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Backscenes - Trials and tribulations of a would be artist

Posted by Ian Smith , in Scenery 24 May 2016 · 751 views

Scenery Backscenes

Whilst I do not consider myself to be an artist, over the last few days I have tried to add a painted back scene to Modbury. The medium I have elected to use are acrylic paints, and unfortunately I have to report that I have been somewhat unsuccessful so far!! :cry:

 

The whole back scene was covered in a sky to start with and was painted pretty quickly with white emulsion and Cerulean Blue acrylic paint. Because the complete back scene is about 9' long, I had to paint the sky in sections of about 2'- 3' at a time as the paint dried out to much otherwise. A portion of the back scene was painted top to bottom in white emulsion, then a (relatively) small amount of blue was quickly brushed on at the top of this section and blended down to baseboard level and the white blended back up. The process being repeated on the next section along, also blending into the previously painted section to avoid any step change in colour. I was going to put some clouds into the sky and did some practicing on a piece of lining paper that had been given the same graduated sky, but in the end decided that I quite liked the graduated blue as it is.

 

Because I have never painted anything using acrylics before, I thought that it would make sense to get some advice from someone who has, and also done so very effectively, so a request was made to John Birkett-Smith (of Ashburton & Totnes fame) as to what colours to use. John was extremely generous by coming back with far more than a simple list of suggested colours, providing some much needed tips and directions on how to do it too.

 

Before I could begin adding any colour, a basic background was sketched in in pencil showing what I hoped would look a little like the rolling hills of South Devon. To a certain degree that was the easy part!

 

The next stage was to then start adding colour. Some suitable "distant greens" were mixed up and the more distant fields painted. Once dried however, I felt that the colours had dried to a very muddy looking green and were not at all what I wanted :
Attached Image

 

As a result, a different set of "distant greens" were mixed up and the whole lot painted over. I also experimented painting on a few hedges and woody areas too :
Attached Image

 

Once this had dried, again I felt that it didn't look right.

 

To make a comparison, a start was made at the other end of the 9' run, this time with some more "mid-distance greens", again, some hedges, trees, and woodland was painted in :
Attached Image

 

The whole lot was then left for a day or two so that I could look at it and better gauge the effect that I had achieved. What it revealed was several problems :

  • The embankment end fields were in my eyes too blue (although the photo above doesn't really show it).
  • The bridge end fields were too green.
  • The contrast between the shade and non-shade parts of the woodland on both ends was (in both natural and layout lighting conditions) almost non-existent. (The dark wasn't dark enough or the light was too dark)
  • The road seemed to go around a bend and just end in a field somewhere!
  • Worst of all I think I had painted everything too small - everything painted looked incredibly distant, especially when a full sized 3D tree was positioned in front of it. Effectively, what I had painted could not really be reconciled with what will be modelled in 3D.

 

The upshot of all this is that the painted fields, etc have received a couple of coats of white to try to eradicate them in readiness for yet another attempt!

 

Ian

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Thank you for sharing your difficulties!  What 'Yes Minister' would call 'courageous'!  I find that it can be useful to take photos of the layout as it is and then sketch in the ideas for a backscene onto a printout or (if you are up to it) with a program such as Paintbrush on the computer. This method gives a feeling for scale and helps in visualising the whole scene. 

 

I have never even tried to lift a paintbrush to the task but have used the method as a way of testing various photographic backscenes before actually printing them and mounting behind the layout.

 

All the best with your next attempt :)

I don't know whether it will be any consolation for you but on the Pyrennees foothills above the bay of Roses (Catalonia) there are some ruins and ceramic plaques and on one of these there is a poem which I can't remember all, but it has a line reading more or less as "There are so many greens that you cannot count them..." and if you look out over the plain lying below, this is true, so you shouldn't worry about your varying shades of green.

Good luck with that one Ian. Armed with the good advice from MRJ I tried my hand with Acrylics and found them rather tricky. I suspect it's a matter of practice because they do behave very differently from other paints. I must have another go some time.

