The arrangement in the line drawing looks fine, so it’s time to transfer the print to the painting surface. I’ve chosen a pre-primed watercolor canvas made by Fredrix. I like the fine weave and texture of this product. The type I have is a loose sheet, instead of a pre-stretched frame, which I will just tape to a board as I paint it.
I use a light box to transfer the print since the primed canvas is thin enough to see through clearly. There’s a particular ink marker I like for this made by ZIG called the Writer. Their Platinum color is a medium gray shade of archival pigmented ink which is oil-based but acrylic has no trouble adhering to when drawn in thin lines, and the ink won’t bleed under the preliminary wet washes of paint. Also, the guy on the left had a printed design on the back of his shirt that initially I had thought would add more “presence” to the scene, but I decided to leave out since it seemed too distracting.
The next step is to settle on the coloring for all the objects in the painting. In the original photos, almost everyone is wearing shades of blue clothing which makes the scene almost monochromatic, except for the beach. I needed to add more color variety, so I go back into Photoshop to play around with colors. I load up the line drawing I made earlier and reduce it down in size to minimize the details. I paste the image in as a new layer set to Multiply and lighten its opacity. Next I create a new layer underneath and start roughly painting in shapes of color for each outline area: sky, water, beach, skin tones, etc. I don’t bother too much with shading or details, just block in single shades of color. I hide the line drawing occasionally to better see just the shapes themselves until I come up with a coloring arrangement that I like. The checkerboard pattern pants of the guy on the right I decide to keep, but change it to a yellow-orange to make it pop out more, and I add two equal shades of red on each side to balance things out a bit.
Now that I’ve settled on the colors, I can work out the undertones. What I particularly like to do for my preliminary paint layer is lay down shades of neutral grays that are color opposites of the local values for the objects I will be painting. The local colors will be those represented by the color scheme above, pink skin, red pants, etc. The color opposites are the complementary colors on a prismatic spectrum. You can see this easily in Photoshop by opening Hue/Saturation, and moving the Hue slider 180 degrees in either direction. I also move the saturation and the lightness down some, making it more gray and darker. The benefit of having these shades in the undertones of the painting is to add more color harmony with the more opaque top layers of paint. Keeping them toned down in saturation and brightness will allow the chroma of the top layers to not be overpowered. It also converts the white of the canvas to a mid-range value. I make a few more adjustments to even out the values and that’s it. All these steps so far today have gone by rather quickly, and I’ve managed to work out much of the decisions that were needed before I’ve even started painting.
Now it’s time to put paint to canvas. I mix up pigment to follow the color opposites shown above. I’m using mostly raw sienna for the warm tones. The blue shades are made with tints of cerulean blue and ultramarine mixed with titanium white and umber. The shades of green have touches of yellow ochre added. These are all laid down in broad thin washes of paint.
I noticed something interesting while doing the color mock up earlier in Photoshop. When laying down the two lines of the net using the same value of white, the bottom line looked brighter than the top line, which was due to an optical effect caused by the different values of the background. In the painting, I wanted both lines to appear to be of equal intensity, so I know I will need to tone down the bottom line a bit in value. If I painted both as fully opaque as possible, the bottom line would still seem brighter. This demonstrates a benefit of pre-planning. Nothing is set in stone, so to speak, but I like having a clear idea of where I’m going before I start out.
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