When faced with a subject rich in visual content it’s easy to get sucked into render mode. Not wanting to miss a nuance or glimmer can leave your painting scattered and weak.
Landscape artist Lori Putnam said ” it’s not what you include, but what you leave out”, which is a monumental statement for figure painters as well.
First reaction, be sure and capture:
- The subtle shine in her hair
- Striking blue eyes
- Full lips
- Lace pattern on her dress
- The pattern on the fan
- Chains and bead necklace
- Print on the background fabric
- Texture on the seat
- Shine on her dress
Now for the editing, I ask myself, what can I leave out in order to make something else more important and what can I change for more impact?
- The shape of her hair is more interesting than the subtlety of texture
- Capturing her expression is more important than specifically rendering features
- A suggestion of lace is all
- Change color of fan to come forward instead of sink, pattern simple more lively
- Small bits of light and color instead of “jewelry”
- A simple, but bold swirl of warm colors in the background
- Enough texture
These are all based on what is important to me personally, your version would be different according to what appeals to you.
Beginning with a thumbnail value sketch helps to organize the design.
Her face and right arm will be the lightest value. Hair, pillows on the sides and hand darkest (not totally sold on the hand standing out that much, have to see how it works in the actual painting), everything else will be midtone.
Next the color sketch. There is nothing more disheartening than scraping a large area off because the color doesn’t work. This small sketch makes the actual painting more fun. Having all the options in the world can be stifling, working within boundaries is actually freeing to me.
I thought it was finished at this point…..but no…….a couple things really bothered me.
The first was the hand, it was painted in a way which nothing else was, with a light and shadow side, everything else is flat. I also missed my dark shape in that position.
The other thing was the fan, it was not pulling it’s weight in the painting.
Adjustments to these area gave me what I had envisioned and a way to keep my dark shape while reworking the hand into something simpler.