Adding structure lines and the finished painting

To paint the structure onto the canvas I used the method I developed last academic year, which involves a few steps…
Firstly photographing the sculpture from the angle I want in the painting. This is a series of trial and error – taking multiple photos and picking one think will best suite the painting.
Then I trace the structure onto sheet of acetate with a marker pen and a ruler.
I then project this tracing into the painting and play around with how large the structure should be and where it should best fit on the canvas.
I could then repeat the tracing process to find an angle that better suits the painting, until I have a projection that matches what I want.

When deciding on the angle, size and position of the structure in the painting I took into account the shapes in the painting. Although the painting is an abstracted woodland, I think the painting has a ground, a (hidden) horizon, tree canopy and sky – It’s like I’m painting (constructing on the canvas with paint) a forest of my lived perception – I’ve started saying that recently:

So when I was deciding on where the structure would go in the painting, I realised it makes sense for the structure to be believable, therefore standing on the ground. This decision seemed meant to be because the roof of the structure then lined up with the ‘sky’ in the painting! Perfect:

I then started adding the lines to the painting, following the projection as a guide, using a thin brush and titanium white oil paint thinned slightly with white spirit to make the paint glide on smoother.
During the process I would turn the projection on and off regularly, and stand back from the painting lots. I was selecting which lines to include to create the illusion of depth, as if the brush marks are floating in front or behind the structure.

Stages of painting as a GIF.

You can see in this GIF that I would add lines and then remove them again. I kept taking breaks from the painting so I could get a fresh perspective on the painting. Adding or removing one tiny line can make such a difference to the believability of the structure and the illusion of depth so I took my time painting.

The finished painting

What works

I think that it does feel like your standing inside a structure and looking up! It is the first time I have painted the structure from an angle that should make you feel inside the structure, and I think it demonstrates potential.

Lining up the structure with the ‘ground’ and the opening revealing the ‘sky’. This really helps to create the feeling of vertical space.

Smaller brush marks at the top of the painting, where I want the brush strokes to appear further away, also works really well to create the feeling of height.

What doesn’t work

I used a wide angle lens to photograph the structure, which means that the structure legs around the outside of the image have a much more extreme angle, sticking outwards, than you would see with the naked eye or a normal camera lens:

Looking at these two images side by side, I think the normal lens is actually better than the wide angle image (which I used for the painting). The wide angle lens distorts the shape to the point where the structure loses its dimensionality and the ceiling looks completely flat.
The normal lens, on the other hand, is more accurate to the naked eye and so the image of the structure is easier for the brain to construct with the illusion of depth.

I did not consider how a wide angle image would affect the believability of the structure in the painting! I used a wide angle lens image because wide angle captures more of the structure in an image, and makes the ceiling look smaller ie. further away, which are all good things. But the structure I think looks like it is tipping backwards in the finished painting, and not standing on a horizontal surface. This is a major issue!
Is it just me that thinks it looks like it’s tipping? I’m going to ask around and see!

There is a lot of ‘ground’ in the painting which means the ceiling of the structure is cropped out a little more than I think would be best. This is something I’ll have to try out to confirm. But I do think it would work for the painting to have less ground in it, and be more focused on looking up, at the canopy and the sky.
To do this I will have to look up more when I’m painting outside! And fill less of the bottom of the canvas with impressions of the woodland floor.


It’s really exciting to see the finished painting next to the ink painting I started with and the sculpture! This process is very meditative, what I mean by that is the process of ink drawings, a sculpture and the painting process is a meditative process which enables me to think conceptually and take things forward. Doing as a method of thinking, that’s what I feel like I’m doing.

With all the things I think could be better I still think this painting is great, and I can’t wait to exhibit it along with the sculpture at UNA’s exhibition next week. That’ll be a good chance to get others opinions.

I do think that the painting itself has something that is not quite right. The structure lines aren’t as successful as they normally are, the lines don’t have enough dimension, they seem a bit too abstract. So…

What next?

Another big painting! I want to do one which refines my process with all that I have learnt from this painting. I didn’t expect to do another big painting so soon, but I think it is worth while.

This next painting will improve on the plein air process (improvements which I discussed in a previous blog post). And I will improve on the structure painting process – using a normal lens image projected onto the canvas, and thinking again about where best to position the structure so the height and believability of the structure are as strong as possible.

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