About Pompeii the City
|Pompeii by Elizabeth Murray: Oil on Canvas|
Perpendicular Lines of Pompeii
The painting style reminds me a little of De Chirico’s scenes in the repeating arches and shadows and the muted color of the sky, although the paint handling is softer than De Chirico’s style.
|Perspectives on Buildings|
The only (slight) issue is the arches in the foreground appear to lean forwards. This is because the arches (including one in the background) aren’t quite symmetrical in formation and apex of some appear too far to the left (see close up images). This problem is minor and can easily be fixed.
High Detail in Buildings
|Getting Arches Symmetrical|
Erosion can be suggested by smudging out the paint slightly and applying fine marks on select areas as guided by the photo. Oblique sunlight can bring out the imperfections in the stonework. Applying neat white (with perhaps a tiny dab of burnt sienna to create warm highlights) can be ‘skimmed’ over the palest areas of the columns to really bring them out. The same treatment can be used for the darks.
|Pompeii City near Naples|
Finding Great Images of Pompeii
Illustrating detail on buildings requires one thing: a clear photograph. This allows no guesswork when applying the paint. Textures and pigmentations can be clearly seen and copied. If something doesn’t work right, the paint can be smudged off with the corner of a rag and detail can be reapplied on top. This is the beauty of oil paint.
Challenges in Painting Buildings and Skies
A large part of the composition consists of the sky. If much time and energy is spent upon the buildings, the sky aspect can become overlooked. This can result in a rushed looking sky or one that appears empty. Although this is not really the case here, the artist has expressed dissatisfaction with the sky. The answer is to foresee such a problem before spending too much time on foreground detail. A painting that features large areas of sky requires forward planning.
A Painting with a Large Sky
The artist does not have to use the sky shown in the photograph if it is unsatisfactory. I have used the sky from another photograph. A painting can be created from several photos. Ensure the following when substituting the sky in a painting:
That the light hits the clouds from the same angle as the other objects within the scene (ie, from the left or right or from above).
That the sky appears to be of the same time of day (ie, evening or afternoon).
That the sky exhibits similar weather conditions (sunny or inclement).
That the sky could inhabit that portion of sky (ie, it is no good sticking clouds at the zenith onto a horizon).
How to Find an Interesting Sky for Painting
Look for an interesting sky. I like skies with textures, such as mackerel sky or cumulonimbus. A simple sky can be interesting, such as a mostly blue sky with a few wispy cirrus clouds. Clouds with definite tones (lights and darks) could be used to echo the textures of the buildings. Rather than change the sky in this painting, I would start afresh, as the soft clouds add contrast with the rigid lines of the monuments.
Further Tips on Oil Painting Related to this Article
Drawing perspectives on buildings
The main oil painting techniques
Painting interesting skies