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Secret Bridge (Step-by-step)

August 29, 2010

While in Ohio this summer, my wife and sister-in-law were invited to visit a lady’s garden to pick beans.  My wife loves white half-runners, and can’t get them in Texas, so every summer, she’s anxious to find them to bring home.  Once the picking was done, the lady mentioned that there was a creek down at the back of her propery.  She pointed us to a driveway we hadn’t noticed, and Nell and I strolled down past a cornfield on one side and a soybeen field on the other.  The creek was just a bare trickle, but I kind of liked this simple old bridge.

I did walk down to the bend, and could see that there was a barn, maybe a house, and other signs of habitation.  I figured a stranger walking up one’s driveway with a camera might not be particularly welcome, so I didn’t go further.

I thought about calling this “Half-Runner Bridge”.

For my artist friends, I’ve included a few progress shots on this one, along with some detail closeups.  There’s a somewhat larger image posted on my showcase blog.

This is 16×20, gouache, on cold press Crescent board (no gesso).  The palette was ultramarine blue, burnt sienna, yellow ochre, yellow medium, burnt umber, red, and titanium white.

I started with a simple sketch with a small brush and very thin yellow ochre paint.  For some reason, the camera read the board as toned, but this actually was done on white board (cold press Crescent board without gesso).

Next I simply blocked in major shapes and masses, not really concerning myself with the ultimate color, but at least identifying lights, darks, and color directions.  Again, this was done with very thin paint and about a 1″ synthetic bristle brush, done in a very sketchy manner, almost like using huge markers.

Again using a large brush, I attacked the tree trunks and foliage in the dark area.  Using mixtures of ultramarine, yellow ochre, yellow medium and burnt sienna, I took a very loose approach.  If you compare this area with the finished painting, you’ll see that I ended up leaving most of it completely untouched.

The finished piece.  It’s hard to explain the stage between this and the last one.  So much of it is intuitive, combining what I’ve learned with what I want to do, making color choices, focusing on edges, atmosphere, light… It’s all fun, but this stage is really where I just enjoy the experience of painting, experimenting, correcting, changing.

I’ve included some details below:

The reference photo was like most summer photos, a large, intimidating expanse of green.  I decided to give it a slightly fall-ish look, which allowed me really play with color as a foil for the dark greens in the close wooded area on the right.

Playing with the bridge and the shadows on the road provided some fun, and an opporunity to bounce warm and cool tones off each other.  I tried to keep it all pretty loose.

This view, and the following one, give a good idea of that initial loose approach with a big brush.  This is a good example of letting the painting speak to you as you paint.  I think my original intent was to take a somewhat tighter approach, or at least put in a lot more color variation in this area, but as the rest of the painting progressed, I liked the dark foliage with big strokes, just letting the light peek through.

I did go back into the upper part of this area to close up the original wide sky area, and bring the background trees further up in the picture.  Then it was just a case of a few small touches and flicks of darks and lights to try to add some sunlight sparkle, and suggestions of sticks and twigs.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. August 30, 2010 1:45 am

    I just can’t explain to you how gorgeous this painting is! I love everything about it……especially the light. But the colors are wonderful too and just the whole feeling about it. It really does feel like a remote secret place. Just incredible. I’ll have to go to your showcase blog to see it there too.

  2. September 4, 2010 2:05 pm

    I’m visiting your blog for the first time, there is alot here. I picked ‘Secret bridge’ as my favorite today, just gorgeous. I appreciate you step by step.

  3. September 8, 2011 12:24 am

    ….again, I like everything you’ve posted. I’m trying my hand with gouache….it seems pretty forgiving for a beginner.

  4. December 21, 2011 1:10 am

    Beautiful job Ralph,looks great.

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