A casual friend of mine sent me this digital photo and asked me to paint it.  I told her it would be an impressionistic representation as that's what I do.  I try not to replicate photos.  Now the challenge is to what to leave out.  It lends itself nicely to the Rule Of Thirds.  The birdhouse will be my focal point.   Thoughts?  It's my first commission and I don't want to blow it. 

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Wow, this is going to be a tough one Mike. The fence is so prominent and contrasts strongly with the snow so it really grabs my attention.  And I don't think it helps your composition. The foreground one blocks our entry and the one on the left leads us out of the picture.

The building isn't particularly interesting in itself. Then you have what looks like a shadow and sunlight on the roof? Is that just snow? It's snowing so you wouldn't expect shadow and light... hmm

what I do like about it is the misty trees in the background, with the warmer trees in front on the right.

I do like the colorful birdhouse, but its placement feels unbalanced. And I'm pretty sure it won't look like it fits into the scene. It's a single spot of color in an otherwise almost monochrome scene.

It makes an interesting photograph. but I think you'd need to do some major adjustment to make a good painting out of it. Which is tough because I'm assuming this is their property, and people generally don't like you to move things around :)

If I were doing it I would compose it something like this

  • So what I did was remove a lot of the fence and all the wire in the fence.
  • I moved the house over to the right so there wasn't as big of a gap and I could crop in.
  • I cropped it to a standard size - in this case 18 x 24.
  • I added some of the red color - in a lighter, more neutral version - onto the barn door
  • I added light tones of the reds and blues in the birdhouse into the snow, creating an indication of a road to the building
  • I added more reds in the right hand trees
  • I beefed up the tree on the left, giving it more presence and a more interesting shape.
  • I continued the same misty background trees across the  whole background
  • I got rid of the contrast on the roof and just made it snowy
  • I added some light shadowy blues to the front of the house.

Anyway, those are some ideas :) I look forward to seeing how it turns out!

Not sure I could have come to those improvements on my own.  I hope to get to that point someday.  I love how you explain your thought processes in your advice.  I know it helps me and I hope it helps any of your subscribers who read this.  

I'm glad to be helpful Mike.

I do my best to explain my process as much as I can - which is not always easy when you are working with something intuitive like art! I think it does improve the painting to bring both sides of the brain into play. I just usually do them separately. Get my thinking done first, my plan laid out, and then try to stop thinking and let inspiration take over. Which often means changes to the original plan, but at least I start with a roadmap :)

Thanks for posting these, hopefully others out there are reading and benefiting - what do you think guys? Are these helpful to you, too?

Here is what I have done with my reference photo.  I removed the physical barrier of the fence as Karen suggested.  I like the splash of color in this snowy scene.  I think this is what appeals to my friend in her photograph.  I painted the shed door red but I think it competes with the birdhouse.  Thoughts?


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