Painting demonstration - figures, urban, light and shadows - South Bank, London

This view along South Bank towards Big Ben (on the opposite side of the River Thames) attracted my attention due to a couple of things. Firstly the intense light, in places ring lighting some of the figures or parts of them and the interesting mixing of shadows cast by them. Secondly, by chance some children holding some balloons arrived and stood watching one of the buskers that line the South Bank over the weekend.

Stage One:
The picture below shows the quick establishment of the main elements using oil paint mixed with turps while trying to place the main darks ready for over painting. This was painted over a previously prepared board using a light blue/grey wash (seen in the sky and foreground).

 Stage Two:
The background... starting with the area of trees, using a mixture of greens and browns in various tones to establish both form and texture. The buildings that line the far bank of the River Thames were painted next, painting around the tree leaves/trunks etc where required. The buildings were painted slightly darker than required as the plan was to 'dry brush' the bright hazy light on later. Next to be completed was the wonderfully ornate lamp stands that line the South Bank. The final section was the sky (again slightly darker) painted around the buildings, lamps and tree with small areas cut into it.

Stage Three:
The people... the first decision to be made was...
A - paint all of the people as whole group i.e paint all skin areas, all brown cloths, all blue cloths, etc or
B - paint them individually
in the end a sort of mixture of the above two resulted with small groups being completed at a time with the larger figures done indivually - working more or less from left to right. This was the most time consuming stage, the result of the time taken to mix all the different colours/colors. Within each group/figure the painting of the darks (if required on top of the under painting) comes first, followed by the mid tone colours/colors, next the light tones (not that many) before adding the bright highlights.

Stage Four:
The foreground... the area that inspired this painting, the mixture of tones and colours/colors of the shadows cast by the figures against the bright sunlit pavement. All the shadows were painted first using a mixture of colours/colors and tones before the sunlit areas were painted. Some edges required blending/softening while other sections were left sharper. The sky and distant buildings received their dry brushing with an 'off' white colour/color to tone them down and create a hazy feel to the background building/sky. Finally some lines to indicate the slabs on the pavement were painted.

"Strolling Along", South Bank, London.
Oil. Alistair Butt © 2008.

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