Saturday, January 15, 2011

Squaring Up - Pochade to Studio

Studio painting from plein air reference.

When you translate a Pochade into a larger work you must also translate the “feeling” or inspiration of that piece. For works that go from Pochade to studio I must have a strong connection to the work, something familiar, memorable and really linked to my senses, emotions and intellect, if I am going to express that “sense of place”.

For me the true power of any good landscape is the ability to capture and convey the immediacy and drama of the scene to the audience. I felt if I could stay true to the mood and energy of the study it would be good candidate for a studio piece. Without that I would only be reproducing a statement I have already made.

 I liked the composition and elements of the study, “The Cliffs of the Dawn at Isla Mujeres” but I felt there was so much more that could be said with this image. Isla Mujeres is a corral island and the cliffs are carved by wind and wave over centuries. The effects of light and water on the cliffs are very unique. The dry corral under the Caribbean sun turns nearly bone white, while the wet corral picks up warm yellowish tones all contrasted by the deep warm shadow areas below the cliffs. I wanted to emphasize some of those nuances and subtle effects that I could only suggest this in the Pochade.

Click image to enlarge.

Squaring up is probably the simplest and most accurate method to enlarge an image. From your original sketch select a larger canvas within the same proportion and ratio. In my case the Pochade is 8x10 inches; my studio canvas is 24x30 inches, 3 times the original size. To transfer the design to the larger canvas the Pochade is grided at one inch squares and the studio canvas at 3 inch squares.

If you’re not enlarging at a 1:1 ratio use an architects ruler, a very handy tool for scaling drawings, it will give a variety of scales to use.

I often outline the sketch with tracing paper and grid it, this time I just made a black and white copy of the Pochade and did my grid on top of it. I squared up the large canvas, and gave it a, “imprimatura” wash with a mix of Burnt Sienna and Raw Sienna to provide a nice warm undertone.

With the Pochade as reference and the squared up B/W copy, it is just a matter of placing inside each corresponding grid as little or as much information I think I will need to create the larger work. Looking at the pattern of light and dark loosely sketch the image. Some areas will have contour lines to suggest form while others washes of broad tone to suggest shadows.

The canvas sketch, although loose was very accurate to the Pochade. Having my design strongly stated, the structure and pattern established, I could concentrate on the color lay in. I did not want to just transcribe and copy the Pochade. But recapture the mood and its atmosphere. I needed to keep the energy of the original sketch alive. The rest of the painting process was a combination of direct and indirect methods, with most areas done “alla prima” or wet into wet in one sitting. Keeping the brushwork loose and painterly I think helped produce within the studio piece what originally inspired me at Isla Mujeres.

In fact maybe I should go larger again?

Enjoy, Jim