The Reference Photograph
Arc de Triomphe – by Audrey Philippe (© 2016 Audrey Philippe – used by permission)
When I saw this photograph that my younger daughter took around Christmas, during an early run in Paris, I knew immediately it would make a good subject for a painting.
Initial drawing and composition
Arc de Triomphe early morning – Initial sketch
I drew the composition directly with a small square hog brush dipped in diluted paint (so that it dries quickly). The tricky part was to get the right placement, size and proportions for the Arc itself. After that, it was easy.
Conventional advice is to stay away from symmetrical compositions because they look unnatural and static. However, this particular subject landed itself to be right in the centre of the canvas… because the Arc is at the centre of the Place de l’Etoile and at the meeting point of twelve avenues. In this case, the pure symmetry of the Arc is counterbalanced by the cars on the left that bring a secondary focal point.
The palette I used
I used the following palette for this painting:
- Ultramarine blue (Griffin Alkyd)
- Cerulean Blue Hue (Griffin Alkyd)
- Cobalt Turquoise Light (Griffin Alkyd)
- Cadmium Lemon
- Cadmium Yellow Deep
- Cadmium Red
- Permanent Alizarin Crimson
- Titanium White (Griffin Alkyd)
Arc de Triomphe early morning – Stage 1
The painting plays on the contrast between the overall blue tones of the early morning and the sky lit-up with warm tones by the rising sun. Although blue is the dominant colour, Ultramarine Blue as a warm overtone and goes well with the warm tones in the sky.
Arc de Triomphe early morning – Stage 2
The tone of the painting is in the mid-range, but dark enough to allow the sky and the lights of the cars to shine through. The lights reflected on the wet cobbles help to bring some three-dimensional effect.
Arc de Triomphe early morning – Final painting