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Old 04-03-2018, 10:55 AM
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mtpalms mtpalms is offline
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Should I enlarge the subject of this painting or leave it alone?

I have a compositional conundrum. I have been asked to create a painting from this photo:


I will move the Joshua Tree just into the left third so it isn't in the absolute center of the picture, that is sort of an obvious correction. The yuccas on the right will balance it nicely. The other 2 vehicles will be omitted from the scene.

Since the focal point is the red van, my instinct is to enlarge it, because the camera tends to flatten things and the van was probably more prominent in the scene irl. Plus, because it was red, the eye naturally gave it priority, which is why the photo was taken, according to the client.

On the other hand, red is a great spot color, and leaving the van small might just make it draw the eye, but not overwhelm a really impressive landscape.

The painting is going to be an 18 x 24, which is also a factor. Leaving the van small might just make it a distracting little blob of red, rather a recognizable object.

I don't want to change the painting radically, since it is a commission, I just want it to be more correct, compositionally speaking.

Is there a reason why the van should stay as is or be made more prominent?
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Old 04-03-2018, 12:55 PM
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Re: Should I enlarge the subject of this painting or leave it alone?

i think i would move the joshua tree into the right third and show a bit more of the road on the left. i wouldn't enlarge the van, it shows well enough in the vast environment.

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Old 04-03-2018, 01:07 PM
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Re: Should I enlarge the subject of this painting or leave it alone?

Marcia, it looks like you have a potential winner here! I agree with the idea to move the Joshua tree to the left, but I'd also shift the entire composition that way. What I mean is to crop some from the right hand side and add to the left hand side, so that the hill on the left continues up to a higher spot at the edge of the canvas. I think that will make it all more interesting, since the hills will terminate at different heights, rather than at the same height as they are now, and the low point of the "V" formed by the intersection of the two hills will be a little further from the center. If you make the suggested changes, you could place the yuccas at roughly the same spot relative to the edges of the canvas that they are now. Actually, as I look at it again, it appears it's proportions are longer in the horizontal direction (relative to vertical) than and 18x24 would be, so maybe all you'd need to do is crop a little from the right hand side to make the proportions work for 18x24, and then maybe make the left site hill just a little steeper. And the far hill (that we can see in the distance in the "V" of the other two) should probably be situated so that it's not right in the middle either. I guess there are a few ways of going about what I'm suggesting, but anyway, I think you'll get the jist of what I'm suggesting.

I'm not certain about resizing the red van, but think on an 18x24 it may be large enough to carry the piece. Maybe you could do some smaller tests on scrap paper or canvas with different size vans just to make sure of how different sizes read.

I think this will make a beautiful painting!
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Last edited by AnnieA : 04-03-2018 at 01:15 PM.
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Old 04-03-2018, 02:25 PM
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Re: Should I enlarge the subject of this painting or leave it alone?

Thanks for the input. I hadn't thought of moving the tree to the right.

Great minds thinking alike Annie! This is the composition I came up with over the weekend:

(The weird looking area in the middle was just a quick fill after I moved the tree in Pshop.)

I also cropped quite a bit off the right side to make the proportions fit an 18 x 24 canvas, which had the added benefit of moving the van a little off to the right as well, so it is definitely moving into the scene instead of out of it.

I don't think it shows well in the small images I am posting here, but there is a bit of the road showing in the background on the left of the tree in the original photo, and on the right of it in the 'shopped photo. I think that making that a little more noticeable will help too.

I like your ideas about changing the hill in the middle, probably half its width to the left? And adjusting the slope on the near hill on the left.

It is a nice photo to work from, I usually shy away from commissions like this, because people expect miracles from bad reference material. One thing he did request was to add a little 'atmosphere', so I will give it a 'golden hour' feel.
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Old 04-03-2018, 05:26 PM
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Re: Should I enlarge the subject of this painting or leave it alone?

Quote:
Originally Posted by mtpalms
Thanks for the input. I hadn't thought of moving the tree to the right.

Great minds thinking alike Annie! This is the composition I came up with over the weekend:

(The weird looking area in the middle was just a quick fill after I moved the tree in Pshop.)

I also cropped quite a bit off the right side to make the proportions fit an 18 x 24 canvas, which had the added benefit of moving the van a little off to the right as well, so it is definitely moving into the scene instead of out of it.

I don't think it shows well in the small images I am posting here, but there is a bit of the road showing in the background on the left of the tree in the original photo, and on the right of it in the 'shopped photo. I think that making that a little more noticeable will help too.

I like your ideas about changing the hill in the middle, probably half its width to the left? And adjusting the slope on the near hill on the left.

It is a nice photo to work from, I usually shy away from commissions like this, because people expect miracles from bad reference material. One thing he did request was to add a little 'atmosphere', so I will give it a 'golden hour' feel.

Heh, yeah, Marcia, that's pretty much what I was thinking. The hill in the middle just needs to be moved enough so it isn't in the middle, nor lines up with the middle of the van. And actually, I think the red van could be moved just a little further to the right. Doing that would make it fall on the Golden Section, but you're pretty close as it is. But I'd move the hill in the left direction. That way it'd act as a counterpoint to the van. Just my take though...

I think it would be a beautiful scene if transformed to the "golden hour," but OTOH, it seems to me that making such a radical change might not be what your buyer wants. Maybe a quick color study to show him first would be a good idea. You could even just make the adjustment to the photo itself in Photoshop and shoot him a copy, or even just raise the question in an email about how far to go in achieving atmosphere. Actually, I love the blues and blue violets in the background and they already provide some nice atmosphere. I wonder if extending those colors but with darker values into the closer elements might be another option. Although I don't see any here, aren't there often desert plants with lavenders/purples in them?
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Last edited by AnnieA : 04-03-2018 at 05:34 PM.
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Old 04-04-2018, 02:53 AM
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Re: Should I enlarge the subject of this painting or leave it alone?



