Friday, April 26, 2013

Sapareva Banya

8" x 10"
oil on hardboard
You can view and purchase this painting here.

April's Virtual Paintout location is the country of Bulgaria. I spent several hours cruising around in Google streetview in lots of different cities and small towns, and started to feel like I was in some sort of Cold War time warp, maybe whatever place Boris and Natasha are from. The camera car visited in March, and apparently it was not the beginning of spring, but the tail-end of a cold, grey winter. The sky was usually leaden; the buildings graceless concrete blocks. There was an occasional gem of a church or temple, but even those looked grim in the overcast. Also, on most residential streets, the houses were fronted with metal fences and gates, and had some sort of nasty barbed-wire looking bramble above the windows and doors (like this here).

It turns out those are trellises for vines (I assume grapes). I came across ONE little segment of a town that had been photographed in June, and it was such a transformation! Every house and most commercial buildings were cloaked in gorgeous greenery, which extends over the sidewalks and makes a shady pergola for the pedestrian. Unbelievable difference.

Before I found that, I settled on this scene, because I liked the silverly wet street, and the guy with the horse cart. It was an almost monotone scene: beige, tan, brown, with bits of greenish-blue. That's a real challenge for me, because you know I love color.

Here's some progress shots:

What I'm doing here is laying down a thin layer of Fleisch Ochre* (a weirdo tube of paint I need to use up) and then wiping off the light parts, instead of painting in the dark parts. Very different approach for me, I kind of like it. Makes the brain do some acrobatics. However, I found the paint dried very quickly, and it was hard to wipe it off.
*I know that sounds like "flesh-colored ochre," but apparently it's named after some guy who discovered a deposit of ochre. Go figure.

Here I dipped a cotton swab in mineral spirits and wiped off the more prominent highlights. You can also see where I scratched in an X-shaped grid line for placement.

Here I added perspective lines and the more technical details, such as the man and horse, with a red pencil. I love the looseness of the underpainting, but needed some architectural guides to firm it up.

Putting in the darkest shadows.

Starting the sun-lit areas.
Most of the way done. I decide that house on the right is too bright, especially the side facing us. Also I don't like the blankness of the street-facing side, so I put in trees. You can see those revisions in the final. This image is a little bright compared to the real life version.


  1. As someone who doesn't paint, it's fascinating to see the different layers in the painting process. Very cool!

    1. I know, it's not like what you'd expect, right? Of course, there are a million different methods...

  2. A great tutorial, Marla. I like the wiping out technique, but usually forget to do it.

    Love the direction your art is taking.

    1. You are very flattering to call it a tutorial! I'm just documenting my steps. But if it's helpful to anyone, then that's a great bonus.

      I feel like I made some kind of big progress on this one.


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