantly referring to the reference to determine where to start and stop.
I personally find that I tend to build it up in stages … that is, i will go around the whole piece and lightly shade, then take a break, come back and shade some more. Taking breaks is really important in my process … I usually end up taking a break when I think that the I have either a) ruined it or b) done as much as i could. Typically, when I come back to it in ten minutes or so I see that it is not nearly as bad as I thought it was, or, that it has a lot more that could be done to it to make it better.
The photos below shows it at the 50% shaded range (i.e. it’s not done) – but I wanted to show you something….
both the photos below are at the EXACT SAME STAGE of painting only one has the tape on, and the other has the tape removed.
What a difference hey? I wanted to show you this because I know that when you are painting you are almost always thinking about “how bad it looks” and really, once you get it all cleaned up, it is never as bad as you think!
I probably have few more hours left on this one before it is ready for detailing which I will show you in the next instalment.
Join the conversation!
Have you ever tried the flapper stencil method? What did you think of it? Too tedious? Absolutely awesome? What about the colored B&W painting? Do you use this technique? Do you think it’ll work out in the end?