"Art is both the taking and giving of beauty; the turning out to the light the inner folds of the awareness of the spirit. It is the recreation on another plane of the realities of the world; the tragic and wonderful realities of earth and men, and of all the inter-relations of these."
~Ansel Adams

Monday, January 3, 2011

From 2008: Returning to the Drawing Board and Brushes - Part 2

(The Daybed Panels)

Yes, I have been busy painting. I'm working on several pieces at once. I'll add them to my blog as I continue to work on them. You might not realize it, but a lot of thought and consideration goes into any good piece of art.
The latest projects are the panels for a daybed of a 'goddess with fruit' (fruit is the theme of the room it is going into). This is the backboard, which is over six feet long, two feet high, and the scotch tape is to allow for the mattress height under the panel.
May 30th, 2008
This panel is my first attempt below, but it wasn't what my client wanted. It is in acrylic, black and white gesso as an under painting on a faux wood painted finish. If I had continued it, I would have added amphoraes, baskets and cornucopias of fruit on both sides. I have a real love of the frescos from inside of the homes that were preserved in ancient Pompeii (try doing a Google for them and you'll understand why).
The faux wood finish itself took some time to complete, and it was done in three stages. First a white gesso layer, followed by a dark-grained layer, and then a lighter layer with multiple shades. Having done graphic design for so long, I tend to think in terms of layers. The texture was created by using thick paint and dry-brushing the top so that it appears 'grainy.' I chose to complete the wood finish first so that I didn't have to try to 'paint around' the goddess or the other objects in the final. This also keeps the color and the grain uniform.

June 5th, 2008
Below is the first part of the new under painting in white gesso (I sanded off the first painting, above). Since I lack a model, the woman is a combination of two old master's reclining nudes. I wanted a natural looking woman with a real body – not a Barbie. I made her a little heavier in a few places, and feel that a vegetation goddess should have a 'lush' bit of weight to her. She will be covered strategically with grapevines.
Why a white under painting? I am fleshing it out this way, laying down the first details and values for the color painting, which I am planning in my mind as I paint. Since it is on the faux wood surface I had already painted, it will also make whatever I paint on top of it 'pop,' making the final colors brighter.

June 10th, 2008
Below is the final white under painting. The white gesso provides extra adhesion of the paint I place on top, so I tightened it up a bit, and made the gesso heavier. It also made the surface smoother, important since this painting will have a lot of skin, and the texture needed to be smooth for it to look right. The body and its curves needed to flow. I painted her completely nude first, adding in the "leaves" last. I've removed the tape since I no longer need it as a guide for positioning the painting.

June 11th, 2008
Now I can begin the color under painting. Acrylic can require many layers, and the drying time is so fast that I have to do blending and shading as quickly as possible. The colors don't mix true, and the values are different wet from when they are dry. I want to avoid glazes since this will affect the texture and depth of the values. Acrylic isn't my medium of choice for this reason, oil painting is, but it was the choice of my client since she wanted it done quickly and felt the paint should be more durable since it will be a well-used piece of furniture. Truthfully, I can create a better painting of greater depth with oils or even oil-based enamel, and I have never done anything this large in acrylics, so I am finding this really challenging as I must overcome the limitations of this medium.
I begin to "sculpt out" the face in basic colors. I really don't like the faces on the old masters paintings, and a new face of the goddess begins to emerge, as I paint it freehand without a reference picture. The painting at this stage has taken on a life of its own.

Below I begin to add in the grape leaves, blocking in the color. The grape leaf in center over her breast is a trial run to figure out the palette I will use to paint them. Acrylics are very bright – too bright for a subtle or naturalistic painting, and I have to quiet the bright green with mars black and titanium white. I start to work on the face in earnest now. It is the one part of the painting that requires extensive detail since it will be the focal point.
I added my old signature in the corner, something that I started doing while I was in the SCA and vending at renaissance fairs. Celtic uncials with three dots at either end – these dots in old Celtic manuscripts signified someone of the priesthood. At the time it was sort of my own personal secret as a votary of Rhiannon, before I began the temple, knowing that the 'Trinity' was very Pagan in origin.

