What If? Part II

“What if?” can lead to a stronger painting.

We hear it all the time… “Just because it is in the photo doesn’t mean we have to paint it that way.” And our common response may be “but that’s how it looks in the photo.” It can take a while before we feel confident enough in our skills to give ourselves permission to re-interpret a scene. I would like to share with you such a journey that led to a 2nd place award that I received in the 21st Annual Pastel Journal’s Pastel 100 Competition.

As I shared in the April 2020 edition of the Pastel Journal, during a walk in the woods 10 years ago, a young raccoon came toward me along the footpath, unaware of my presence. As it stopped to take a drink from a stream, I quickly and quietly took some photos. The painting that I created soon after this interaction diligently copied the scene, including the brown of Autumn. I was very pleased with that initial painting because it looked like the photo, well, pretty much.

A pastel painting of a raccoon taking a drink from a river, during autumn
Autumn Dip

Ten years later, I decided to revisit the moment. Over those years, not only have my skills with pastels improved, but I’m more comfortable with asking “what if?” and giving myself permission to step away from photograph.

The “what if?” phase happens for me when developing thumbnail sketches, considering various compositions. Once I select a composition that I feel is strong, then I’ll ask myself “what if” I change the direction of the lighting or the overall color scheme? These all went into creating “Cool Drink.”

Wanting to bring more focus on the moment, cropping in closely to the raccoon edits out many of the potential distractions and essentially unimportant elements in the scene.

Sketches of the raccoon paintings

Changing the color scheme to the greens of summer allowed for a more vibrant complementary palette and prevented the raccoon from becoming lost in the Autumn reflections.  And lastly, shifting the light source to backlighting gave me an opportunity to punch up the glints on the water and lead the viewer’s eyes into the scene.

A raccoon takes a sip from a stream
Cool Drink

By stepping away from copying the reference photo literally, it can result in a stronger painting and a more compelling story. If we only give ourselves permission to ask, “what if?”

Part I of Tracey’s What If? blogs can be found here.

Achieving Enlightenment

For a painting to work effectively, it should include a range of values as well as a variety of warm and cool colors. In addition, color harmony will be more successfully achieved when utilizing a limited palette.

An Artist’s Handwriting

Your handwriting is as unique and distinct as you are. Regardless of how we were taught to write, we each develop our own style. Immediately recognizable to those who know us.

A blog from artist, Tracey Maras.

I Don’t Remember It Looking Like That

The sky is filled with the dance of so many colors.  You quickly snap some photos to capture the moment, thinking to yourself about how you are going to create a painting to memorialize this moment.

A blog from Tracey Maras.

When Local Color Isn’t Enough

Sometimes I just don’t want to use what nature gives.  Sometimes I just don’t want to use local color.  Don’t get me wrong.  The world is filled with infinite beauty and inspiration.  But sometimes I just don’t want to paint a blue sky and green leaves.

Confetti Pastels

Do you like surprises?  Do you embrace moments of serendipity and happy accidents?  “Confetti Pastels” can add to your excitement.

How long did it take?

The question that every artist hears at some point is “How long did it take you to paint this?”.  It can be a very complex question to answer.  Is the inquiry to determine the financial value of the piece?  Does the answer somehow determine the quality of the painting?

Inspiration & Transformation

Inspiration can come from anywhere and at any time.  But rarely does our source of inspiration provide us with perfection.

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5 Responses

  1. Love the Blog, Tracey! Kudos & Congrats! A very rewarding, substantive story, which taught an interesting lesson of “taking a leap” – “what if…,” says quite a lot, in my estimation. And your Result was one of my Favorites of your paintings. Thanks for sharing and inspiring…!!!!! “What a lesson…!”

  2. A great blog – stunning painting too. Really good advices I always think it is better to add intuitive details as you feel them. x

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