|"Mondo" with photo reference|
I recently had an inquiry from a friend about what do do with backgrounds.
I just discovered your art recently and I love the colors and the expressions of your animals, just beautiful. I am struggling to learn to paint in pastels myself, and deciding when to use which color is especially difficult for me. I was wondering how you determine which colors to use in your backgrounds for your animal portraits, do you have any tips?
Color is a complicated question, and one that I've learned is answered best by "value and temperature." I recently wrote an article on my Art Journal Blog about this, see here: http://ritakirkmanjournal.blogspot.com/2014/11/value-and-temperature-or-how-do-i.html
Backgrounds can sometimes present the greatest challenge in a painting. Especially when the painting is of a recognizable subject that holds its own as a center of interest and is easy enough to paint using a reference. But what about when your subject is surrounded by other objects that you don't want to include?
Sometimes, in my reference photo, I find that the background is perfectly lovely and I want to paint it exactly how I see it (..This doesn't happen very often!!) Usually, I have to use artistic license:
|"Azul" with photo reference|
If I want to be bold I use contrasting values. (dark behind the light parts and light behind the dark parts.)
|"Bianca" and "Inky"|
If I want to be subtle and harmonious (a more recent goal of mine,) I try for analogous colors and very close values from subject to background:
|"Paella" and "Mr. Frost"|
I've also gotten into the habit of keeping the backgrounds "fuzzy", meaning no crisp edges anywhere in the background. This helps with the feeling of a soft focus that sets off the subject by contrast, and remains "farther away."
As a last point,always try to use some of the same colors in your background as in your subject. This will help assure color harmony, no matter which other value contrasts you're aiming for.
After a while, you'll learn how to completely ignore what's in your image background, and create a background that will best support your star subject!
(Personally, larger compositions have tended to give me the most background troubles. If you'd like to read more about my struggles with backgrounds, here's a perfect example from a while back. I wrote about "Leader of the Pack", in two posts:
|"Leader of the Pack" (2010, pastel, 32x32 inches) first finish and final finish|
Thanks for reading! I'd love to hear from you if you found this helpful!