A few months ago I wrote about my long struggles with this piece and this canvas. I worked at the piece again after some encouragement from Sam, and I think I’m happy with it. There is one nagging fault with the anatomy, but I’m willing to let it stand since the paint is too thin to paint over successfully. This is the last piece I’d do by eyeballing proportions before switching to a process involving photoshop, tracing paper and transfer paper, but more on that later – maybe…
Here is the original text from that post – updated with the final image at the end:
A few years ago Cindy asked me to paint her. At the time I was thinking about trying to paint again. I’ve gotten this inclination a few times since college, and every time my little experiments ended up looking like some kind of visual torture mechanism. I would “quit” again for a year and then try again and the cycle would repeat itself. Well, back in 2007 I decided to try again when Cindy prodded (or maybe the whole thing was my idea, I don’t remember) me to paint her. At first I tried to paint her laying down on her wicker couch thing that she used to have. It looked pretty rudimentary – but when I showed her the progress she noticed that the way I had positioned things it looked like you could see up her skirt (which I really really had not intended at all). So, I put a wash over the canvas and gave up. (I didn’t take a photo of this early try) In October 2008 I decided to give it another go with one of the shots from our little photo session in the park. The result of the start is below:
Looking back now this looks like a crazy modern art Francis Bacon kind of thing.. and I could have probably slapped a silly name on it and tried to sell it for 3 million dollars. However, to my “classical” eye it looked like complete crap – so I put a bunch of washes over it and scrubbed and washed again until I had this neat blue/white scratched up surface. I put the canvas away, vowing not to take it out and use it unless I came up with something cool because I really liked the way the surface looked.
After finishing the “ribbon” painting I decided to try a smaller painting of a person (was originally a girl, but looks more like a guy now) with civil war guns walking through a forest. After about two weeks this thing looked like crap too, so I stopped. I decided to go back to the one thing that I thought worked – the “girl writhing around in the sheets” theme. I took out the canvas that I’d hidden away a year ago and got to work:
At this point I let it sit for a few days. I couldn’t decide on whether adding the hand below would destroy the balance of the piece or not. But eventually I decided to go for it:
I thought the hand turned out really great (yeah, I know the ring finger is a little funky). At this point I didn’t know where to go… and was really worried about messing up the good thing I had going. I should have gone with my instincts and just stopped (after fixing that ring finger). But… of course not…
I tried adding in the sheets… and some kind of sheet on the head… and some kind of magical thingie going on around the hand. It wasn’t working. I decided to take the piece into photoshop before going back and trying anything else:
“okay” I thought, this will work I guess…
ewww… hmmm… well, maybe I can polish it into something. I decided that instead of having the water fade into the bedsheets, that I’d have her laying on a rocky surface over the water. So, I got to work digging up more source material for granite and marble. I also decided that Sam was right (she’d seen it in progress last weekend) and and I would eventually paint hair on her instead of a “snood.”
So here I am. This looks like some disjointed awful mess. I think I’m learning an important lesson – you can’t design a whole piece around one thing that you like (the hand).
I’m 28 and I’m still trying to figure out what to do and how to do it with this art stuff. I’m getting more and more involved in the art scene in LA. By involved I really mean “following;” going to art galleries and subscribing to every one’s blogs. Something I’ve noticed is that most of the artists that I really like became skilled illustrators before transitioning to fine art. They use different media, but their skill in representing the human form stands out. One guy that I particularly like is Eric Fortune. Eric’s drawings are fantastic, and he just takes them and makes amazing paintings with them. I was surprised to discover that Eric actually lives in Columbus. He is doing a lot of shows here and in New York of course.
With this new painting I feel like I’m moving backwards. Most of the little paintings on wood turned out pretty well. I liked layering up the paint thinly on the smooth surface. I also like the paintings I did on raw canvas – but they were very very frustrating to actually make because it was so hard to actually move the paint around. Perhaps I should just put this current canvas aside and go get some sheets of wood. Sam mentioned to me recently that when we go to galleries most of the paintings are much smaller than mine… so maybe I’m trying way too hard. She said that my work might not get shown (later) just simply because they’re too large. Obviously size isn’t much of a problem with a solo show, but any solo show would be a long way down the road after a lot of group shows.
Of course, all that is long after (and IF) I can actually develop a consistent style and competency. Not even there yet, so I shouldn’t leap ahead…. Very frustrating moving so slowly though. I know I should have been doing this since I was eighteen years old. I probably should have went to a “real” art school. But, nothing I can do about all that now, I have to push forward and work with what I’ve got.
And so I went back in determined not to let this one slip away. There are some rough spots, but there are a lot of things in this I was really happy with. Although (as I seem to say a lot) it is hard to tell in the photo, the water now looks nice, especially in the lower right where it gets murky and dark with light flickering off the top. Sam said that the way the skin was painted was the best she’d seen yet and this looks more like the soft slightly splotchy kind of skin that seen in old frescoes by the masters. She didn’t say that last part, I did. I also reworked the cloth to have more natural light and shadow gradations – although it still comes off looking flat in many places. I reworked the snood in the same way. I added a little bit of hair to give this girl some personality and finally added more depth to the cracks in the stone. This piece really looks better in person. For instance, in person you can see veins in her hands in a slight blueish green – not so much in the above photograph.
I said at the beginning of this blog post that this painting had two glaring anatomical errors. One most people will pick up right away, but another I’m told by the few who have seen it isn’t obvious at all and nobody will catch on if I don’t mention. So… I won’t. The “non obvious” error is a huge one, can you see it? It isn’t in the lower half….