This bridge in a quieter area of Venice is achingly beautiful in it’s simplicity . The mellow red brickwork edged sharply in white stone , the geometrical angles contrasting boldly with the curving steps and Arabesque windows of the ancient palace facade and the stark shadow of the handrail delineating each step all add up to a visual feast.
There is mystery in the dark shadows under the arch, passion in the splash of red paint that echos the exuberance of the flowers, happenstance in the greenery clinging to the brickwork and balance in each curve and edge. This is the Venice I love.
I was playing around with shots through my kitchen window and was fascinated with how real the reflected plant looks – much more solid and real than the kitchen.
It made me think about how we often see some glaring fault in another, overlooking the real person, as we concentrate on their perceived shortcomings. As we pay more attention we might find that the fault is merely a reflection of our own lack of understanding, empathy and humanity.
I wrote about this photo – baring my soul – and then I went off and experimented with a theme change and bammo! all my words are gone. (So this is just summary of my previous poetic ramblings)
I had no trouble choosing a subject for this topic since I always think of my pastel sets as jewel boxes. Lift the lid and there lie luminous, pigment packed sticks of brilliance and light. Lucky me – I have boxes of treasure !
When I take photos as references for later paintings I often use my artist’s eye to create a composition close to what I will eventually paint. This is just something that happens naturally as I spend my time screening everything I see as a potential painting subject! I scan scenes looking for pleasing squares, portrait , landscape or panorama shaped snippets from the landscape. In effect I “crop” the landscape before I click the shutter.
I find it helps starting with a good composition and then later I’ll crop again looking for compositions within the composition. In this way a single photo might provide references for a whole series of paintings.
The original photo above has many of the elements I look for in a painting reference:
complimentary colours ( blue and yellow)
areas of strong contrast ( the shadows on the sand) ,
good leading lines ( the diagonal of the beach, the vertical tree trunks and the horizontal water plane)
Here I take that original and crop a new series that focuses on the shadows on the beach and the cliff reflections. My favourite is the square format and I plan to use this as a pastel demonstration for reflections very soon (stay tuned).
Shadows and reflections
Next I try a different series where I leave out the beach entirely and look in more detail at sections of the cliff. Here the tall thin composition is a portrait of the large gumtree but I would move the boat off to the left a little. I prefer the square reflection crop and this helps confirm that what really interests me about this subject are the reflections.
Cliffs and boat
So now I zero right in on the reflections and take a look at some more abstract crops. These crops retain the basic elements of complimentary colours, leading lines and areas of strong contrast so will work equally well as a painting.
Luckily I took my phone with me on this mornings walk along Blackmans Bay foreshore. The sky was full of luminous breaks in the steely grey clouds and now and then the water was lit by a sliver of silver on the horizon. White sails flapped in the breeze and a few fishermen were out on the rocks to add scale to the huge sky and dark waters.
Today I didn’t have time to get out and photograph so I pulled out some photos from a trip to the Italian Dolomites a few years ago. These peaks were enormous and dwarfed the surrounding area. I’m still not sure which format emphasises the scale the most . What do your think?
I love the way these old wooden boats sit cheek by jowl all connected by ropes to one line. Their reflections anchor them to the water and make wonderful abstract shapes that repeat throughout the photo.
I’m a big fan of the vertical photo format and I really liked the expanse of dark water filling the bottom 2/3rds reflecting the stormy clouds. Water is all about patterns, fluidity and reflections for me. The red and blue reflections add a bit of zing to this otherwise sombre scene. I’m lucky this dock area is a 5 minute walk from my workplace.