View Full Version : How to tackle this one . . . ?

Green Explorer
07-27-2013, 03:34 AM
I've just posted this photograph in the photography thread and the more I look at it, the more I'd like to have a go myself, using watercolour. It was taken on the River Thames, near Shiplake.

My problem is the tree which is such a dominant feature it has to be "just right", without being fussy and over-worked.


Does the painting need a lot of simplifying do you think? I think it's probably relatively straightforward and not over-complicated.

I'd love to hear how others would tackle this scene - any hints and tips would be gratefully received.

07-27-2013, 03:48 AM
This is a very interesting photograph, the way the cows are all lined up! What is barely-believable in a photograph (I had to squint to make sure I was not seeing double) might be totally unbelievable in a painting, so I would seriously consider removing some of those cow "doubles." Maybe reposition some of the cows to make the composition more balanced.

07-27-2013, 05:37 AM
Beautiful photograph and I think it will be a lovely watercolor painting as well.

If I were going to paint this, I would crop off some of the right side so the tree is almost at the edge.

The back row of trees should be softer and less defined than they are in the photo to give distance.

I agree about simplifying the two whitish cows under the tree into just one and maybe only three cows in the water instead of four.

I like the reflection of the tree in the water and might exaggerate its tone a little there.

If you put the duck in, flip him so he is entering the picture, not swimming out of it. ;)


07-27-2013, 06:18 AM
I agree, a wonderful photograph but needs simplifying when painting.


07-27-2013, 12:04 PM
Tom, if it were me, I would have a cow facing the viewer at least partially; right now we see the backs of all the cows in the foreground. I guess they are all turned with their heads toward the shade of the tree. But maybe the cow in the background (we see sideways view of him, but head is turned toward us in 3/4 view), could be larger, and put in place of the 2 cows standing on grass under the tree?
The last few years, I have become aware of quite a few paintings - even hanging in galleries - where all of the living elements (people or animals) are seen from the back, even though the architecture or foliage landscape might be spectacular - and it really gives me a sense of feeling shut out, as a viewer.
This is my personal peeve I think, and there is a lot of great advice already given below. Have fun with the painting, it is a beautiful photo!!

07-27-2013, 08:59 PM
Tom, you've been given some good advice and it's up to you to make the choice that is right for you. I personally like the way the cows are lined up at least the foreground ones. This will make a SUPER painting; it's a great photograph. I like Sylvia's idea about the crop of the right hand side; it doesn't add anything to the picture. Whatever you decide I'm sure it'll be a great painting.

07-27-2013, 09:34 PM
I tend to put photographs like this in Photoshop and experiment with cropping them to see what composition works. (one Photoshop session later) Personally, I'd lose a lot on the left, some on the right, and maybe the top third (a bland and featureless sky). Lose a redundant cow or two. Reposition the ducks to balance the eye's travel into or out of the picture. You can retain the entire tree in a portrait orientation rather than landscape, but that seems a bit too centered, but the moment I switch it back to landscape and cut off the top of the tree, it seems to improve because the balance is less symmetrical.

07-28-2013, 05:21 AM
Hi Tom, You've been given many good suggestions. You were concerned about making the tree too important. This suggests that the cows are going to be the COI element of your painting. I looked at your flickr and website and I think your style of painting trees will work very nicely for this painting. I would go with more light than dark values without too much contrast. Save the contrast for the cows to make them stand out.

Green Explorer
07-29-2013, 04:31 AM
Dear Everyone

Thank you all so much for your helpful comments and advice. I have been able to find so much of interest in your posts and am going to start work on this painting today, much enlightened.

07-30-2013, 12:53 PM

I would definitely crop this one. Lots of options for interesting compositions by closing into the view with a tighter crop.