Contemplation

When I began to develop ideas for this painting, I began with an image I had taken while in the Army, stationed in Vietnam. I was walking down a street in Can Tho, were I was stationed, and I came upon an old gentleman squatting on the corner. I pulled out my trusty Kodak Hawkeye camera and took a picture. I carried a camera with me just about everywhere I went. Anyway, I have always wanted to do something with this image, but never even made a print from the original slide. Something about the way he sat there, in silent contemplation, oblivious to the chaos around him, made for an interesting image.

I decided to feature this figure in a painting, but the original background was not very interesting (first image) So, I looked through more of the street photos I had taken of Can Tho, searching for a suitable background.
Using Photoshop, I placed the figure of the old man into three different possible background situations.
In the first composition, I placed him on the corner opposite a busy street market. (2nd image) This seemed too busy with all the other elements in the background. The second composition placed him in front of a narrow side street home, with other figures in the background. This was better than the first, but I still thought it was too busy and took away focus on the man. I finally decided to place the man in front of a weathered pair of front doors of another structure I had photographed. (3rd image) Together, this composition seemed to work the best to portray the mood I wanted to create. The image of the old man was very strong by itself, but I thought this background added a bit more mystery to the image. Was this his house? Is he coming or going? He must be going because he is dressed up in dapper style, with a canvas bag between his knees. He seems to be contemplating his journey, doesn't he?

Once I decided on this composition, I cropped in a little tighter to the figure, and drew a grid pattern onto the print I made. After drawing the elements onto the larger grid of my watercolor paper, I soaked the paper and placed in onto my watercolorboard stretcher. I love this device because it makes stretching the paper so easy and the paper never curls.

I started the painting by laying down some flesh tone and highlight underpainting colors. I used aureolin, quinacridone gold and rose madder genuine for the skin tones. I put down a wash of aureolin on the jacket to serve as light reflection from the bright sun. For the pants I used aureolin, cobalt blue and rose madder genuine in various mixes to establish highlights and shape. The bag has washes of aureolin, cobalt blue and raw umber.

Next, I added some dark color to define the shape of the jacket. For this faded black color, I mixed alizarin crimson with hookers green. I started with a deep black mix and then gradually thinned this for the lighter areas. I also used this color for the facial hair and hatband. I added a purplish shadow under the figure using cobalt blue and rose madder genuine.
With the third step, I put down a wash of aureolin on the entire background of the building. I followed this first wash with an additional wash of cobalt blue . These washes produce the highlight colors found in the faded wood of the background. With these steps, I am using 1", ¾" and ½" flat brushes.
In step four, I brushed on an additional cobalt blue wash. After that wash dried, I brushed on a mixture of viridian green with a little raw umber. These washes establish the faded green paint of the building. I am using small pudding cups (left over from the grandkids) to hold my wash mixture.
In step five, I added detail shadow areas to the louvered doors and post using raw umber. Darker passages were made using a cobalt blue/burnt sienna mix. I am still using my flat brushes here.
In step six, I blocked in the sign using the black I had made with alizarin crimson and hookers green. I then added some dry brush strokes of raw umber and some of my diluted black mixture to create the weathered look of the wood.
With step seven, I started to develop the figure more by adding colors to form the shapes of the skin. I used quinacridone gold, burnt sienna, rose madder genuine, cadmium orange and a mix of cobalt blue and burnt sienna. On the cane I used Q-gold, raw sienna, burnt sienna and cobalt blue. On the hat I used aureolin with the other colors I used on the cane to create the texture of woven straw. For the smaller areas I used a #6 round brush.
In step eight, I started work on the details of the pants, scarf and bag. For the pants I used washes of cobalt blue, ultramarine violet and rose madder genuine. For darker areas I mixed U-violet with raw umber. On the scarf I used my black mix to create the plaid pattern and then brushed on washes of cobalt blue and hookers green to add folds and shadows. For the bag, I added shadow and shape using raw umber, viridian green and winsor blue. I used a #8 round brush for this segment.
I added the foreground in step nine by using a ¾" flat and dry brushing raw umber and cobalt blue to create a texture. I then added the tile lines, using the edge of the brush, with a burnt sienna/cobalt blue mix.
In step ten, I added more shadow and shape to the jacket, hat and post. To the jacket I added more of my alizarin crimson/hookers green black and also a wash of hookers green to the back of the jacket, as a reflection. To add shape to the hat, I added shadows made with raw umber and cobalt blue. To the shadow of the post, I added a mixture of hooker's green/winsor blue/raw umber. Over that I dry brushed a little of my black mixture for more texture. I also added more shadow to the skin areas using rose madder, cobalt blue and raw sienna.
By step eleven, the painting is finally starting to look finished, but I continued to strengthen the shadow areas of the figure and on the background. I added more washes to the pants to darken the shadows using cobalt blue, ultra violet, rose madder genuine and burnt sienna. To the face, I added shadows with hookers green and burnt sienna. I also added more burnt sienna to the door frames and louvers.

In the last step, I decided to push the background back a little more and added more washes of a cobalt blue/rose madder mix to create a purplish shadow. To the post, I dry brushed on some cobalt blue and viridian green. I also added some viridian/cobalt blue brush strokes to the doors to get the faded blue/green paint look I wanted. I also pushed the sign into the shadows with washes of cobalt blue, ultra violet and some diluted black mix.

I set this aside for awhile and when I came back to look at it again, decided this painting was done. So I signed the painting at the bottom and cleaned my palette! I hope you enjoyed watching the various steps of this demonstration as I progressed through the painting.

View the finished Painting