Have you ever painted a subject, only to end up with something that was almost there…but not quite?
This is one of those subjects.
What was it that made me want to paint this scene of a young woman in an 18th century dress?
- The idea of a traditional subject painted in a contemporary way intrigued me.
- The possibilities of a strong design, with the tall vertical girl pushing horizontally into the large dark space to the left.
- The colors, I’m always drawn to blues, greens and violets.
The first painting seen below
I like the division of space into a variety of shapes. I like the background texture; but is it too different from the subject. The girl has very linear strokes and marks, the background more gauze like. The colors in the background are too warm on the left and too pink on the right. Which means they don’t relate to the girl. So there is a kind of disconnect here.
Looking at a painting in grey scale (black and white), always helps me to see why things didn’t work out.
What I want to see are dark areas that are connected. As you can see in the skirt area, they are too scattered, while the dark shape of the bottom of her hair is too isolated from the other darks. It doesn’t matter if this is how it really looked, it is our job to change things to make a better visual statement.
The light areas should be around the center of interest, her face, and they are, but the shapes just aren’t interesting enough.
In this painting by John Singer Sargent notice how the darks are connected and hold together across the painting, he was a master of value control.
The final version below-
This version is more of what I was looking for. The background shares tints, tones and shades of the blues, greens and violets of the dress in both the lighter right side and darker left side.
In this grey scale of the painting the darks are a solid shape on the left with an interesting edge as it meets the tall vertical of the girl. The lights are also more interesting and descriptive.
It took a year and a half to realize what needed to be done, be patient, your eye will tell you what to do eventually,