Friday, 3 August 2012

The Windows and Doors on my Street Painting Looks Wrong

An otherwise satisfactory painting of buildings within a village study or city scene could be ruined by poorly painted detail on the buildings, most often doors and windows. How can the artist depict such features on buildings without the headache of the angles looking wrong?

Painting Problems with Windows and Doors

How to Paint Buildings Rachel Shirley
The artist may go to great lengths over brickwork, roof tiles or gables, as well as the perspective of buildings in a painting. Sadly, the windows and doors do not convince, appearing as dark rectangles that lack depth or perspective. The following issues may cause windows and doors on a painting to draw the eye for the wrong reasons.

Treating windows as a separate entity to the building itself, resulting in an impression of windows that do not belong to the same space.

Viewing windows and doors as mere rectangular forms, using the same brush marks and colours throughout, creating a regimented arrangement without truth.

Making generalised assumptions about windows and doors, for example, all windows are darker than the surrounding wall; all doors appear rectangular in shape and similar in size. In the same vein, viewing windows and doors as 2-dimensional entities without depth.

Illustrating all windows and doors as though facing the viewer, regardless of the fact they are placed on a receding wall.

Taking on a draughtsman’s approach to drawing buildings, resulting in a painting that resembles a diagram rather than an actual scene.

Tips on Painting Detail on Buildings

In order to make improvements to a painting featuring windows and doors on buildings such as cottages and terraced houses, the artist must evaluate what is going wrong. This means eradicating all previous assumptions about how features on buildings appear to the viewer. The following may help.

Unless situated on a wall that faces the viewer, windows will appear narrower, shorter and closer together with distance. This squashed-up effect also applies to other features on a receding building, be it gables or chimneypots.

Windows have depth; some protrude from the wall such as bays, creating shadows over the brickwork. Conversley, doors can be recessed. This will create shadows with some highlights within.

Not all windows panes are muted in colour, but can be darker or paler than the surrounding wall. Seldom is much interior detail seen, except perhaps muted colours or curtains. A little interior detail may sometimes be perceived through lit windows in dusk. But otherwise, reflections or interior gloom will often obscure these views.

Windows and doors do not always appear equally spaced apart even if they are in reality. This is due to perspectives mentioned earlier. Consider also tithe cottages and churches which often exhibit unevenness in features that charm and create interesting focal points. Don’t be tempted to illustrate evenness if this is not apparent.

Tips on Painting Buildings

The following art tips might help when it comes to painting buildings.

Often, a mere few brushstrokes will suggest windows and doors. This means omitting outlines if these cannot be perceived under certain lighting conditions. Try not to get bogged down with the detail of each window. Paint all windows simultaneously rather than one by one, or the painting will become a chore.

Paint the surrounding brickwork/wall first. Work up to the window/door area, applying thinner paint here. This will minimise colour being picked up from the surrounding wall.

Observe how the colour or tone of the wall shifts around the window and/or door. Express such shifts honestly.

Paint the general appearance of the window prior to committing to detail. How do they compare tonally or chromatically against the surrounding wall? Do they look darker or warmer in hue? Stand back from the painting to get an overall feel of the windows and how they key into the building. Apply the same to doors.

Remember to express the receding edge of each window if these can be seen. Don’t treat them as 2D squarish objects plonked on walls. Each window will exhibit a receding edge according to how they are viewed.

Unless the window forms the main focal point of the painting or stylised, there is no need to express everything in a linear fashion, or it will appear overly-illustrative. Suggest each window with a few brushmarks and work on top for detail. Doing so will ensure the windows do not unintentionally hog the focal point from the painting.

Art Techniques for Painting Detail on Buildings

Look for imperfections in the window; cracked brickwork or windows with chipped paintwork. Such imperfections can be expressed with a few touches from a fine sable.

Paint the highlights and shadows on the windows and doors simultaneously. Observe how these elements key in to the rest of the building to make them appear to belong. Do all windows have highlights in common? Does a shadow encroach upon a neighbouring window? Don’t treat each window in isolation to the building.

Use a new colour mix for features on each separate wall, as one side of the building might be in shadow, the other in sunlight.

Art Techniques for Painting Buildings

Work the paint thinly initially with a soft, fine brush, viewing windows and doors not as a series of lines, but a series of colour/tonal shapes. Ensure the underdrawing is accurate, or the painting will not look right. Take pains to get the drawing right before laying on the paint. Never guesswork angles on windows or it will look unconvincing. Use good quality photos or drawings that inform on how the buildings’ features.

Apply the pale colours first, which might be reflections on the window from sunlight, or sun casting on window sills. Dab the colour lightly, working gradually darker. Dry brushing detail is great for bringing realism. Dry brushing entails stroking small amounts of neat, dryish paint over an existing glaze that has already dried. Working over a dried glaze is also ideal for correcting mistakes beneath. Such detail might be diamond leading, stained glass or hinges.

Ensure the windows and doors adhere to the rules of perspectives in that each appear narrower and closer together with distance. Standing back from the painting periodically will ensure mistakes previously invisible become apparent.

How to Paint Buildings with Detail

Poorly painted windows and doors can ruin an otherwise accomplished painting of buildings. Take pains to get the under-drawing right before committing to paint. This means working from good quality photos. The general rule is, windows and doors of similar dimensions will appear smaller, narrower and more squashed up with distance. Don’t get bogged down with irrelevant detail. Work on the general view of windows and doors rather than illustrating them in a linear fashion. Stand back from the painting to see how these features key in to the building. Paint all windows simultaneously rather than one by one. Last of all, look at the windows and doors to see how they actually look. This will guard against a building that appears childish and idealised in a painting.

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