Day 2. Started late around 1 PM and that is not good. The light is best from 10 - 4 and I should never be anywhere else during those hours. But my neck was extra tight so I walked up the mountain and over the other side for an extended 2.5 hour hike. It was good -but oh so humid. I was soaked through when I got back, took a freezing shower, had a salad with my heirloom Green Zebra tomatoes and hit the studio.
I started by adding another background layer of goldens and reds. I lightened the cone of grace that Flannery is standing under. I just needed to get the gist of how that will look so i can figure out the overall color balance. The cone of grace will need several layers to hold the detail of drops that will come later.
I could not live without Golden Fluid Quinacridone Nickel Azo Gold; it is the most indispensable color. QNAG adds a warmth to any color it overlays. It will take a lot of paint (a LOT of paint) to get the background where I want it but that can come later. Today I needed to deal with Flannery's face and that was what most of today was about.
I did the classic green shadow underpainting. Frankly, I havent done this since college. This is the kind of thing that can get me panicky and abandon the process, but I worked through it and all the weird awkward stages to follow. Note how the drawing is kind of skewed and asymmetrical. I tend to leave those lines and fix them as I paint; I try not to have the image be too perfect because its this very wrongness that gives a final painting its unique character. (I think)
I painted about 4 layers of different colors to create the flesh tone of her face. You cannot just squeeze out a tube of flesh colored paint and call it a day because it just doesnt have any life to it. I use a mix of flat and slightly shiny paint - it looks weird now but later when I varnish the painting all the layers will "come up" and it will look deep. Rich. Make sense? I mean that you can look down into the painting and see all the layers but it still reads as a fluid surface. See how crooked her eyes are? I'll fix that in a minute. Its hard to see the importance of that halo of lighter yellow until I get her dark hair painted. Right now the whole thing looks pasty and bland. Note how deep into the lines of the Flannery drawing I take the background color. That is critical for nice clean edges. Painting is a discipline where you are always thinking back to front and trying to plan for later by laying a foundation early.
Flannery's hairline is to die for; the illustrator in me loves the lack of ambiguity. You just do not see this kind of hair anymore. I really like how the left (our left) looks - Im going to have to fix that right side but its going to take some real skill to overcome that dark with the light. I used a ruler to measure the distance from hair to shoulder line and its still off. So thats something to be corrected as well.
The face is very rough here but I know that the super refined work is days away. I just need to have her look back at me for the rest of the painting because the connection with her eyes is what every other thing that follows has to sync up with. Literally, the peacock, the pond, the trees, the leg braces, the cloud - all of it must be in service to those eyes.
* describing this process is a challenge*
There is barely enough room for me and the board (40x40) and the paints to fit in here. But both Trout and Koby tend to lay in here all day. Its too hot and humid for them. They mostly lay around in the summer. I took them to the waterfall on the break around 4. Some times the chickens come in too but they have a tendency to fly up and land in paint. I just wave my dry rags around at them and out they go.
I added the eyebrows and that was very important to the look of Flannery. That mouth needs work - not alot though. I couldnt have her smiling a big wide smile so this is the face I am going with. I need her face to look a bit more relaxed and that is going to mean doing something with the smile line shadows. But not much! Too much is too much and letting go is as important a skill as any other aspect of painting. Im happy with the dress detail. I was working from a vague photo so I am sort of guessing here - the vibe is about right and that is good enough.
I thought about my mom while painting this. She was the one that taught me about how the upper lip is darker due to the shadow and that light hits the middle of the lighter lower lip. Its absolutely true. She was a good artist, and drew women's faces beautifully. Most of the day I was trying to figure out how I was going to work in the leg braces that Flannery no longer needs. In my original drawing I thought it might go something like this:
How's this for an impressive preliminary drawing? grherhahahaha! I saw her tossing the braces away and then I noted how damn big a peacock is. You are not going to stand in water holding a bird that heavy in one arm. Not even in my fantasyland. Now I am kind of seeing a Frida Kahloesque device where they might be bound in ribbon or something sort of floating away...we'll see.
This might give you an idea of how large the piece is. It is hard because typically, I spin my paintings around and work from every direction. I paint upside down a lot. Its a great way to work for some reason I can see certain things more correctly that way. But not being able to move the painting around is making it a bit more difficult. By Thursday, I will have to get it on the wall because standing back away from it will be essential to getting the final work right. Im not sure I can stand back far enough. Everything has to "read" from a distance and in case the work is hung higher. (This presumes I actually get IN the show)
I will probably have to move outside which is problematic as bugs fly into the paint all the time when I do.
Flannery is standing in water so I really dont have to paint her legs very well. Yay! I just have to have the suggestion of them beneath the water color. Same goes for how the part of her dress is submerged - it should just read as slightly darker than the water color. Koby's paw print is still very visible, but it will disappear by tomorrow. This is the end of the work day - its getting too dark and the lights make too much reflection which makes it hard to see what the paint is doing. Natural light is the only way to go. It really is.
You can get an idea of how that works here although this is just the first of may layers. This water will have a lot of life: it will have concentric circles radiating from Flannery as well as light waves and tonal variations. The water will take hours. Hours and hours. And I need that dress to look floaty, so that is an engineering problem for tomorrow.
I put up a little motivational poster for myself. Like I said, Ive won a prize in this show before, but I would like to win a MONEY prize. But even if I dont, Im kind of stoked that I am painting a real person -however stylized. I havent done that in a long time and its a fun challenge.
Tomorrow: making beautiful water, more back ground, and laying down the peacock's first layer. Thanks for joining me!