A road map for painting

Photograph of a back yard and the back of several buildings

A photo to start from

People bring in a photo to class of what they want to paint, and it can be scary to look at and try to figure out where to begin. Often a photo is way too busy. Select what’s important — what you want to say — and leave out the rest (maybe adding a few neighbors to the picture!).

We start with a black-and-white sketch, finding the big shapes first, developing a value scale and organizing so it has a focal point and story. After that we paint a small color study the same size as the sketch. Then we’re ready to enlarge and paint the final version. All of the preliminary composition work is done so we can just have fun.

Pencil sketch of house and back yard based on photo

Figuring out what to
leave in and what to add

Watercolor painting of back of a house and back yard by Jo Myers-Walker

The painting follows the “road map”
provided by the sketch and color study

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