Speedpainting is a very specific type of practice, something I enjoy doing for a number of reasons. Firstly, it forces us to stop focusing on details, as there simply isn't a lot of time to draw detail, and focus on bigger problems. Considering that it's pretty common for artists to focus too much on particular details, as opposed to compositions as a whole, this is a great way to force the focus back to the whole picture. Secondly, it's a very free form of drawing - normally when doing a painting I have to think about where characters will walk, how they'll interact with things, etc. Doing something like this, just for practice, means I don't have to think about any of that. Thirdly, I usually limit myself to an hour or so, meaning that I'm not spending too much time, and which means if I want to try something weird and unusual, and it fails, then I haven't wasted a whole day.
I recently did the speedpainting above, in roughly an hour, and saved snapshots of it at 5 minute intervals, tweeting each as I went. I'm going to go through in further detail now, though, and try to explain some of the ideas that went into making this rough sketch, and how some of the pieces of art theory I've discussed on this blog helped me make decisions while drawing this.The fact that most decisions need to be made in mere minutes mean that having mental points of reference for colour, composition and design is very handy, and allows you to make confident decisions without worrying too much about whether they'll end up working or not.
I'll be covering one 5 minute snapshot of the speedpaint per day, trying to focus on the exact choices I made in that 5 minute slot, and why I made them, which means I'm going to start with this:
For the beginning of a speedpaint, I spend the first 5 minutes trying to block out an entire scene as quickly as possible, entirely in 2 colours, a light and a dark. By doing a 'value study' like this, I can use the brightness of the light value and the strength of the dark value to quickly define interesting shapes - the strong contrast makes things stand out, without colours getting in the way.
Back when I discussed the visual power of pure form I mentioned how much visual impact an interesting silhouette can have, and that was my first goal with this scene - to have an interesting silhouette to catch people's eye. I knew that I wanted to have some sort of structure, so I lengthened it into something unusually disk-like and put it on a strange, angled support, giving it a science fiction look. The white line sandwiched between the dark details gives the area a lot of contrast, drawing focus, and lines of light going vertically act as visual pathways towards it.
To frame this, I decided to place large, vertical cliffs on either side of the scene. Because the focal structure isn't central, I put more cliff on the right side, filling up some of that space, while the outline on the left roughly follows the actual shape of the structure, framing it closely in a way that I liked. You can also see me experimenting with a bit of rock texture on the right hand side, just to make sure there's a bit of balance and that the right third of the composition isn't just flat colour.
To fill up the rest of the space, in the focal area of the scene, I decided to play around with the idea of a roadway, going from the far distance into the middle distance. The horizontally running lines of the main structure contrast very well with the vertical lines of the surrounding cliffs, so I decided to continue using horizontal lines here. I've talked about how much I like the use of s-curves in composition, and here it not only allowed me to make the path more interesting, but also fill up the right amount of space in the scene - I even doubled it, to make for an even more dynamic shape.
Lastly, to fill up the little patch of blank sky that remained, I painted some extra detail on top of the little lump I'd sat the main structure in front of, just to give it a more interesting silhouette against the sky. I'm using very simplified atmospheric perspective here to make this seem more distant than the cliffs in the foreground - at this point it's just a shift in value. Eventually I'll make sure they're different in both value and hue, to further help the effect.
And that's it for the first 5 minutes of this speedpainting. Hopefully by breaking it down into small chunks like this, and showing why I made each decision, I can show a practical, illustrated use for little pieces of the art theory I've been writing about, and you can get an understanding of how I personally apply these things to my work. I hope you'll join me again tomorrow when I start refining my initial shapes a little!