For me the most important aspect of painting these complex compositions on panoramic canvases is the initial drafting. Normally I begin a painting by loosely brushing in the subject with a thin wash of burnt sienna. With these pieces however I am neither confident or indeed competent enough to start that way without running into problems later on because of inaccuracies with my drawing. Therefore I initially draw in with charcoal as accurately as possible.
The main difficulty with these pieces is the width of the composition and picture plane. To paint these I sit about four feet away from the set up and I have the easel at arms length and to the right of the set up. This means that the movement of my head from looking directly at the subject matter to the far right of the canvas is probably in excess of 10 degrees. That’s not ideal. When I am trying to draw something as complex as this I don’t want to move my head at all. I prefer to be able to see both the subject and the picture plane with my head still and compare only with the movement of my eyes to help with accuracy.
If you struggle with drawing I can recommend two books. For beginners or the frustrated – Betty Edwards ‘Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain’ is a classic and now into its fourth edition. For intermediate who wants to take his or her drawing to another level The Bargue-Gérôme Drawing Course is the drawing course reference used by many ateliers around europe. I have found both extremely useful in different ways but there is no substitute for regular practice.
“To learn to draw is to draw and draw and draw.” – Andrew Loomis. Loomis was a fabulous American illustrator who had several books published. You might want to take a look at his work.
I gave this piece the name ‘Hope’ because I was finishing it around the time of the announcement of the first Covid 190 Vaccine. It seemed apt somehow.