Every year around this time I try to clear space in my schedule to paint something seasonal as the low autumn light proves irresistable in terms of inspiration.   This year’s canvas started life as a Lancaster sketch, then it evolved briefly into a Wellington on the canvas itself , before finally settling down to be a Halifax at dispersal !  The point being that these paintings are all about light and trying to reproduce it, the aircraft is important but secondary to the atmosphere.

Anyhow, that’s the arty bit over with, here’s progress so far, deadline is Friday when I’ll (hopefully!) be flying it over to England for scanning and printing.


Stage 1;


This is effectively a painted sketch on the full sized canvas.  The Halifax is roughly blocked in so that I can judge the tones needed with the background trees.  The sky is meant to be pale and wintry with just a layer of high cloud to diffuse the colours.  The dilemma at the start was whether to bring the foreground tree further in and take the wingtip behind it or have it as it is above.  I decided for the latter although it does break the rule of thirds a bit!

Stage 2;


Now for the important part of the painting, adding the light.  My concept was to have the cockpit area being illuminated by very low and warm sunlight with nearly everything else in shadow.  As you can see, I’ve added this light and blocked in the Halifax again.  One thing that struck me at this point was the light area that I’d left accidentally on the right edge of the foreground tree-trunk.  This gave me the idea that I could have the sun appearing almost directly behind this tree which would then add an edge light to its trunk.

Stage 3;


So following from the previous comments, I introduced some warmth and light behind the tree and then started work on adding the trunks and branches in the distance.  They’re all a bit basic at the moment and will need to be softened in due course.  I’ve also started to clear some of the snow from the dispersal pan.  The painting needs something on the right hand side to balance things but that will come towards the end, when I’ve decided what the Halifax will be doing.  It has no covers on the wheels or perspex so it will need to be either about to set off on an operation or possibly have just returned.  You’ll also notice I’ve splashed a bit of sunlight on the snow in the foreground.  That was just an experiment to see how it looked, not sure if  I like it or not as it goes against my original concept of having just the cockpit lit.

Stage 4;


Over the weekend, between assorted visits to churches and graveyards for All Saints and All Souls’ Days, (it’s a big event here in Poland!) I managed to work a little more on the trees and light.  The good thing about standing in the graveyards was that I had plenty of time to study the trees and find a good model for this one in the foreground.  Most of them still have their autumn leaves still attached and I may add a few to the nearest tree to add a bit of colour.  The problem that I’m currently trying to solve is how dark or light the foreground snow should be, it could be both so I need to make a decision soon.   In the meantime I’m going to start detailing the Halifax as this will start to focus the eye away from the badly painted foreground!

Stage 5;


Today’s update is mainly concerned with three elements.  Firstly I added a ground mist to the background to add a feeling of cold to the painting and also to make the aircraft stand out a little more.  Secondly I detailed the Halifax to about 75% completion.  This is a slow process as it involves checking against photos and technical drawings that everything is in the right place and it also involves getting to know what the shapes are, especially around the undercarriage assemblies.  The third element that has changed is the foreground.  I was unhappy with the large expanse of ‘blue’ snow and changed the colour several times.  In the end I realised that it didn’t matter what colour it was, it was the size that was the problem, so I did a bit of snow clearance and ended up with what you see here.  Reducing the amount of snow has allowed me to introduce pink highlights on the scattered lumps of snow which seems to work quite well.  From now on it’s mainly detail work and adding figures etc although I’m still considering a touch of cloud in the top right.


Stage 6;


This is probably the last update before I post the (hopefully!) completed work on Sunday morning from England.  There are a lot of changes here from the previous update, I’ve added a touch of cloud in the sky to add a little more interest and ‘pinked up’ the trees behind the main tree.  I’ve also added some rough crew figures to get a feel for the scale of everything, they need to be faded quite a bit to blend in as they’re too heavy at the moment.  This highlighted the problem that everything seemed to be sloping downhill to the right in the picture and also that the foreground tree’s scale and perspective didn’t seem to fit very well with everything else.  The answer was to extend the base of the tree down by a few inches which visually pushes that side of the picture down a bit more.  I’m still not convinced by the foreground snow but now I think it’s time to finish the Halifax and come back to that at the end!

Final Stage;


After a few very late nights I finally managed to finish this one off just 15 minutes before I had to take it to the gallery for scanning, thank goodness for quick drying acrylics!   As you can see there are a few elements that changed, the main one being the foreground (again) where I introduced some pink light onto the snow and added some late autumn leaves to the tree to echo the colour in the sky.  Talking of the colour, you’ll notice an overall warmth to this final image which is not present in the earlier photos.  This is a result of the earlier photos being taken on a digital camera and the final photo being produced by a high-res scanner.  The original painting itself can look like both versions depending upon how it is lit, (daylight will give the cooler result, a picture light this warmer version).  That’s the beauty of an original painting in that the appearance changes with different light whereas prints don’t.  The problem for the artist producing prints is deciding which version to base the reproduction on .  In the end I decided to go with this warmer version as it has more harmony to it.

Anyhow, I hope you enjoyed this work in progress, if you have any questions do let me know.