Creating A Heightened Mood
Watercolor Painting by Dennis Pendleton. In my Watercolor Salon, we just studied the work of Edward Hopper and how he used figures in his paintings to express loneliness and melancholy. I decided to relook at this painting of the interior of the Venice Opera House, which hangs in my studio, and see what kind of mood my figures presented. The timing is right before the lights go down and the opera begins and I wanted the figures to represent a sense of anticipation. The woman in black with the string of pearls has a imposing appearance and I remember deciding to have the two gentlemen on her right and left looking at her instead of the stage. The young couple on the left seem to be conversing as their chaperone sits behind them. In my mind, this group of six figures are anticipating the opera as they talk to each other. At least they are not looking at their cell phones!
The one anonymous male figure in the lower right corner does appear isolated but I must confess that I was not thinking of Edward Hoppers work when I painted him. In addition to often including only one figure, Hopper used stark angles and subtle cool coloring in his paintings. My painting is just the opposite with rich warm colors like orange, red, and yellow plus all the intricate carving, mirrors, statues, and the velvet red curtains. The point is that an artist can decide on a mood and then use colors, lighting, figures, details, values, composition, etc. to create that mood. If my painted had a cool color scheme with figures that appeared bored or unhappy, the painting would have expressed a totally different ambience.
The lamps in the grand balcony are unpainted white paper surrounded by lemon yellow to create a glow. The intricate carving around the lights is lemon yellow, orange, red, and some cobalt violet. The curtains are venetian red with mineral violet added for the darker shadows. The rest of the balconies are red and yellow ochre mixtures and the darkest values are venetian red mixed with mineral violet. The black of the woman's dress is a mixture of burnt sienna and French ultramarine blue.
Studying a master artist like Edward Hopper can make you think harder about why you are painting and make the whole process more exciting. Happy Painting! Dennis Pendleton