This is a custom commission painting done for my customer Tim who wanted a painting of the view from his home in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. This painting was quite a challenge for a number of reasons. 1) The formidable size of 48″wide by 36″ makes things interesting. 2) A very detailed scene, involving an entire cityscape. 3) Many specific and personal details that the customer wanted to include.
It started with photos of the scene from this same vantage point, but at a much different time of day. Tim wanted to make it more a later afternoon / sunset scene, and I had to ask him where the sun would be at this time of day so I could have a good idea of the direction of the light and shadows.
One important star of the scene was the gazebo they had built recently, and Tim wanted to include him and his wife enjoying the view on this love afternoon. So food for thought later as the painting was developing.
This preliminary sketch was done in pencil, just outlining the layout and major characters of the painting.
Here’s a preliminary charcoal sketch to show the value range I had in mind, as well as the light and shadow direction to make sure it was accurate.
I then did a small full-color study of the whole painting. Because I was playing with so many color changes, I wanted to solve as many problems as I could at a 11×14″ size, rather than working all these out at the full 48×36″ size. This was done in oil paint.
Once Tim saw all these stages and quite enthusiastically approved of them, the full-size painting began.
Here’s the first stage of the full size painting.
I start with the knowledge of the light direction, and use that to create a gradient of light to dark, warm to cool. This was done with oil paint and lots of turpenoid as a wash. Just to mention, the only colors I use on my palette are titanium white, cadmium yellow light, yellow ochre, cadmium red, pthalo blue, and ivory black.
This next stage was really fun, as I got to really play with the sky and add some good old gorgeous sunset clouds. I’ve also laid out the horizon for the city and the bank of the hill where the yard of the house and gazebo will go.
In this next stage I’ve filled in a lot of the abstract “filler” buildings for the city, and started highlighting the main buildings of the skyline, showing how they reflect the light of the setting sun, which as my customer informed me, sets to the right and just behind you if you were standing at their house.
In this next stage, I added the layer of foliage between the city and the hill. Notice through all these stages: the sky, the city, the foliage, even the background for the hill, I’m sticking with my same gradient pattern: light to dark, warm to cool.
Also notice a small detail on the very left side that the customer wanted to include: a yellow bridge that crosses the river that they enjoy looking at every day. It’s a tiny blip in the cityscape and in the painting, but it was an important and personal detail that would help make this commission painting that much more exciting for Tim.
In this next stage I added the part of the house that is visible from this vantage point, which I believe is actually just the garage. But the light coming from the door adds a nice quaint feel. I added the grass and established light and shadow direction.
One detail that I added from his photos (that I didn’t really give too much thought about) was Tim’s little red pickup truck. He didn’t expect me to add it even in the first sketches, but when he saw it he quite liked the idea of it being there. So it happily ended up in the final painting.
The final stage was the gazebo, which would really be the story focus of the painting. I had Tim and his wife take some photos of themselves at the gazebo in the late afternoon, and they chose to share a nice glass of wine for their little photo shoot, and that’s the shot that made it into the painting.
And here is the final piece:
Tim was thrilled, and this painting will find a place in his family’s life for many, many years. Thanks Tim for being so great to work with, and for such a challenging commission painting.
Let’s talk today about doing a custom commission painting – anything you can think of, any size, the sky’s the limit. Click here to contact me about your commission painting today.