This commission was both a challenge and a delight. I have been longing for more time to study light but the challenge is that acrylic paint dries fast. Hence, there isn’t much time for blending.* This limited blending time can sometimes create less depth and paintings that depict light seem to need depth. In addition to the blending challenge my client requested that the painting be as true to natural forest colours as possible (none of my rainbow brights here) but she still wanted it in my style… that is… not an ultra-realistic depiction. Are you confused yet? 😉
Anyway I thought I’d share the process of working out these challenges with you.
My client gave me the photos shown as inspiration and I did a small sketch (on the bottom left) as my starting point. The canvas was quite large almost 4′ x 3′ and so I sketched the main tree frames in brown paint first.
The lines of the sketch seemed a little confusing – especially on such a large scale so I felt like I needed to fill in the foreground trunks first and then work my way back.
The interesting thing about light coming through trees in a forest is that the trees are completely back-lit and that means that the foreground trees are silhouetted (dark). The further you travel back into the painting the lighter the trees become until they disappear completely in the sunshine.
The light obviously casts shadows on the ground and I had to think through where exactly those shadows would fall. Of course I didn’t want an ultra realistic depiction of this but I still wanted it to make sense.
I filled in the background with yellow. Light isn’t yellow when you see it coming through the trees – it is more white – but it does have a yellow halo. I wanted the yellow halo wrapped around the white that I would add in after.
Now putting the light back in…
Adding more detail and working more into the forest floor.
Since the colours in this painting were more toward the natural spectrum I decided to use brush stokes that were less realistic looking – more chunky, less stylized and less smooth. I did this in hopes of creating a piece that had a natural realism but in a modern way.
At the very end the trees felt a little flat so I added more detail and VOILA – I was finished!
I must add – because of the size this painting it is far more interesting in person. 🙂
* For those interested there are slow drying mediums that can be added into acrylics to make them dry slower. I don’t use them much (I like fast drying paint – I’m an impatient artist ;)) but they can be useful when used sparingly. Too much though can cause your paint to never dry!