View Full Version : Twin Flight WIP finished

07-12-2010, 12:00 PM
I've started a painting of 2 swans in flight from a fabulous photo in the RIL.
In the photo the BG is all water (as the photo was taken with a zoom I imagine) and I liked that idea so decided to go with it.

I thought I knew what I wanted but when I'd done it I wasn't happy so I brushed off the excess and started again. Now it looks even worse!

What I wanted was something which reads as water but takes a definite back seat to the swans.
Looking at it again I'm wondering whether, afterall, I should introduce a horizon and some sky or even make the bg ALL sky.

Here it is before I brushed off. No photo of the current mess yet! Lots of work still needed on the swans but I've got to get that bg sorted first.

Opinions please!


Paula Ford
07-12-2010, 12:25 PM
Ruthie, I think this painting looks fabulous with the water. My only concern is how far down and close to the bottom and side edges the birds are. If you were to keep it as is, it makes a very nice L composition.

07-12-2010, 01:03 PM
Ruthie - you are all over this! Just keep true to what you want to express and go for it.

I've always found that incorporating a bit of the color of the object into the background and vice versa helps bond the piece and I think you have done that.

Looks balanced to me. :)


07-12-2010, 02:17 PM
Thanks both for answering! Trouble is this bg has gone! Brushed off, just didn't look like water to me. Maybe I'll stick with the water BG but how many times can pastelmat be brushed off? lol
Paula I tried the swans further into the frame but they look as if they're flying so fast they'd fly right out before people saw them! Same with having them higher. as they're ascending I thought I ought to give them room to do that. The distance from the edge is the actual distance though. The mat will be at the edge of that.

07-12-2010, 04:01 PM
Ruthie - I just loved this, why did you brush it off?? It was beautiful!!! This is exactly how I see swans flying ... over the water. You don't need sky, just try and recapture that water!!! I loved the contrast between the water and the swans - you had the perfect value back there. And the sunlight reflections were perfect!!! OK, I'm going to take a breath here ... give it another go - and no faffing :-)


07-12-2010, 04:32 PM
Ruthie, looks nice, but they are scraping the bottom of the painting. There is too much action near the corner, with the contrast with the feet. Don't have time to do a visual, but I'd flip the pic, so they're rushing to the right. I'd put them a bit higher in the pic, and a bit further in, too. They are clearly in full flight, so a blue sky might work, but watch out for watery reflections on their tummies if you do sky.

You'll solve this. Tomorrow morning (Tuesday) you'll know exactly what to do!


07-12-2010, 04:34 PM
like the drama - just coming off the water
the pic does look to me like the birds were ' flashed ' by a camera = stark/harsh
could be two paintings - one with all water and one with a ribbon of sky - my guess is the sun reflection on water has the elements for unity of the colour variation for the plumeage of the birds away from the sun = medium key with selective highlights ( body edges, etc)

since you've done a scrub, i feel kinda intrusive posting this, but i hope it might be useful to you with a similar scene/situation/light source

:} Ed

07-12-2010, 04:57 PM
Lynn. I keep asking myself why I brushed it off too! I'll keep going (or maybe eventually give up and start again) but can't promise no faffing!

Charlie. Thank you! I took a while working out where to place them and put my reasoning in my reply above. I could extend the boundary a little as I have about 1" of border right round, have to leave a little for the mount though.
As for the flip, well I tried that too but felt that, when the eye enters the painting from the left, (and I'm not convinced even now we all read paintings like this) the viewer would be drawn quickly along the swans bodies and out of the painting on the right. I thought this way round the viewer would encounter their faces first, follow through their bodies and then, stopped by the swan's feet, turn back into the painting to follow their direction of movement.
I don't s'pose that makes any sense and I am still learning the principles of composition! Tell you what, IF I scrap this and start again I'll try it flipped....maybe.....

