New Year’s Resolution – Seeing the Light

I recently started thinking about what I wanted to paint in the New Year and where I want to take my art. I decided my New Year’s resolution, artistically speaking, would be to paint many Charleston scenes and work on infusing more light into my upcoming work. I want to have fun with the paint, explore variations of color, and to see the light in each painting!  

Seeing the light is much easier when the photograph you are working from captures favorable lighting conditions. On our last trip to Charleston in November 2016, I intentionally wanted to photograph scenes in morning or late afternoon light, so that the shadows would be longer and stronger. The shadowy dark areas help make the light areas all that much lighter and brighter and vice versa.  

I took this one particular scene of Rainbow Row, which met my New Year’s resolution of seeking stronger lighting and started a large 40” by 30” canvas.  

While painting I spend quite a bit of time standing back and looking at it with a critical eye, imagining even stronger light filtering through the trees, across the sidewalk, and up the facades of the Rainbow Row, row houses. 

I have a long way to go with this Rainbow Row painting. I thought it might be interesting to show you it in the early stages so those of you who are interested can follow my progress. I have a vision of where I want to take it, which is half the battle. The other half of the battle is getting there! 

Here is a detail pic of the central focus of the painting after the first day. I'm working alla prima (wet on wet) but will go back and tweak it all. Working wet on wet allows you to soften edges and create a less sharp image.

Here is an overall pic after the first day. I started the painting by painting in the area around the woman and her dog. Then I started to work in some darks on the right side, which is actually where the light is coming from. I also started going vertical on the left half of the painting to block in some of the Rainbow Row, row houses.

Here is my downtown Charleston painting after day 2. I'm still filling in blank space. Developing some of the shadows on the sidewalk. Working in more darks in the trees on the right side of the painting. I'm finding myself enjoying this painting because of the many elements involved; perspective, lighting, color, and the little bit of activity on the sidewalk, which adds some life to the scene.

After a bit of a break, I'm finally back working on this Charleston painting. I have a long way to go and haven’t been able to put all that much time into it. I'm continually working on developing the lighting and I'm getting ready to start painting in the features of each row house, in this Rainbow Row scene.

My original drawing on the canvas was a simple one. In order to help create a somewhat looser painting, I decided to forego my usual detailed under-drawing. Even though this makes the painting process harder, it is also more freeing. It feels more like I’m painting plein air (outside on location) and evokes a pure painting aspect that I tend to lose a little when working with a tight, detailed drawing.  

Painting in the buildings on the left without a detailed drawing has it’s challenges. Freehanding long vertical lines and eyeballing strong perspective are a couple of them. Again, standing back and looking at it with a critical eye helps me correct areas during the painting process.

In the end I wanted to also create an overall sense of Impressionism.  The desire to forego a detailed drawing was a conscious decision, believing that I would more likely create a painterly painting by doing so. 

Please check back sometime soon if you’re interested in seeing how this painting progresses from here. Will the lighting stand out?  Will the Impressionist qualities create the image I envisioned when I was staring at the blank canvas? Other than the lighting, what made me choose this particular scene?  I’ll analyze my finished work in a follow-up blog.  

Thank you as always for your interest in my art and my photography!  Please feel free to leave a comment or question below. Thank you.  

One of the joys of being an artist is having the freedom to follow my passion...
— William R. Beebe
What's next?  Drawing by William R. Beebe

What's next?

Drawing by William R. Beebe