 

Might I suggest starting with something smaller like an experimental vertical 'slice' on some scrap board until you are happy with the colour mixes?

 

Don't underestimate the need for bluish-grey in the far distance - it's pretty counter-intuitive but very effective when done well (and I don't count myself under the 'done well' heading).

 

Regards, Andy

Hi Ian, I feel your pain! I've been trying to pluck up courage to tackle the backscene on my layout for nearly a year now! I don't know why it's so difficult to paint a decent landscape, although I've taken countless photos of rolling hills and know what I'm trying to achieve, whenever I put brush to paper it looks like somewhere the Teletubbies would inhabit! Good luck with the next attempt! Best wishes Dave

To me, the hills do not look they are that far away that they need to be in the blue/grey range.

Personally, I would be looking towards slightly richer colours, rather than duller.

That said: beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

 

Khris

Photo
Dazzler Fan
May 25 2016 05:45

Ian; Can't wait until we see you tackle clouds.
- I am putting off.

Chris Nevard has some clever tricks for landscape
detail, blending into distance.

 

Noel

Thank you for sharing your difficulties!  What 'Yes Minister' would call 'courageous'!  I find that it can be useful to take photos of the layout as it is and then sketch in the ideas for a backscene onto a printout or (if you are up to it) with a program such as Paintbrush on the computer. This method gives a feeling for scale and helps in visualising the whole scene. 

Thanks Mike,  I might give the "take a series of photos of the layout and try drawing on to those to get an idea" a go.

 

 

I don't know whether it will be any consolation for you but on the Pyrennees foothills above the bay of Roses (Catalonia) there are some ruins and ceramic plaques and on one of these there is a poem which I can't remember all, but it has a line reading more or less as "There are so many greens that you cannot count them..." and if you look out over the plain lying below, this is true, so you shouldn't worry about your varying shades of green.

 

Peter, thanks for that.  I think part of the trouble is that I know what I want and am struggling to achieve it!  The number of different colours/shades you can get by just mixing two colours is immense, but getting something that both complements but does not over power a foreground model is somewhat more difficult than I anticipated :-)

 

 

Good luck with that one Ian. Armed with the good advice from MRJ I tried my hand with Acrylics and found them rather tricky. I suspect it's a matter of practice because they do behave very differently from other paints. I must have another go some time.

 

Might I suggest starting with something smaller like an experimental vertical 'slice' on some scrap board until you are happy with the colour mixes?

 

Don't underestimate the need for bluish-grey in the far distance - it's pretty counter-intuitive but very effective when done well (and I don't count myself under the 'done well' heading).

 

Regards, Andy

Andy,

I have to admit that so far I cannot count acrylics as one of my favourite painting media.  They seem to become unworkable far too quickly, drying out on both palette and back scene before I want them to.  I have read that keeping a spray mister on hand to moisten the palette periodically can help, and whilst in Hobbycraft I picked up a bottle of something to prolong their working life too.

 

Hi Ian, I feel your pain! I've been trying to pluck up courage to tackle the backscene on my layout for nearly a year now! I don't know why it's so difficult to paint a decent landscape, although I've taken countless photos of rolling hills and know what I'm trying to achieve, whenever I put brush to paper it looks like somewhere the Teletubbies would inhabit! Good luck with the next attempt! Best wishes Dave

Dave,

Thank you.  I know what you mean!  In my minds eye I know exactly what I want, but ability is preventing me from getting there :-)

 

 

To me, the hills do not look they are that far away that they need to be in the blue/grey range.

Personally, I would be looking towards slightly richer colours, rather than duller.

That said: beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

 

Khris

 

Khris,

I think that that is another of the issues.  The more distant fields were not far enough away to warrant having their colours muted, but I had painted them to small so when compared with the foreground their size implied that they were far away.

 

 

Ian; Can't wait until we see you tackle clouds.
- I am putting off.

Chris Nevard has some clever tricks for landscape
detail, blending into distance.

