Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Problem Solving- "Vincent Thomas Bridge #4"

"Vincent Thomas Bridge #4 - Catalina Express"    SOLD
watercolor on illustration board, 2011
11.75" x 8" (29.845cm x 20.32cm)

Here is a fairly common view of bridges. But a good one because there is a great sense of height when seen from the ground from underneath.

This is the finished painting of one I posted (here) back in March as a work in progress. One intended for my October Show.
It was one of those that at the beginning I had a clear vision of what I was going to do and how it would look. A quick painting, in a method I had done many times. I like those, they are fun and satisfying.

Then about halfway through I realized (OH NO!) it isn't working... it was just sort of dying right in front of me. So much for fun and satisfaction. This one is going to battle me. Should I panic? No... not really my style.

Problem solve, no problem. Think fundamentals, that is where most trouble lies. It's not the flooring, the curtains, the sofa etc., no, no, no... its the foundation, the framing or the roof. No point moving forward till I figure it out or I'm in for some wasted time.
Most of the time I know what to do... that is to 'let it go' and keep painting, keep forging ahead. Not this time, I sat back and stared at it and for the life of me I had no idea where it was failing. Ok, it's only half way done I thought soooo... start checking... the drawing or perspective of it really isn't off, maybe a little, but thats not it, those kinds of minor corrections take place as I refine the painting, working to the end.

It's too premature to really judge the color, or more specific... color relationships. If everything else is working; design, values etc, then color is usually secondary.
The point of view? nooo... god forbid otherwise the whole thing gets scrapped. Bad choices you can't fix.

The composition? ... uh... maybe... shoot, that would mean significant changes.
Forget texture or detail or surface... technique, these are usually more superficial, usually not the make or break of an image, more along the line of the refinements/corrections, at least the way I work.

I don't always know where things went wrong, right away, but I know WHAT TO DO.
That is to STOP looking at it. Put it away, turn it around, don't think about it, work on something else. Come back later for a fresh look.

So thats what I did. I came back to it, (more than once I might add), with a fresh eye...then it hit me! like a ton of bricks! It's lifeless! Stupid thing! Duh! I remember thinking  "'s dying right in front of me" the opposite of life, how did I miss the connection?
OK! Now what? Give it some life.

Sometimes, fundamentals or not, if I have an image that starts slipping away it unconsciously affects my enthusiasm and I start to lose interest which shows in the painting. The sooner I identify that the better. Then surprisingly few changes need to made.
  • Start by introducing the warmer tones in the sky, it's far too cold in color temperature. 
  • Too much residual green from my initial lay in, the early washes, substitute blues in place of greens.
  • Break up the silhouette and soften edges. I was going for a strong graphic pattern from the start but now that I see it, it's too rigid, even for a bridge.
  • Extend the foreground a bit, it's too slight to visually support the bridge
Whew! It wasn't that far off... looks like I won... HA, HA, HA,   it did not defeat me this time.133

Click on image for larger view


  1. good post David, i enjoyed your journey and empathised with it... and what a beautiful result!

  2. Hi rahina,
    Glad you enjoyed. Not all our journeys are fun and easy (and who would want that anyway?) , but I managed to find the end on this one.