Starting Out

So this is my first painting I’m going to talk about on this blog, I painted it earlier this week. It could be developed a lot further, but I decided I’m going to leave it where it is and move on. I think its an okay first try but compositionally there are issues that I think would require a lot of reworking. I decided to start out with digital painting because I can work faster and its more forgiving, but mainly because I can just scribble around and if its bad I can just paint over it without having to worry about a mess of mud all over the canvas.

I used a program called MyPaint which is really fun to work in. It comes with a bunch of brushes that try to simulate real art media like water colors, oil, charcoal and so on. Certain brushes also simulate wet paint so if you put down a brush stroke, and then another on top of that, it will blend together. When you start a new file it has an unlimited canvas size so the composition can grow as you work. Oh and its also free to download! It is very limited though, it basically has brushes, erasers, and layers as the only tools.

Anyway onto the approach of the painting itself:

This is how I started the painting. I simply threw in a horizon of where the sky meets the water; I tend to see the sky as more of a reddish blue and the ocean as a bit more greenish, at least in the shallows. Then I roughly painted in some rocks, all with one of MyPaint’s water color brushes. The composition will change slightly along the way but I kind of locked myself into this composition, while I should have messed around with it some more.


The next thing I did was just try to roughly put in some water. The color was too greenish, but I liked having that aqua color as an undertone while I worked anyway. I also started working roughly on the sky, I wanted it to be stormy.


Next I tried to start rendering the rocks, which without any references proved to be difficult. I didn’t really like how these rocks on the left side were shaping up and I’m not really sure where I pulled that weird orange color from, it doesn’t really fit with the lighting of the rest of the scene, but I suppose I just had it in my head that rocks are brown. I attempted a sort of grayish color on the highlights since the rocks would probably be wet and the light would be hitting the water and reflecting the sky in it. The red in the clouds was supposed to show that the sun is behind the clouds. A pretty weak attempt, but I’ll get it better at the end.


I wasn’t really liking where it was going so at this point I sort of re-worked a lot of the painting, roughly repainting all the rocks and water. I actually think the water looked the best at this point in the painting, despite it being so rough, it had some nice motion to it; the water seems to be surging forward. I started to feel pretty lost at this point though, it was so rough and I didn’t know how to bring it together.


At this point I decided to bring in some references. Just looking at some photos of rocks helped me remember sort of what rocks looked like and I didn’t have to completely copy anything. For the rocks I basically painted over them with a dark color, and the scribbled the light on top of it until it began to take shape. There was a lot of going back and forth. I also used a reference for the sky. I added more browns into the sky hoping they would work with the browns in the rocks. Also reworking the water at this point and realizing I don’t know what I’m doing with it, but I used the watercolor brush again to lay in some dark patches that I’ll work the sea foam on top of. I think at this point I got lost in the details. I think the painting as a whole worked better in the previous image, but I was too focused on the rendering.


Painting the sea foam on top is pretty much the last step I took. At this point I realize my colors are pretty dull, so I just threw it into Photoshop to adjust the levels, colors, and contrast. Luckily this painting is digital and I can do that. I’ll have to get better with the colors so when I move to oils I won’t need such drastic corrections last minute.


This is the final version, after Photoshopping. Its pretty blown out but thats okay for now. To get the dramatic lighting on the clouds I put a new layer on top and added a radial gradient, going out from the clouds from a blue to fully transparent, and set the blending mode for the layer to divide. Then I adjusted the hue/saturation of the layer until the effect looked alright. If you pull the lightness up a lot the effect becomes more subtle and less blown out. Its an effect I would have liked to have gotten with just painting it and not resorting to Photoshop, but now this picture can at least serve as a reference for what that sort of effect could look like.

I hope this first post was ok, I’m not sure if I need more explanation in some parts, and less in others, or if its better to just let the pictures do most of the talking. I guess I’ll figure it out as I go along. Next week will be a brand new painting with an entirely different approach. The approach to this painting was fairly arbitrary, but I have a plan for next week.

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