Here is a lovely photograph of the bridge over the Susquehanna in my hometown.  Any advice on how to set this up?  Color palette?  I am thinking Naphthol red (my new favorite color!), ultramarine blue, Cad yellow, Hansa Yellow, quin gold for darks.  Composition?  How can I achieve that placid look of the water surface?  I want to give the bridge some attention but I don't necessarily want it to compete with the sky and water, which I think is what grabs your eye.

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wow, I cant wait to see your painting! I am sorry I am not much help as I am just learning.

Mike - first things first.

Where is your center of interest?  You indicate that you want it to be the sunset and reflections. The photo derives a lot of its impact from the sharp contrast in values between the various planes.  The foreground, tree limb, far horizon, and bridge with its reflection are all close to being silhouettes due to the extreme backlighting.  For me, the bridge is the dominating compositional element. 

How can we downplay the bridge and still keep it backlighted and contrasting with the sunset?  The structure is almost too imposing to try downsizing.  Is the sunset as impressive if we remove the bridge altogether?

Do you want to keep the large tree limb?  Does it interfere with the sunset?  Do we need as much of the foreground?  Can we crop out the bottom 15% and the top 30% to give a horizontal format?

Lots of questions to ask with a photo like this.  It would make a fantastic postcard, but needs some user input to make it as a good painting.  May just do some playing around with Photoshop before offering any other input. 

Here are three quick Photoshop crops from your photo, Mike.  The formats differ, but have tried to keep the main focus on the sunset and reflections, so the bridge does not dominate the composition quite as much as the original.  Just some options to consider before dealing with colours and values.

When some of the contrast is removed, the visual impact of the native colour is affected.  Bottom line is that your composition is going to determine which colours you need to emphasize to get the same WOW factor.   I did not alter anything other than do a simple crop.

Charles, Thank you for the time you invested in this.  I think, of the three crops that you posted, I am leaning toward the middle one.  I would paint it on a 12X18 support.  It seems to accomplish what I wanted:  It plays down the imposing bridge superstructure and puts the focus where I wanted, i.e. the sunset and reflection on the surface of the river.  Thank you again.  I will play around with colors to compensate for the lack of contrasting elements.  

Hi Mike.  When I read your comments, I thought that cropping to have a big sky would help de-emphasize the bridge and put more focus on the sky and water.  Then I read Charles Eisner's response below and I think he does a great job of presenting it possibilities.  Thanks for posting - we all learn through this process!

I am at a point where I feel like choosing and preparing a ref photo is about the most difficult task in the painting process! I sure appreciate you sharing this one and Charles's three crop options are really thought provoking! I personally like 2 & 3 and could see them each as a very interesting painting in their own right!


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