95 – Ways to Include Roads + Paths in a Painting

Roads are arteries connecting us to one another. Without them, we’d be isolated from one another! They have meaning to us as we travel them to visit places near and far. The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost is just one example of their significance to us beyond their utility. They are powerful symbols that we’d like to depict in our art. Many of my paintings are of places I’ve encountered while traveling. There are many ways to incorporate them into a painting; as the focal point or as a pathway to a focal point. As I travel, I take lots and lots of roadside pictures that attract me. Since many of these are taken quickly or from spots that aren’t appropriate or safe to paint or even shoot a picture, some amount of editing is needed to make an effective composition for painting. Sometimes a very developed road or highway would be better as a more rural or dirt road in a painting. Here are some ideas that will help you to incorporate roads and paths into your work so they are an integrated part of your piece.
A country road that is off the beaten path is a bit easier to incorporate and can be an effective lead in to your focal point without overwhelming a painting. I accentuated the curve of the road just a bit so it was more pleasing.
This is definitely one of those drive by shots! The light was the subject rather than the road, so I eliminated the yellow lines on the road and softened the curve.
In this case the road and sidewalk are an important part of the composition. I slanted the road to give it more movement and to contrast the vertical shapes.
The street is the main subject and focal point of this piece. I’ve used a vibrant underpainting and bold colors on the street to create the feel of a bright summer day in the city rather than stick to the grey of the pavement which can be a bit boring.
In this case I used more intense color in areas surrounding the road and kept the main part of the road more neutral.
In both of these pieces, cast shadows on the road are integral parts of the composition. Roads often present great opportunities to depict dappled light with luminous shadows. Be sure to carry the shadows across the forms and shift the value of the local color they cast over.
In this case I would eliminate the road in the corner by adding to the grass.The triangular shape leads the eye out of the composition and isn’t needed. The barn and the beautiful sky are the subject here.
This lovely sunset scene doesn’t need the bit of road in the foreground! I’d simply crop it out. Incidentally, I’d leave out the telephone pole!
These are great examples of trails or paths that I like to keep on hand. If I want to create a more natural or rural look to paved road, I’ll refer to images like these. Softer, uneven contours and a broken path will help to give me the feeling that I want.

These are good examples of how including a small hint or suggestion of a road or path can enhance a piece. The pathways invite the viewer into the scenes but are not the focal point.

Whether a road is the center of interest or helps to guide your viewer to the star of your painting, with a little cropping, editing and edge control, your roads will help you to zip along to better paintings!

Happy Painting!!


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