The Second Cup coffee shop at Lakeshore and Stavebank is a bit of a landmark in Port Credit. It caught my eye once before – a long time ago and under very different lighting conditions. On this occasion the lighting is flat. The back-lighting reflects the sky onto the pavement. The cross-walk, and the reflections on it, provide a nice lead-in to the woman with the red umbrella.
She is not in the original photo. I borrowed her from another shot. Quick tip: If you are gathering material for a street scene, take lots of “people” shots on the same day. Figures will seldom be exactly where you want them in you composition so its handy to have an inventory of people shots taken from the same locale, under the same lighting conditions, to insert as needed. You can do so literally (by photo-shopping them in) or just by sketching them in and having several photos arranged around your easel as reference while you paint. Figures borrowed from photos taken on a different day will seldom sit as comfortably in your scene.
The underpainting is, as usual, darker than the intended finished piece and the colours are considerably warmer:
As I work on the underpainting, I am thinking ahead to the final piece. For instance, I made a mental note that the façade of the coffee shop is not uniformly lit, despite the flat lighting conditions. The top right is distinctly lighter than the lower left. The cross-walk shows reflections from the coffee shop and the phone booths of course. But even the sections in full light are not uniformly lit. It is more intense near the sidewalk and fades as it comes closer to the viewer. It is barely noticeable in the photo, but if I exaggerate it a bit, it may draw the eye in more dramatically. The building on the right, I want to push back into the distance – more so than appears from the photo. Doing this will add to the atmospheric effect I think. With this in mind, I don’t go as dark with the underpainting of this building as I otherwise might.
Once you’re done going dark, it’s time to get bright. When you start to work on a dark canvas, any paint you apply can look bright – almost white. So it’s often a good idea to start the next stage at the brightest spot. The lower sky in this case. Once these lights are established, gauging your mid-tones will be much easier.
The sky, bottom left, is almost pure lemon yellow and white, with the merest traces of cad red and cobalt blue. In the other corner, the sky is a deeper blue-grey (cobalt blue; touch of Cad Red). How do you go from lemon yellow to cobalt blue without getting green in between? The secret is to blend visually rather than literally. If you juxtaposition very pale tints of each that are of identical value, the eye will not perceive the transition. Once safely over on the blue side, you can then proceed to deepen the colour as needed.
The finished piece. Getting the “right” value and colour temperature for the façade of the coffee shop was important. The red umbrella acts as a natural focal point. To give a hint of reflected light from the umbrella, I also added a few tiny swatches of red around the face and arm (or where they would approximately be in a more detailed painting!).
A big Thank You to Karen for the in-progress shots!