Friday, May 06, 2016


For a large part of my career in painting, I've done few preliminary paintings in preparation for larger works. Over the years I've done studies like notans, drawn compositional and layout preparations with charcoal or graphite, and sometimes I've done studies of individual items. But I haven't done many preliminary color studies in oil or any other medium. Lately though I've done a few, and it's interesting to compare them with the larger, finished work they helped me prepare for. So here are a couple of recent instances where I used studies before starting the final painting.

This is an 8x10 sketch in oil for the larger painting below. It took perhaps 90 minutes, start to finish, and was done from personal references and online images, with considerable invention. This was painted as a daylight scene, but in the larger-scale work, it becomes a night street.

As you can see, this painting, which is 24x18, is considerably different. It's darker and cooler in palette, butr the red over the windows still pops. The figures are smaller in relation to the much bigger windows, and there are more figures as well. The interior of the brewing operation is a bit more distinct. And the larger painting is considerably more "finished"--not so loosely executed.

To the left is another small, quickly-done sketch, this time from an online reference. The two establishments are on a street in the city that's full of clubs and bars where people often hang out Friday nights and weekends. The scene is considerably different from the study, though. For one thing the place on the right was quite a lot bigger, and is no longer there. This is another 8x10 study, probably an hour's work.

And here is the larger work, based on the study above. It's 12x16 on panel, and clearly is considerably different from the small study. The yellow, rolled up umbrellas are gone, and the sign on the restaurant to the left is much brighter. Also, the awnings on the place to the right were actually quite dark, which is absent in both the study and the final image.

Seems to me that you can do studies either as very controlled, very outcome-oriented images intended to be a kind of dress rehearsal for the final painting, or you can do them as ways to experiment with color and sometimes even composition without necessarily committing to an actual final picture until you have the bigger support on the easel. Either way is probably useful; the second way seems more so, or at least more spontaneous and less mechanical.
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