New River Gorge: Quick Studio Painting

"Represent" 12x16", Acrylic.  My cousin, David, kayaking down the New River Gorge before the bridge.
“Represent” 12×16″, Acrylic. My cousin, David, kayaking down the New River Gorge before the bridge.

This is a quick post.  My cousin, David Williamson, is a kayaking beast.  He searches for the toughest river rapids he can find, or the “advisory conditions” waves on the Florida coast before a tropical storm.  No Fear.  He recently posted a photo on Facebook (see below).  I immediately liked the composition of nature and the architectural feat of the New River Gorge Bridge.  It’s huge.  People jump off of it a parachute down to the river.  What I liked most is how it fit the ever-exploring personality of David and how he represents that quality we Williamsons are so proud of.  Love ya cuz.  “Represent”!

Reference photo from David
Reference photo from David

For a quick bit of artist chat about values and composition: I started with this in grey scale as an underpainting to try and really nail down the values (or hoped to).  I used to try and match the values of a photo, but then I found out most cameras are horrible about making darks too dark and lights too light, which is why the shadows and sky look really black and white.  The camera cranks up it’s hamster sized brain and assigns the darkest area it can find “black” and lightest “white” with all of it’s digital wonder.  However, the more you take reference photos and also do outdoor paintings, you’ll soon be able to figure out how to lighten up the darks and darken the lights to a more natural value as the eye sees it, so save those reference pics!!

greyscale comparison
greyscale comparison

The other nice use of using greyscale is that it allows you to make changes you want in composition easily to fit the concept.  In this painting, it’s about him seeking out big challenges, so I wanted him small, surrounded by huge boulders and mountains.  David was added just to the right of the focal point (the area of most contrast) so the eye finds him even though he’s only a little figure in the painting.   I lightened up this area and made him as dark as possible to catch your eye.  Also, I added in more fog rolling down the right mountain to connect the light of the focal point boulder to the sky making it easier for the eye to travel up and see the bridge.

Please, by no means I’m I trying to give instructions.  I consider myself a student, so take my findings and use them only if it can help.  Have fun!!


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