 

Noel

 

Noel,

On my practice piece of lining paper, painting the clouds was not an issue - I was really quite pleased with the way they looked!

Practice clouds

I agree with the idea of keeping the backscene fairly muted.  When I use printed photos, I set the printer to draft mode, which gives the effect I want and, as the acid test, looks quite 'real' in photos of the layout. 

 

I suggest diluting  your colours and building up gradually until you get the 'look' that you want.  Keeping the room cool helps to prevent acrylics from drying too quickly.  My own view is that, with backscenes, 'less is more' - after all, you don't want to deflect attention from your superb modelling of the layout itself :)

Hi Ian, it is a tricky thing to get right. I'm fairly handy with a paintbrush, art wise, but anything I have ever attempted always looks like a painting attached to a huge billboard at the back of the scene. The way I have got around this is to deliberately continue the 'scenic' elements, foliage, colours, textures, up the back scene effectively blurring the boundary between the model and the vertical picture. The only thing I tend to simply apply as paint is the blue of the sky. This has worked well on victoria bridge, with its heavily wooded background.
Photo
Northroader
May 25 2016 19:00
I'm all for acrylics. You can start by laying down washes as you would for watercolour, what you don't like can be painted over as you would oils, but you don't have to wait for ages for it to dry out. Have you tried masking medium? I sketch in the rough scene with pencil, then paint in a margin with the medium below the horizon line, including stuff which penetrates the skyline such as tall buildings and trees. Then do your sky wash, working down from the top and adding more white as you get near the horizon, and working in the clouds. Once dry, rub out the medium. You can use it to protect the edge of what you have done as you progress with the terra firma part. Most of the small detail goes in the narrow strip just below the horizon. Lower down becomes foreground, and masses block out larger. Your work is shaping very well, just persevere with what you're doing.

Hi Ian, it is a tricky thing to get right. I'm fairly handy with a paintbrush, art wise, but anything I have ever attempted always looks like a painting attached to a huge billboard at the back of the scene. The way I have got around this is to deliberately continue the 'scenic' elements, foliage, colours, textures, up the back scene effectively blurring the boundary between the model and the vertical picture. The only thing I tend to simply apply as paint is the blue of the sky. This has worked well on victoria bridge, with its heavily wooded background.

Will,

I'm in the middle of having another go, this time I feel as though I'm having a little more success.  I think the blend between the modelled foreground and painted background is always something of an issue.  It can be done, Paul Bambrick has done so extremely effectively on "Buck's Hill", but relies on forced perspective which I haven't really got the space to do (the long back siding is only about 3-4 inches away from the back scene, and between it and the back scene is a road).

 

In desperation, I had thought about giving the whole rear area of the modelled scene a wooded look but that wasn't what I wanted so have decided to persevere until I get something I'm happy with.

 

I'm all for acrylics. You can start by laying down washes as you would for watercolour, what you don't like can be painted over as you would oils, but you don't have to wait for ages for it to dry out. Have you tried masking medium? I sketch in the rough scene with pencil, then paint in a margin with the medium below the horizon line, including stuff which penetrates the skyline such as tall buildings and trees. Then do your sky wash, working down from the top and adding more white as you get near the horizon, and working in the clouds. Once dry, rub out the medium. You can use it to protect the edge of what you have done as you progress with the terra firma part. Most of the small detail goes in the narrow strip just below the horizon. Lower down becomes foreground, and masses block out larger. Your work is shaping very well, just persevere with what you're doing.

I think that the problems I'm having with the acrylics is down to me not being familiar with them - I've painted in oils (many, many years ago), and also water colours more recently but never acrylics.  I feel as though I'm having more success this time though - I'm happier with the green shades I'm mixing, and having a fine spray mister on hand to moisten the palette occasionally is keeping the paint more workable.

On this second attempt I have initially blocked in the whole ground area with a lightish green (not quite a wash), and am building up the fields and trees, etc on that.  At least with acrylics you can over paint something that you are unhappy with!

 

Ian

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