In this painting I spent a lot of planning time before starting. Trying to place all the elements not only for a pleasing composition, but also to lead the eye around and through the painting. I used the golden ratio spiral as my guide. I wanted the bright white highlight on the front of the steam engine to be the main focal point. Then all other elements placed in a spiral around that. Would love to have your thoughts on if this was accomplished or any suggestions to make it better. As always every ones thoughts are highly appreciated!

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I would say you accomplished it very successfully Mark! It's hard to counteract that strong thrust of the train moving the eye out of the painting, but you did it! The high contrast of the engine against the black smoke brings my eye upward and then the smoke formations draw me back into the painting, to the figures whose gestures lead me back to the train again. Even the smoke along the tracks direct my eye to continue in the spiral.

I love how a strong composition like this becomes the framework, letting the color and forms tell their story. A little time spent at the beginning in thinking about composition frees up your more creative side as you paint. And sometimes the most beautiful color and brushwork can fall flat when that underlying composition structure isn't there to support them.

Great job!

Thank you Karen! You are so right about the smoke stack being a challenge. I changed the values in it many times and even added clumps or puffs to act like speed bumps to slow the eye down. I had the lights too bright at first and it looked like the whole painting just went up in smoke! lol!

I really like this painting Mark!  The focal  point is very strong and well done.  But I have to say that I particularly like all the supporting detail.  So I am drawn immediately to the focal point and the details make me want to stick around and explore a bit more.  The guy in the window, the buildings in the back, the mechanical intricacies, the highlights on the figures, etc. Great painting!

Mark, I have a friend who is a model railroader. I showed him this picture, and he really loved it.

Thanks Russ, being that I know very little about trains it's good to know that someone who does likes the work.

here's another one done many years ago.


Wow Mark!  This is amazing.  What a talent you are.  I attempted a locomotive emerging from the Harpers Ferry tunnel last year but aborted when I couldn't get the "look" I was after.  I wanted the 1952 locomotive to be shiny and new looking.  Maybe I will dig it out and go after the look you so successfully achieved.  I never heard of the golden  image spiral before.  I will research it.

Thanks Mike! I'm glad it inspired you to paint your scene. Like to see it when finished.

For sure, research the golden mean and spiral, many u-tube videos out there...Very interesting.


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