|10" x 7",ink & watercolor, Stillman & Birn Beta series sketchbook|
I tend to get very tight and detailed when I'm painting from a photo, and I really didn't want to do that with this pretty scene. The sight of all those gorgeous flowers in early April made my heart sing, and I wanted to give this sketch the same light, free, happy feeling I had that day in Vicenza.
I thought it might be interesting for you to see the photo I took that day, and how I used artistic license to change things a bit for the painting, while remaining true to the spirit of the scene.
Most obviously, there's the color. I decided to keep the whole thing high-key and colorful, so gray cobblestones and sidewalks morphed into blush pink and lavender. A black jacket was changed to light teal, and the golden yellow building was washed out by the bright sunshine in my sketch. I exaggerated the purplish hue that's often seen in shadows, and even pushed it to pink in places.
|I enlarged and centered the shop name to make it more prominent. Now, it announces "This is Italy!"|
Details on the foreground balconies and shops were simplified, and as I moved farther back in the picture, they became even less detailed.
I even left out a building or two at the end of the block, because I thought the composition would benefit from having the contrasting pink building jutting out, to stop the eye from running off the page.
I moved the shop window with the mannequin to the left of the double brown doors, so the doors would act as a frame for the man's head.
The arcing cobblestones, which were so beautiful on Andrea Palladio Street, looked odd when I sketched a few in pencil on my painting. They made the street look like it had little hills on it. I could have worked to get the perspective right, but, instead, decided to make it easy on myself and change them to square cobbles. Just a few here and there were enough to suggest the texture of the street.
It would have been very easy to get caught up in the details when I painted all those flowers, but I constantly reminded myself not to get too fiddly with them. I did include most of the pots and containers that were in the photo, and their lovely blooms, but I tried to keep them as masses,with just enough detail to hint at a light and dark side and give them some depth.
Notice that the colors on the flowers are much more intense than on the building or the street. That helps to draw attention to my intended focal point, the flower shop.
The two gentlemen in the foreground are an important part of the scene, and I loved their relaxed stance, but I kept their colors a bit on the muted side, to make them secondary to the riot of color across the street.
I also changed the position of the bicycle guy's arm to look like it was in his pocket rather than scratching his head. I like that you're not quite sure, when looking at my sketch, whether it's a man or a woman. What's the story? Are they two old pals talking about the latest soccer game, or could that be the widow lady from down the block? Is there a bit of flirtation going on? After all, that light blue color and fur collar on the coat are a bit girly...
We saw scenes like this everywhere we traveled in Italy - older folks stopping with their bicycles to pass the time of day with a friend or acquaintance. There's something so charming about it. It speaks of friendship, relaxation, and a certain attitude toward life.
So, that's the inside story of this page in my travel journal. I hope you'll let me know if you enjoyed it. I'll be happy to share more about future sketches, if you like. Also, would you enjoy seeing a post or two showing step-by-step photos of how a page/painting comes together?