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"Street Scene Against the Light" using acrylics.
“My paintings are a way for me to explore the world around me and what fascinates me most is the way light brings a subject to life” – Tom Shepherd
Having come from an oil background, Tom Uses heavy body acrylics, mixing them only with water. He started with a canvas covered in a warm toned background which he would allow to bleed slightly through the finished painting. Working from 2 photographs of the same subject, one being black and white and the other being colour, he added large shadow areas and contrasting light areas using a 1.5-inch brush. Next, he added shapes of various soft grey tones often mixing the colours on the canvas rather than on his palette. Tom said that if you get the brightest area set alongside the darkest area first, it will set the scene for the picture, and allow you to judge the intermediate tones. He worked smaller and smaller shapes within the larger ones to build up the painting.
When painting figures, he said that the first person you set on the scene is the most important and all the others must be relative to it in size. He also said that the most common mistake people make when painting people, was to get the head size too big. His figures were generic like carrots, added using a large square brush. Adding warmer colours to highlight their shoulders and heads with an orange glow bought the figures alive, and for this he used a smaller round brush. The picture was a delight in muted tones and the warm glow of an evening street scene in Cheltenham emerged.
However, this was not the end as he produced another canvas with grey tones already prepared on it, and in less than 30 minutes gave us a bonus picture of a street scene in India, using his big square brush for simple but accurate shapes, a lesson for all of us who fiddle with too much detail in our pictures.
One of his tips was that if you use acrylics thickly, it will stay workable for longer. Also, when painting figures against the light in this way, it’s possible to use in-between tones to carve out the shapes. Another was that shadows often got lighter away from the figures.
This was a delightful evening watching a very talented artist, and finished an excellent year of demonstrations thanks to Francoise’s organisations.
Colours used: black, Prussian blue, burnt sienna, alizarin crimson, cadmium orange, titanium white, yellow ochre and napthal red in the second painting.
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