Around the Corner (Capitol Hill)

Around the Corner (Capitol Hill), 24" x 20", UART 320

Around the Corner (Capitol Hill), 24″ x 20″, UART 320

Underpainting, first stage

Underpainting, first stage

Underpainting, stage 2

Underpainting, stage 2

Painting in first color scheme (unfinished)

Painting in first color scheme (unfinished)

This past weekend was Open Studios Weekend at Artists and Makers so I needed a painting to work on.  I decided to do another alley picture, from the recent photo shoot. This is the same alley I painted in Back Alley Blues, but it was closer to the street and I found the shadow to be quite dramatic.

I spent Friday night working on the drawing and then adding it to the board. When I arrived on Saturday, I didn’t like it, and erased it all!  There was too much alley.  I finally got the drawing right, then proceeded to the underpainting.

The primary compositional challenges were the sizes of the two walls, and the height of the alley.  There was also a solid row of trash cans in the photo, which was REALLY boring!  In my drawing, I placed them more strategically — and I make them look like old fashioned trash cans as well.

Colorwise, the walls were dark red brick and the trees and bushes were all green. I just assumed that this was going to be a red and green painting, without giving a lot of thought to it (big mistake!!!).  Normally, I would use dark green under dark red for an underpainting, but for some reason, I went to violet and, as you can see, the whole underpainting ended up being kind of violet and yellow!  Not exactly what one wants under a red/green painting. Personally, I find this to be one of the least inspiring and ugliest of underpaintings that I’ve done!!!

I proceeded to add the reds and the greens.  However, I had real problems with the sky color, the color of the buildings in the middle, and the color of the shadow on the left.  I used a warm grayed reddish brown for the base coat of the alley, which worked with the reds.  But, I was not enthralled with this painting.  What you see in the third small image is the painting as I left it on Saturday.

I woke up at 3:00 in the morning (which, due to the end of day lights savings time, was actually 2:00!). I knew that I was very unhappy with the painting so I started thinking about it. I just knew that I wanted to use violets and yellows in it–thus, the underpainting, I guess.  So I started thinking through the various pieces of the painting. It took almost 2 sleepless hours to realize that it is now fall and I could change the green trees and bush to yellow oranges! And then I’d have a blue violet/yellow orange complement that might work rather nicely.

I got back to the studio at 9:00 AM and brushed off the sky and the green tree and shrub, as well as the color in the alley.  I left the dark red. The value was right and I just added violets on over it.  I then used light blue violets for the sky and the middle buildings and I was suddenly much happier with my painting!  As I proceeded, I added some blue greens and red oranges (particularly in the walls).  I used yellow ochre and aqua in the alley and a warm brown and blue green in the shadow.  So I ended up with a double complement: blue violet/yellow orange and blue green/red orange.  One of the big advantages to this scheme was that I could make the trash cans blue violet!!!  This wouldn’t have worked as well with the reds.

When I first filmed the painting, the building at left was too dark and did not relate well to its shadow. I used a deep blue green to lighten it, using a diagonal stroke to help lead the eye into the alley. I worked to lose the edge between the tree and the building, and I think it works much better.

The shadow of the tree at bottom was a struggle, and I’m still not completely satisfied with it.  I wanted it to be more of a suggestion.

But, on the whole, I am happy now with this picture.