Behind the painting

Behind the painting - Betty

The past Saturday was my wife's birthday. Being an artist gives me the privilege to express my feeling for her by painting her. I still remember painting her for the first time in oil back in 2004 when we were still dating. I never get tire of painting her. It gets easier since I am very familiar with the structure of her face and what makes her face. However I do find myself venture out to a new territory when it comes to painting a very familiar subject such as my wife. The confidence I have when painting her helps me to be a bit more bold and give her more character and paint her with less information.

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Behind the painting - Dafne

 Last week I watched the movie Logan with my colleagues. I was blown away by the performance of this young actress - Dafne Keen. Feeling inspired, I decided to do a portrait of her. I quite like how the painting has turned out, so I decided to share the process here.

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Behind the painting - Beuna Vista Street


 Welcome to another Behind the Painting! Where I share my process and thought behind one of my recent paintings - Beuna Vista Street. This painting is based off a photo I took during my vacation in California in the past December. I took my family to Disneyland California Adventure. While I brought my camera just to take photos of my family. I came across this specific scenery which I thought has the potential for a good painting. So I quickly took a photo of it.


Subject Matter

When I was there, the background tower caught my eyes. I love the Spanish looking architecture! It provides great shape with wonderful lighting on it. On top of that, the lamp post, the palm trees and the cables all provide great visual interest and shape languages. Now that I think of it, this is a bit of cheating because it is clear to me that Disney put much thought into designing the theme park, so finding visual appealing scenery is quite easy!  But as always, it is not good to copy the photo one to one. Some adjustment has to be made in order to create a better composition and design. So here are the things I've changed:


My interpertation

  • Crop (blue) - I was using 28mm focal length when I took this shot. Human eyes focal length are closer to 50mm. Which means 28mm gives me more view than a typical human eye. It will also cause some distortion of the image. So what I do in the first is to crop my reference image. I intentionally cut off part of the palm trees to make it looks taller.
  • Scaled up the tower (green) - Since the Spanish tower in the background is my favorite element in the scene, I want to emphasize on it just a bit more. It will still be in the background. But making it taller creates a more dramatic scale and visual interest, as well as better composition. 
  • Taking out the visual competition (yellow) - The lamp posts on the right is another great visual interest, but the palm trees on the right are overpowering them. So I pushed them back a lot more and make them a lot shorter. That makes the lamp posts stands out more and frames the scenery more.
  • Change the figures (red) - Figures are necessary in this scene because I hardly see Disneyland without visitors. However, some of the people in the photo are quite close to the camera, that makes them looks really big. It breaks the scale that I want to achieve, so I change the figures quite a bit to a couple taking a kid facing the viewer. If you look carefully, you'll also see the kid is wearing a Mickey Mouse hat ;)
  • Adding more stuff - I added a cable tram in my painting. Even though it's not in the original photo, I know there is a red cable tramp that goes back and forth in the theme park. I believe paint that tram in will add the authenticity and will make the painting more interesting, so I google a reference photo from the web. Since I am not copy this photo exactly, it is not an issue.

 And here's the finish painting again:

 Now the picture looks more balanced, hopefully more interesting and exciting! Again a successful painting takes quite a bit of thinking and planning, one of the biggest mistake is to blatantly copy the photo reference. You are not a camera, you have time and freedom to change things around to make it your own picture!


Top 60 Watercolor Blog

 Yesterday I was informed by Feedspot that I am one of the top 60 watercolor blog! It was an honor and a pleasant surprise, because I've only been blogging for about an year. I really want to thank you for your support and subscribe. And I also really appreciate anyone who shared my blog to others. If you find the content here helpful, please share my page to others! I know this is just the beginning, and I will be continue to write and paint.