Ed, thanks for looking. I think I'll stick with the all water background. Good thought about unifying the colours, which I hope to achieve. I'm sure this photo wasn't taken with flash. Must've been a pretty good zoom lense. But they are mostly in sunlight. Maybe they look stark now as I've still got a lot of work to do on them. Oh and nothing intrusive about you posting an opinion which I asked for!

Tomorrow, if time permits, I'll get back to the drawing board!

07-12-2010, 05:36 PM
I thought the background looked great but you are the artist and if you didn't like it then, thats that. I am sure it will be stunning in the end. Looking forward to see what you up with. james

07-12-2010, 05:36 PM
hello Ruthie
thank You
i've had the rare opportunity to talk with a few US Stamp artists, and they are always concerned about how a painting reduces, and because of that, how sharp/soft focus and contrasts,colour hold together
so, imho, you're onto something (not really knowing your work/background)

birds could be left, right ,liberal, conservative... :) :)

:} Ed

07-13-2010, 02:56 AM
Ruthie - been watching this at home, (not logged in) and it was --

Ooooooh! lovely! then
Groan, (wiped off?!!) then
wow good thoughts (from others- learning here, colour incorporation into BG etc) then
Oh goody more to come :) :)

so all good!! huni

07-13-2010, 05:13 AM
I've been looking to see what the differences were...and it appears to me you have too much dk blue maybe?
According to PS colourpicker...you had the right lighter grey-blue....and the right brown.....so if maybe you redid the grey blue as a base....added the brown wavy bits where appropriate....add a few of the darker waves...you've got your sea...see?
I could be totally wrong of course!:evil: :lol:

07-13-2010, 07:09 AM
Dang sure wish you'd asked before wiping it! Interesting to see the reference and painting side-by-side. I think you've added more of a sunrise/sunset flavor to it.

Will look for ward to the remake....

07-13-2010, 10:55 AM
Ruthie, ah, you did state your reasons, and I was too hot to acknowledge that in my previous post. Your painting, your decisions, and you're very clear on that, which is great! Looking at the ref in Deirdre's post, I think the swans are very nicely balanced in the pic. The 'weight' of the closest swan is fairly squarely in one of the 'sweet spots'. They could have a wee bit more in front of them. The value contrast is so high I don't think the eye will follow the vector out of the pic, the eye will be irresistably drawn back.

I don't think we read paintings from left to right, either. I do think we relate movement as left being back, and right being forward, and perceive time as left is back, right is towards the future. Seems the eye jumps directly into the painting, finding what is most important/makes most sense, first. Only then do we start to explore the painting. So, I think having the swans fly left creates a beatiful tension. It is a simple picture of a fairly wite blob on a fairly mid toned mass, with high contrasts. I'm talking about major masses here, and then a few dark accents. The vector of the white mass is slanting down from left to right, and when the "white blob" is understood as swans by our brains, then we see the movement being from low right going up towards left. This is part of what makes the picture, so I wish I could delete the previous comment... So, you have complexity hidden within simplicity. Love it!


07-13-2010, 11:17 AM
Thanks all for your input on this. I worked some more this morning, dug into the borders to get the near swan further away from the edges, worked a little on ideas for the far swan's body and messed up the BG some more! It looks less like water now than it did and is too bright (why can't I resist blue-violet?)
Left it as I had to go out and now I'm going to leave it for a few days/weeks/months (LOL) to see if inspiration will eventually strike!

Charlie. I thought it was just me who isn't aware of reading paintings from L to R. I've heard your theory about looking back (left) and forward (right) before and I know you (being a forward looking person!) prefer the looking right comp. I am and always have been drawn to the looking left aspect. I've assumed it is because I am right handed and it's easier to do, say, a profile facing left. It's an interesting conundrum!
And I'm glad you posted what you did. It made me think more about my reasons for how I set it out and made me realise that I had, indeed, pushed the swans too close to the edges.
Once again, thanks everyone. I just LOVE Wet Canvas!

