Work In Progress: Osprey: Lover’s Key, Florida
I’m going to try something different with this next painting. A different approach. In all my previous paintings I presented, as a first step, a completed preliminary drawing of the painting I was about to do, and then proceeded to paint it, explaining along the way how I accomplished each step. For one of my paintings I did present a few value and color thumbnails along with my thoughts. In this painting I want to go into a bit more depth in beginning stages – the thinking and planning stages. Most of the time it’s haphazard for me as I stumble through it, eventually coming up with a composition I like and then paint it. This time I want to do a more careful approach, showing the planning that goes into developing a composition. I’m doing it to help me be a little more methodical and thoughtful in planning out the painting and then executing it. Getting myself to consciously think through a composition – something I should be doing with every painting. The planning is the most important part and practicing it continually will make better paintings. That’s the idea, anyhow, and I certainly have a lot of room for improvement. In the process, this might also prove helpful to others who want to improve their paintings. My hope also is that other artists following this Work In Progress will contribute their own thoughts and comments that might improve upon the planning process.
This is a commission piece and, as such, I will treat it that way, making decisions with the client’s wishes in mind. If it is purely the artist’s piece, decisions may be a bit different but if there is a desire to sell it, there still is a client out there to please.
The Subject: The reason for the painting in the first place
You start with a subject – something you want to paint a picture of. In this case it’s an osprey flying to its nest. This is a commission piece and it started with a photo taken by the client. It represents an exciting moment for the client, who just happened to see and then photograph an osprey coming back to a nest of fledglings after an excursion out to sea. The osprey, a majestic and beautiful bird of prey, its wings outstretched, is silhouetted against the sky – as is its nest and precious contents, high in a tree. When the client sees the finished painting we want it to be close to her recollection of the event, to evoke that same feeling of when she originally captured it. At the same time, the composition must be good enough to develop those same emotions in first time viewers, some of whom may have seen something similar in the past. The elements of the composition must have a relationship with each other that ties the whole together.
The photo, shown here, is from the client’s cell phone, the only camera available at the time to record the special moment. It depicts a lucky instant, just one in a train of images the client saw as the bird flew closer and eventually landed on the nest. But it is the one that the client wants a permanent record of – and one I am honored to do for her.
Medium, Size, Format and Proportions
While some artists work in only one medium, I have not yet decided to put all my efforts into one particular one. I love both colored pencil and watercolor. I prefer colored pencil for portraits and close up studies and love watercolor for landscapes. In this case the client had no preference, so I’m leaning toward watercolor because of the large expanse of sky. But I’m not ruling out a combination of the two, as I did with the Sandpipers. That’s not a critical decision and by the time I start I’ll know which one (or both) I want to use.
Size is another client decision and in this case she wants a larger painting. A larger size will have a bigger impact. Final size is a joint decision, based on what the client wants in the painting or wants to leave out. Or, the client may have no preferences at all and leave it all to the artist. They may only be interested in the subject. In this painting, the client is interested in the relationship of the bird to the nest. As long as I give a good representation of the original encounter, the details and their arrangement are my responsibility. At this stage in the planning process, I’m thinking that the largest dimension will be about 28”.
Format, whether vertical or horizontal are also joint decisions where a client is involved. The client may have a particular spot in mind to hang it. The painting may look better in one or the other formats.
Proportion is another decision that will have to be made before the painting is started. It also is based on content, what’s included and what is not, how the cropping is done.
Format and proportion will be decided after preliminary thumbnail drawings are made.
These are some of the considerations that have to be undertaken at the outset – before getting into the meat of the project. In the next Update I’ll discuss the second step in this process – composition - and how it will begin to answer some questions, such as size, format and proportions, and get us a step closer to painting.
The first photo is the original one taken by the client, showing the osprey on its way back to the nest. It is in a horizontal format. The second photo is a cropped version of the first, showing the same scene in a vertical format. It is a bit tighter, showing less of the surrounding landscape. As I work through composition possibilities I'll decide which is the format I want to use.
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click image for full size