When setting up a painting I like to take a fact finding trip, do some sketches, take photos and get a feel for the location I’m planning to paint. My work is an emotional, visual interpretation of the landscape, so a good investigation of the area is essential.
However, once you’re back in the studio and working out your composition there’s always a nagging doubt about a particular point. Did you capture a certain angle correctly? Were the photos clear enough? Did you position yourself too far away to see any detail? This is where I find Google Earth comes in handy.
No matter how long you spend researching a location there’s always something you miss or while thinking about the picture you discover another interesting point of view in the landscape you hadn’t considered.
The Assisi painting is a great example. I spent a warm summer’s day there, took lots of photographs of the town and sketched many fascinating features. When I was back in the studio I began thinking hard about the composition and how best to interpret Assisi.
I was taken with the idea of having the town wall and its gates along the bottom of the picture. Big problem, I’d only been through two of the eight gates. Also, perched above the town is the Rocco Maggiore which, in the middle of August, was far too hot a day to go climbing up hills.
Google Earth view
So Google Earth to the rescue, although I’d got images of the castle, I needed a little more
detail. A quick wander around online and I’d gotten a better idea of how the fortress was constructed. The same for the missing gates, virtually walk along the road and you can explore the town wall and locate the missing entrances.
Once I started filling out the buildings that make up Assisi, I looked for patterns and shapes within to give it a sense of place. These came from a long range photo, so the detail and construction was somewhat ambiguous. Google maps
allowed me to get up close to the buildings and see where the windows were, how the building was put together and gave me an idea of the colour and texture.
What the site allows you to do is look at the landscape in greater detail, from more angles and positions than are possible during your visit. You can check out distant points of interest to see what they actually are, instead
of jumping to an uneducated conclusion. Was that blimp on the horizon a church, windmill or a statue? Use Google Earth and make sure.
You can also use it to scout suitable locations for drawing or painting. Have a virtual walk around your painting destination and see where the best views are. Your subject matter, composition and time in the field can all be enhanced with a little online research. It is a useful tool for artists painting landscapes and takes the guess work out of landmarks.
Why not check out Assisi on Google for yourself.