You can make a pleasing drawing or painting out of almost anything. Yes, I’ve spent countless hours and gallons of gas driving around in search of picturesque subjects, but I often settle for something like this – a parking lot at a strip mall. I painted it from my car (my customary m. o.) using Procreate software on an iPad.
I had recently seen an online demo by a fantastic digital painter who begins her facial portraits with big, blurry, soft-edged marks and uses harder and harder edges as she progresses to ever-finer details. I thought that if I did that too I would get a more painterly, less digital look. (Digital drawings and paintings are great, but they often sport tell-tale artifacts like seas of bright, flat color and freakishly hard edges.) I started with the airbrush tools in Procreate but was frustrated by the inaccuracy of my soft blobs, so I decided to go back a step and lay in the digital equivalent of a pencil underdrawing first. I could have put it on a separate layer, but I chose not to. (Layers are an indispensable tool in the kit, but I often avoid them when seeking a less digital look because using a single layer allows me to easily harden, soften and smear edges like I can with traditional media.)
Ultimately I left the underdrawing visible rather than covering it completely with “paint,” but the soft-edged shapes, even though they were unnaturally monotonic, looked much more painterly than my customary hard-edged shapes ever had. Just that one change made me feel more like I was painting instead of drawing.
I made sure to draw a few of the parking lot’s boundary lines at angles consistent with those of the central vehicle. Those lines, along with a cast shadow also drawn in perspective, help to convincingly bind the vehicle to the ground rather than making it look like it is floating in a limbo of paper.
I left some of the cars surrounding the “hero” SUV in a surprisingly minimal state. This not only worked pretty well in giving the picture a visual hierarchy, but it also took less time!
This last lesson is probably the most important of all. A lot of painting really is about what you leave out. The background here is pretty perfunctory, but that helps it highlight the foreground, as it should. And it also makes a nice setting for one of my favorite parts of this piece, those four dark diagonals off the top left of the SUV. They started as tree branches, but they ended up looking more like conventional cartoon signals of surprise. Whatever they are, their placement helps spotlight the central subject and also adds energy.
So go out there and leave stuff out. It enables your viewers to be partners in the completion of your pictures.