07-13-2010, 12:36 PM
Hi Ruthie. I'm a bit late on the thread, but I thought I'd give you the link to another thread from the landscape forum to wade through, lots of good information on water, perhaps it can help you.
One thing that first struck me on the first view you gave us was that the light on the water (behind the birds) actually looked like sunset, but then the color tones on the birds that you used for the light on them looked like light was striking them from front/below and the two together were visually confusing due to the temperature of the light on the birds (warm), cause if the sun was setting on the water (remember this is only my impression, not obviously what was real in the photo, that light on the water I can see now was from a white object) then the sun would be behind the birds...can you get my drift? Just what my eyes were getting at first impression.
The water was beautiful....don't be so hard on yourself, you do gorgeous work!:grouphug: Your paintings have made me fall in love with swans again!:D

07-13-2010, 02:18 PM
Hi Ruth,

I'm on vacation, so only just now stopping by to take a look. I'm sorry to hear you brushed of the bg. It looked great! I would recreate what you had, if you can! And a bit more water under the swans should help, too. Your water, by the way, looked much more like water than the photo, so I wouldn't try to copy the photo.

The swans are great and I'm sure whatever bg you put in - it will look great! Trust yourself! I have never seen a painting of your's that didn't work beautifully!


07-13-2010, 02:34 PM
Thanks Drusilla! I noticed the sunset effect too and wondered if I could light the swans to convey that feeling. Deciding I couldn't I scrubbed the BG! I do regret it now, especially since it's just getting worse! I usually have no problem with water. I think it's because I wanted this water to recede and not command much attention, just be a background.
Thank you Don! Hope you're having a great vacation! Thank you for such encouraging words. This one will get done one day, either this one or start again, and I promise it will be stunning!

07-13-2010, 03:04 PM
very courageous thinking/statement !
i'm sure that when you finish the piece it will be stunning !
:} Ed

07-13-2010, 03:30 PM
Thanks Ed! It will be stunning and, if it isn't, you'll never see it anyway.............LOL

08-09-2010, 12:44 PM
Well, it's been a while but I finally had another go at this one today.
I brushed off the BG (again) and sort of brought it back to near the original.
I know the previous pics have gone but maybe that's a good thing!
This BG is staying, I've had it with changing it! BUT, I could do with some tips on how to make the sunlight on the water look more real. Any ideas?


Here's a close up of the wings. The far one is sorta finished. the near one is WIP although the top area is maybe finished. There looks to be a halo round the wings but this is because I've been trying to make them blurred to suggest movement. Any tips on the best way to go about this?


Any other C&C most welcome!

08-09-2010, 02:51 PM
Ruthie, just my opinion here, but if the sun is where you suggest wouldn't the birds be backlit? if it's where the birds show it now it would not reflect the way you show...so maybe you can put up your ref...

08-10-2010, 05:10 AM
Hi Colleen. Thanks for looking. Here's the ref.


As you will see the reflection is of.....something.....not sunlight I don't think. I just thought, having all that empty space for them to fly into it would be a good idea to put a vertical element there to hold the eye.
I certainly take your point. I may leave the reflection there and make it whiter or I may get rid altogether. It's obviously a daytime photo with the sun quite high and that's how I want to portray it really. Don't want the swans to be darker than they are as that will lower the overall value contrast. Wonder if I should substitute the reflection with a little boat?
This is turning into one of the most problematic paintings I've done!

John Palmer Fine Art
08-10-2010, 06:13 AM
This is very nice Ruthie, love the elegance of these birds that you have captured. B.T.W. no pictures appear on my screen before the 9/8 so couldn't comment before. John

08-11-2010, 04:00 AM
Thanks John! The lack of pics is due to the WC server upgrade. You'll find pics missing everywhere. In this case tho' you didn't miss much!

Donna T
08-11-2010, 08:40 AM
Ruthie, your painting is even more impressive after seeing the ref photo. There isn't much color visible on the birds so I'm glad you are seeing what the camera most likely didn't!

