Jerusalem Street Scene

EA011 - Jerusalem Street Scene


Having worked on landscapes and portraits, and having made one less-than-impressive figure, I decided to take another foray into posing figures.  In this case, I worked on a scene typical of any Jerusalem back alley, of two people conversing.

I have spent some time over the last few weeks studying composition and learning how to move the eye around, so this seemed as good an opportunity to try to put some of these rules into practice.  First, it’s good practice to have lines in the painting arranged to draw the viewer’s eye into the frame.  In this case, since I was working with a contemporary Jerusalem street scene, the task was relatively simple.  Buildings in Jerusalem, at least in the newer parts of the city, are very orthogonal boxes with squares cut in them for windows.  The prevalence of rectangular bricks gave me more lines to work with.  I simply arranged the painting so that the focal point, in this case the      book being held by the man to the right, was also the vanishing point for the one-point perspective of the alley.


Another rule of composition is to pose the figures such that the eye circulates through the painting.  I tried to arrange their arms such that the eye would be drawn back and forth between the two figures, like their conversation.

Eye Flow

A few other details I liked were the way the man on the right’s clothes came out, especially the shadow on his shirt.


This highlights one of the difficulties I’ve been having with acrylics, their fast drying time.  I prefer to advance one part of a painting a bit, then switch to a different one, then move around, until I come back to the part I was working on earlier.  I don’t like finishing one part before moving onto the next, because I feel like how one part looks is dependent on the rest of the painting.  The painting should be more than the sum of its parts, and needs to work together.  With the pants, in order to get the shading properly, I had to mix in white and dark to the blue base quickly before they would have a chance to dry.  I didn’t like the feeling of being forced or rushed into making my decisions with the clock ticking in the background.  Then again, much the way that often times one’s intuitive guess has a higher likelihood of being correct than a well-thought out answer, so too the fast drying time of acrylics may lead to some spontenaity.

One of the things I was experimenting towards here was painting the tan shades of Jerusalem stone.  I was playing with different color combinations looking for that, “City of Gold,” Jersualem stone look, and as you can see each wall is a different shade and hue of that tan.  The fact is, if you ever look around in Jerusalem, there are actually plenty of hues of stone, some more rosy and others more yellowish.  My favorite hue was the


So, to confess, I did not actually mix the tan on the wall intentionally.  I just scraped the colors from my palette to reload, took the leftovers on my knife, and stirred them up to see what would happen.  They actually mixed to a nice tan.  The tan on the rightmost wall was done with an undercoat of this dark tan, fading from opaque at the bottom to an almost completely transparent wash at the top.  I allowed that to dry and overlaid it with an orangish-brown overcoat, starting opaque at the top of the wall and then fading to an almost transparent wash at the bottom (the fast drying time of the acrylic paints also comes with some built-in advantages.)


Overall, I’m happy with how this one came out, being my first real attempt at posing figures.  There are a few things about it I might change.

I did violate one of the rules of composition, which is to use odd-numbers.  In this case, there are only two people.  (Well, you could argue that the faint figure walking by in the background is figure number three.)  Speaking of the background, I do
think it’s a little bit confusing.  The street and wall of the building are both very bright.  Then the roof is a darker shade of red, as is the sky.  Speaking of the red roof, it occurs to me that it might not be clear to someone unfamiliar with Jerusalem architecture that they were even looking at a roof.  The expensive buildings in Jerusalem have pitched terra-cotta roofs.  The normal buildings are still covered in Jerusalem stone but the roofs are flat.  I could probably add some sort of indication to the roof of terra cotta tiles or something, because right now it looks like a red stripe.  The background roof and sky should probably be toned down a bit in saturation and made a bit brighter.  That would take care of another problem, that the windows are the same color as the sky.

Still, I think those are small problems and I’m happy with my work.

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