I would suggest something like the composition roughly indicated above. Extending the lower green portion removing blue mountains. Cloud to taste. Slight crop. I moved the van further down the road to the right. Keeping the van the same size but moving it further away in the picture plan makes it appear "bigger" by changing the perspective.

Last edited by theBongolian : 04-04-2018 at 02:55 AM.
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Old 04-04-2018, 08:57 AM
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Re: Should I enlarge the subject of this painting or leave it alone?

This is the challenge of using photos for design and composition of paintings.

Photos simply show what the camera lens sees within its focal length. Everything is in focus, everything is treated as of equal importance and there is almost always an overabundance of information for the story a painter may wish to tell.

To answer your question of "what to do", I'd ask some questions:

--What is the story you want to tell?
--What is the focal point and area of importance?
--What is the "star" of the painting?
--What is truly important for the painting, and what is secondary and supportive?

Is the landscape the important element here? Is the van the important element here? Whatever is truly important should dominate the painting. Everything else should be secondary and not dominate the painting.

"Dominance" is an important design principle for every painting. Dominance may be achieved in many ways, both in terms of composition and in terms of painting techniques (value, hue, temperature, etc).

One simple approach to dominance is for the dominant element to occupy more than 50% of the painting. Thus, in this simple approach to composition, either the landscape or the van should occupy more than 50% of your composition.

So...what will you do? What is your story and how do you want to tell it? Surely you are not simply replicating a photo with a few shapes relocated...

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Old 04-04-2018, 09:31 AM
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Re: Should I enlarge the subject of this painting or leave it alone?

This will make a very nice painting indeed. I think the size of the van is fine, as it is less the focus than the landscape itself in my mind, but that spark of red will definitely draw the eye.

I would just crop a bit off the right of the photo, shift the tree to the left, and leave the van about where it is after having snipped a bit off the photo. Too bad it's an 18x24 in dimensions. . . this is such an expansive scene, I bet it would look amazing as a panoramic.

Edit:

What you presented in the adjusted image is pretty much what most of us would do I would think.

As for the subjugation that Virgil mentions, I generally agree with the assessment, though I feel confident you are fairly familiar with composition overall. More eyes never hurt though.
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Old 04-04-2018, 09:50 AM
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Re: Should I enlarge the subject of this painting or leave it alone?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Delofasht
...More eyes never hurt though.
So much this! If it were my own photo, I would just do it the way I want, but since it is a commission, I think the client has an expectation that it will stay true to his photo, so it is a bit of a balancing act that makes me indecisive. I think shifting elements around is okay, omitting them, probably not.

I like theBongolian's idea of moving the van over a bit more to the right, one vehicle width makes quite a difference!

I will post a pic of the wip when I get it blocked in. Thank you all for confirming what I thought were good changes and some things I would not have thought of.
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Old 04-04-2018, 03:07 PM
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Re: Should I enlarge the subject of this painting or leave it alone?

Have you done commissions before?

The single biggest challenge of a commission (and why many painters will not accept commissions) is answering the question, "For whom am I painting?"

In other words, are you painting for someone else and guessing what their desires and standards for art are? Or you painting for yourself, knowing what your desires and standards for art are?

Presumably, the person who is commissioning you has seen some of your work and liked it sufficiently to ask you to make a painting for them. If this is the case, then why would you not paint as you normally do?

Be prepared for the person to make various requests for design, composition, values and hues in your work. Have answers ready which represent your feelings about your work.

Good luck with your commission.

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Old 04-05-2018, 11:01 AM
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Re: Should I enlarge the subject of this painting or leave it alone?

The client and I have been corresponding, and he approves of the changes I am going to make.

I rarely accept commissions, but this photo had merit and potential, and after speaking with him on the phone, I had a good feeling about it.

So I am really excited now to get moving on this piece!
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Old 04-06-2018, 07:08 AM
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Re: Should I enlarge the subject of this painting or leave it alone?

Great. Hope it all works out.
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Old 04-06-2018, 05:08 PM
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Re: Should I enlarge the subject of this painting or leave it alone?

I think it would be quite beautiful if you were to take away a little off the left and let the circle of the yucca plant, the van and the Joshua tree be your focal point. That allows a good focal point with those three items and then the van doesn't need to be either made bigger or smaller.

The drawback to that is that then some of the vastness of the valley beyond is lost, so you might want to figure out how to keep the essence of that vastness while still cropping on the left. Or just keep the elements most important to the person who commissioned the piece what he wants the focus to be. He might not care whether the valley is that important to him and in that case you can crop away.
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Old 04-13-2018, 10:00 AM
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Re: Should I enlarge the subject of this painting or leave it alone?

Sorry I'm late to the party, this is a cool forum!

The only change I'd make to your new composition is I would make the joshua tree a bit larger and taller, just a bit, move the yucca up and to the right just a tiny bit and the van down and to the left a smidgen so it's not directly underneath the sharp cut gray mountain and will give the yucca a little more breathing room. That will give you a downward triangle of the 3 major elements that would lead you around to the mountains in the background.

I would NOT get rid of the blue mountains. They are integral to telling the story of place.
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Old 04-13-2018, 11:39 AM
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Re: Should I enlarge the subject of this painting or leave it alone?

Thank you Ellen and Robin! I ave been a bit stalled out because of other commitments in the last week, but hope to get the canvas covered today so I can post the rough-in.

I do plan on making the joshua tree bigger, not so much scale-wise, but making a fuller, slightly larger tree. And the blue mountains will stay.
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