Paint a street scene
In part three of his series, Peter Chan shares his fill-in-the-shapes approach with gouache, while capturing a simple neighbourhood scene
Painting outdoor scenery is the best way to learn about capturing natural lighting. One of my favourite exercises is painting urban street scenes with cars. It may seem complex at first, but if you treat them as just simple shapes – either squares or box-like forms – they become a lot less intimidating.
I like to start by grouping big masses of value shapes together and not worry about the likeness of the elements such as the cars, house and trees. By doing this, it also helps me narrow down my composition and ensures I don’t try to paint too much of the scene.
Then I approach the painting almost like a colouring book. I start to fill in my shapes with the colours I observe that closely relate to the value in those shapes.
In this exercise, I paint a cloudy street scene with a bit of warm light hitting the distant house. Most of the elements, such as the cars and trees are relatively dark, so I group them together. The next shape group is the street, which sits in the middle of the value range. I group the sky and houses together as my lightest value.
As you can see, just by doing simple shape grouping, I’ve already made something that was initially complex look a lot more manageable. From this point on, I can focus my energy on observing, mixing colours and filling in those shapes.