There’s something poetic about abandoned buildings that have a special appeal to painters. Numerous historic mine sites abound in Cobalt Ontario. I chose to give old cement in the ruins of an old mine mill some life, simply by changing the color of the century-old cement slabs.
I chose to cobble together five photos from the mine-mill site into one composition, which are used as a visual resource. But it’s critical to remember that photos are a starting point to a painting. I have no desire to be a slave to the exact image in hand. Your job as an artist is to eliminate as much as possible to remove visual clutter.
There will always be a difference in perspective when using multiple photos of the same site. As you can see from the source photos, I had to turn around to get all the pieces I needed for the composition. But slavishly following each photo would result in confusing vanishing points. So I had to pick one vanishing point and adjust the sidewall accordingly.
Block in Colors
This is the point where you make your decisions about colors. I looked at the pictures of grey stones and imagined what it would look like in pure color patches, then dialed it back to neutralized color. Because it’s acrylic, the choices don’t really matter since I could just paint over the wrong color. But I despise mingling and polishing, especially with a knife. Yes, it will look more perfect polished, but the immediacy and painterliness of the painting will be lost.
Now the color range includes the primaries blue, red and yellow, plus green. The values of each have to be within a medium-range but not too light or dark so as not to stand out too much. There must be enough value difference for each piece to be separated from the clutter of the background. The easiest way to do this is to take a photo of your latest stage of the painting and make it Black and White. I use my phone to take the picture, then use a mono filter to show me a neutral black and white.
So in this case, the upper sky and trees are g3 and the lightest light is g1 and the darkest dark is g8. Most of the painting is in the g3-65 range; different enough from each other but not fading into the background.
Now is the time to refine the colors and add depth by making sure most of the color patches have light, middle and dark values of the same color.