Garden composition

It’s a dull day outdoors in the garden but if you look at it with pattern and value in mind I think it’s possible to create something despite the lack of lights and darks. When I’m creating a value plan like this one (this happens to be in colour but it could also be in black and white) I’m thinking about several things: what are the big shapes, where is the light and dark, what is the centre of interest and can I introduce a dominant colour, direction or line? If I do this part right, then when I make this into a bigger painting I will have a direction to move towards.

So what was I thinking when I did this (besides how buggy it is on a cloudy day in June)? First of all, where is the pattern of lights? In this case I wanted it to be a curved shape that flowed horizontally through the picture. The white shape at the left is Queen Anne’s lace but instead of drawing every flower I massed it into a big light shape. As a contrast to the curve, I used the diagonals of the birch tree. Like most garden scenes, the dominant colour is green but this is where colour temperature comes in. The foliage at the left is warmer (more yellow) and as it moves towards the right it gets cooler and duller until it mixes with the purple. To create unity, I repeated that bit of purple in several places in the sketch so that it wouldn’t be isolated in one spot. I also repeated the foliage shapes but changed size as I went along. Big on the bottom, smaller on the left and very small at the top.

For the most part I think this could make a successful composition for a painting. What will I change in the final? I’m not that happy with the shapes of the purple flowers at the lower left quadrant. Those shapes need to be clarified or defined more. I’m also not totally pleased with the large dark shape of the leaf overhang in the upper right. I will have to make that a better shape too. Let’s see what happens when I turn this into a painting sometime soon…


7 Comments on “Garden composition”

  1. Rhonda says:

    Love the use of negative space Shari. I actually really like the focal purple flowers. Thanks for sharing


  2. Sandie Simard says:

    Hi Shari,

    I was introduced to your blog indirectly through Jane Hannah (I’m one of her students).
    I had to tell you that I am completely fascinated by this; the sketch and the analysis.
    There is so much to learn that I am unaware of! I truly appreciate your dedication to this blog.

    Your work is beautiful… thank you so much for sharing!


    • Thanks to Jane for introducing us and thanks to you for commenting. This blog has brought me so much over the past few years and it’s not only because I it has brought me back to painting. I’ve met so many incredible people, near and far, who all share a love of sketching and painting. Lucky me!


  3. Mary says:

    What a great teacher you are! You articulate so well! Can learn so much just reading about your subject and seeing the finished sketch. I look forwad to every post! I love the negative space.


  4. Rolayne says:

    Thanks Shari for sharing your thought processes as you are painting. I find that really helpful. I’ve been following you for about a year now and can’t tell you how much I really enjoy your blogs – I have learned so much and continue to be amazed at the volume you produce! Just love it. You mentioned in an earlier blog you may be arranging a workshop in Fogo, NL for next year. If so, please add me to your mailing list, I would love an opportunity to learn first hand from you if my schedule permits. Take care.


  5. liz bundle says:

    The light is amazing…squinting at this it’s electric. I don’t mind the dark green upper right more more leafy definition OK but I do like the dark since it spikes the light. My only confusion was the little area lower left of dark green where colors run together and have lost their singularity, which is so great and so subtle elsewhere. I LIKE THE SKETCH! Can’t wait to see what you do but the colors and shapes and values are great as they are, and totally comprehensible. It’s a pleasure to view.


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