Thursday, February 16, 2006
I think by now the Auk is in everyone's hands, so it's all right to go on with another installment of Building a Bayou, the blow-by-blow of how this cover painting was done. When we last left our heroine, she was cowering on the edge of the cold bayou, unwilling to stick a paintbrush into the water. So I began by tickling in the most colorful reflections, to give the viewer guideposts that would tell the eye that this was a mirror image of the forest. It's strange to paint the same forest upside down and I had to fight the urge to turn the painting upside down. I wanted to paint the reflections more loosely and not get too caught up in their detail.
This is all about illusion. I had plenty of time to think about what makes a reflection look different from the image it's mirroring, and what makes water read as water. By this time, I had painted in almost all of the reflected forest. It was cool how it began to look like a reflection now.
The thing to do, now that I'm up to my knees, is de-emphasize the water. I took a few passes over it with neutral washes, to gray it and blur it a bit, so it wouldn't draw too much attention from the forest. And bang! it looked a lot more like water.
Phew. Now I could go back to the forest, and start fine-tuning the darks and lights, preparing to paint in The Bird. Ironically, in most of my paintings, the focal point is a bird. But I rarely spend more than an hour on painting it. All the effort and sweat goes into creating a believable setting for the bird. It's not that the bird is an afterthought--no, it's the motivator for the whole work--it's just that there are a lot fewer things to consider in getting the bird right. I will add that painting the reflection of a flying bird is a stinker. I had to figure out what it would look like from underneath. And then I had to figure out where its reflection would fall on the water, because that would tell the viewer how high it was flying. More on that later...we're almost there!
Posted by Julie Zickefoose at 1:18 PM