My most recent painting is a perfect example of how the story I want to tell drives the entire process from sketch to finish.
It began with the photo of the girl, who was actually standing against a stuccoed wall, outside in a friend’s backyard. I began projecting who this girl could be, with her hand touching the brim of her hat. This scene could have gone in hundreds of directions, but I took it into a direction that means something to me. Ideas began to form:
- Outside in the sun
- In a open field
- In a nostalgic scene
- Searching for something in the distance
How do I convert these things into the visual language of paint?
- Take her out of the original background, put her in a new one
- Get the feeling of blazing sun and nostalgia by painting most of the scene like a faded photograph with the edges a warm burnout
- Add an old rusted car to reinforce the time period and add to the story of “what is she looking for?”
Remember this is the initial frame work to get me going, during the process I will be open to things that may need to change. Design is always my first concern, the subject second, so I’m willing to “let go of” some things in the subject that may have seemed important when I started.
After I had put on a warm wash and let it dry I went in starting at the most important area, the face and hand. I feel the start sets the stage for the whole painting, and I wasn’t liking this. This is what I call a “false start”.
What’s wrong? I wanted the painting to be made up of very muted colors, but at this point with all the very intense background wash showing I could not judge anything subtle. That background was just screaming too loud!
So what are my options? The mistake I made here was trying to do something complex too early in the painting. The solution is to move into the simplest from of subtle color, which is black plus white for various shades of grey. At a more advanced stage I may go back and overpaint with subtle colors, or not, I’m leaving the possibilities open.
Image 2 above; I’ve worked the same areas with the black plus grey mixtures and I’m liking it. Notice how her face is the same black value as her hat, this is part of simplifying, letting somethings go. I may separate these at a later stage but right now I’m looking for simple design and harmony.
to be continued on the next blog post “Moving Toward the Story 2”