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Pre-Painting Analysis of a Subject Before Starting to Paint.  By Don Finkeldei:  Before painting you should have a clear vision of the result.   This article contains a checklist of things you should know  before starting -- and things you should keep in mind while painting.

  1. Which side of the subject is lightest or darkest?  Where is the light source coming from?  Is there more than one light source?  Is there Reflected light?

  2. Is the light clear and sharp or diffused?  Just because you’ve got a bright source doesn’t mean that the edges of cast shadows and objects are sharp.  Reflected light bouncing of other local objects can greatly soften or strengthen the value objects in the reflected light.  Is there strong reflected light (like on sunny days) or not much reflected light like on cloudy days?

  3. What is the focal point?  The main point if interest  How will you draw attention to it.  What will lead your eye to the focal point?  How will you diminish attention from other areas?  A good painting has one focal point, a lead in to it and every thing else is just supportive information.

  4. Where are the lightest lights and the darkest darks?  This is called the value scale.  You will be working with values between the two.

  5. Where are the sharpest edges, soft edges and completely lost edges?  Normally, the focal point will contain the sharpest edges although creating sharp edges other places can greatly increase the appeal of the painting but shouldn’t overwhelm the focal point.  Clouds and trees usually have soft edges as a general rule although a few well placed sharp edges here can actually help a painting.  One thing to note about photographs vs. painting from real life:  You will have to create the peripheral vision effect.  Your eye can only focus on one area at a time in real life.  Everything in your peripheral vision is less sharp, less clear.  Try looking at something.  Notice how your peripheral vision isn’t quite as clear and sharp.  A painting needs to have this effect painted in. The reason is because a painting is pretty much “all in focus” like a photograph, but what you want to create is what your eye would see in real life.  Also, you won’t see the peripheral vision effect in a photograph like you would in real life so you’ll have to create that if you’re working from photos.  Try not to work from photographs if you can.

  6. Where are the strongest colors?

  7. Is there an obvious color harmony?

  8. How warm or cool is the light?  Usually cloudy days have cool light, sunny days warm light.  NOTE:  Shadows in a cool light are relatively warm.  Shadows in a warm light are relatively cool.

  9. Where are the simple areas?  Where do you have to be especially careful?  Are there any drawing problems, foreshortening, perspective, distortions or areas of ambiguity or confusion?  How will you handle that.

  10. If painting from real life, is your canvas out of the direct sunlight?  Always keep your canvas in shade by rotating your easel or setting up in a shady area.

  11. What kind of technique are you going to use?  How do you want to put your paint on?  Heavy, thin, broken color?  It’s sometimes very effective if you leave some of the under painting wash as is without painting over it.

  12. What do you really need to paint?  Is there anything that you should omit or simplify to enhance the painting. 


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