After many, many years of painting I have found the paintings that have been the most successful are the ones where the actual subject was the spark and my imagination was the flame.
Often before starting I will sit down with paper and pen with the goal of getting to the core of why I want to paint this “thing”;
- Does it exhibit any value patterns that have a wonderful rhythm?
- What type of paint handling would make this subject really sing?
- Is there an overall shape that is fascinating?
- Does the subject have an expression that can be exagggerated to heighten the story?
- What does this mean to me personally ?
- What can I delete that is just distracting ?
When I finally arrive at my focus, I can start painting.
My answers to these questions when I chose this image.
- I’m going to take advantage of the shape of the girl and table as my interesting medium & light value pattern against everything else as dark.
- More controlled paint handling, big smooth areas against small rough ones.
- The shape of the girl attached to the table is the glue that holds this together.
- There is a mood of extreme stillness, am going to use all my horizontal and vertical lines as strongly as possible.
- This was a daughter of a friend, borrowing her mom’s wedding dress for the photo. Her personality was anything but Victorian and was feeling ill at ease in this dress. So there was a kind of tension at the time which I’d like to express.
- Don’t like the potted plant, the murky green of the top half or the red carpet, note to self, push everything to the cool side, get rid of that plant!
As you can see I painted this over another painting, sanded first, to remove any high spots.
The best way to start is going right for the key area, the large shape made by the girl and the table cloth. I’ve found that expressing what I want to say , ( not the literal photo reference), correctly, leads me to the next part and the next, etc.
Roughing things out loosely seems a waste of time, nothing is the right color, shape or place, how does this help? Better to get a few things nailed down, than work out from that point. After the important statement is made, you might be surprised how how little else needs to be said, I’m talking about useless details. Spend 90% of your time on 40% of the painting, it can free you up to experiment more!
Here is the finished painting “Two Worlds”.