Tracy Lang
08-11-2010, 06:29 PM
Hi Ruthie,
I think you've captured the motion/movement of the birds beautifully! You really have an affinity for painting these majestic animals.
As for the reflection at the top, maybe adding some smaller strokes of lighter values...sparkle...would help get you closer.
Really strong painting...I'm glad you kept working on it :)


08-11-2010, 08:25 PM
Ruthie, the movement of the birds is wonderful, also the water. (as others, I never saw the original). I look forward to seeing if you add more.

08-12-2010, 02:46 PM
Thanks Donna, Tracy and Nancy! I have to admit I've been delaying going back to this one. To me Art is all about the doing and I just feel fed up with this because of all the problems I've had with the BG. I almost lost the will to continue.....But, your comments have helped. I guess I'll see it through to the bitter end! I doubt I'll ever like this one though. My joy in a painting is all about how I feel when I'm doing it and this one doesn't make me feel good!

08-16-2010, 01:01 PM
Ooh, I see the pics are back and now everyone can see what potential this one had before I started messing about with it!

I went back to it today and it MAY be finished. I haven't signed it yet and may go back to it because, as predicted, I'm not happy with it.

So much for me saying it would be stunning when it was finished. What I meant was boring, lack lustre, may as well frame the photo :cat:

Here it is. Now off to find a brilliant ref so I can do a stunning painting for the Autumn exhibition! :)


08-16-2010, 03:36 PM
Right on Ruthie....one thing I notice is the artists who really are "hard on themselves" are the ones who have a clear idea of where they want to go and know when they fall short ( for me most of the time) Falling short is good, it can inspire you to search and find the methods and elements to make better art.

No art is ever going to really be good without the first fundamental composition, not rules of comp, tho they are very helpful at first, but finding the sensitivity to see something is 1/4 inch or even 1/8" off, until you can feel in an inner way the forces on the picture plane, this has taken me a lifetime to develop

One issue here is the birds, which are so inspiring to all of us. I just spent the entire last year devoted exclusively to this subject, and hundreds of hours out in the field observing and sketching( mostly badly) from life. Birds are huge subject and to get them flying is not an easy task, even one year later I haven't gotten to much flight yet. Yours are not bad, and the wings are nicely done, so don't give up on this yet, put it away for a while..

Because the next issue with birds( swans and other water birds) is the water which turns out to be another huge issue to understand, water is a plane and follows the rules of perspective....in value and diminishing size of wavelets etc...not to mention reflections and other things....I'm still working on this one too.

Here is a slight rework I did so I could learn, maybe it will help you

Composition, I gave the birds more angle to show the flight, and in subtle ways altered the light and dark of water to echo the arrow flight. I subdued the back plane of the water, reserving detail for the foreground, just like landscape. I also cross cut and changed angles on some of the ripples, again something that comes from live observations, putting all the strokes parallel leads to dullness even if you change color or value...which you have nicely done.

If I were to do more I'd bring more values into the near bird to give it more roundness, and add little touches to show the reflected light of the water, things you have to see in life that the camera misses, my shadows would be colored on a white bird...

Anyway...I know you are on your way to becoming a very fine artist, because you are setting high standards for yourself...and I really support that, even it it seems I'm "being hard on you":wave:

08-17-2010, 03:27 PM
Colleen....thank you so much for your comprehensive guidance which I will keep and look at when I either come back to this or start it again!
Everything you've said makes sense! I have to admit I didn't think about recession in the water...stupid really. You see that doesn't show in the photo because it was taken with a zoom lense so the water front and back reads the same.
Next time I pick up a photo ref to make a painting from I will study these things and try to find what I want to portray before making a start. I am not a slave to photo refs (tho' I used to be) but I sometimes fail to see the obvious until someone else points it out to me!
Thanks once again....and I hope articulating this helped you too as you thought it may!

08-18-2010, 07:20 PM
This is really beautiful work...


08-19-2010, 03:52 PM
Thank you Annette! I think your reply proves Colleen's point! The picture above is my painting with her suggested adjustments to the water which I think improve it no end.