June 12th, 2008
The picture below is really beginning to show how the final will look. I've begun working on the face in earnest. The first layer of green in blocked in, as is the red of the rose crown. The grapes will be painted last since they will be in front of everything else if the picture. I had a few visitors ask how long it took me, which I think is kind of funny since time eludes me while I paint. At this point I have put in about 40 hours of real work time into it. I 'guesstimate' that this panel will take me another 20 hours to complete, and then I will begin working on the side panel/headboard.

June 17th, 2008
Below is a close up of the face. It needs touching up (especially the eyes) and a bit of dry-brushing to make it softer, but this part of the painting is almost done. I have spent a lot of time carefully working on it; if this part isn't right, then everything else will I do in the painting will not make up for it. Again, the face was done freehand. This is the goddess that emerged as I worked on it. Just as when I do readings or I am in ritual, I go 'someplace else' when I create my artwork.
I've started working on the hair now, building up the layers of color and highlighting it with the gold iridescent paint. It's also one of the colors that was mixed into the faux wood finish to give it a bit of subtle depth, just like real wood. The rose crown will be the next part I work on – what you see in the picture below is only the under painting. I still need to go over the body as a whole to deepen the shadows and bring up the highlights. Then the grape leaves will be done all at once (lots of greens to mix), and then the fruit as the final project.
If you look closely, you will see the reason why the white gesso under painting is so integral to the final work. It has 'lifted up' the color from the faux wood finish background, and the skin texture is very smooth. It will be sealed after I'm finished, but even with the clear coat it is likely to retain a texture that can be seen underneath. Everything must have a richness and depth to it, as there are no unimportant parts to the completed work. It's a matter of personal pride that everything about it is professional in both craftsmanship and detail.

July 1st, 2008
At long last, her face, hair and rose crown is done. The roses alone took me several hours to paint. I'm satisfied with the way she looks now. I begin the underpainting for the grape leaves, and the fruit.

July 2nd, 2008
As I had mentioned earier, I have to work in layers with acrylics - the drying time is just to fast for me to do otherwise. I am working on the grapeleaves and fruit. There are at this point 3 underpaintings and one final for most of this work - 4 layers. It's also easier for me to start a bit darker and work in the lighter areas on top (thank you for showing me that technique Becka - it works!).

One of the hard parts about it as that for the most part - I am making up the painting as I am going along with just reference material. It would be different if I had taken a picture of this scene or had worked from a model - so I have to make it look right by "faking it." The picture taped to the wall is a referenc picture that I took of grape leaves. The roses were also inspired by another reference photo I had taken. If you have gotten this far in my blog, you must be an art geek like me. This is taking a long time because I have put my heart and soul into this - a part of me goes into everything I create. Bob Ross may have been quick, but he never inspired me, and if I had painted like him in art school I would have gotten an "F."

July 13th, 2008
The grape leaves and the pear under her head are done - I still need to work on the grapes. I begin to darken and define the areas around the body in the underpainting. Getting the color and texture of the grapeleaves to be right proved a challenge. It took me a little bit, but I figured it out - the missing color in the green turned out to be brown, so I added burnt sienna to the mix.

The apple and orange are finished - but everything else is still the underpainting. The leaves will also go over the orange, and so I chose to work on some of the fruit first.

July 17th, 2008
I've started working on the grapes, mapping out in the underpainting where each individual grape is. I finished one small bunch under her thigh - it turned out to be a challence in mixing the colors since there are so many on grapes - they themselves are mixed and the highlights and shadows create yet even more colors.

You know, I just finished telling some friends about the Chinese story of Ma Lein and the Magic Brush, a story of how a little boy painted pictures that came alive with his magick brush, and then I took this picture. I took several more and I am more than a little surprised because the goddess's brown eyes changed - they glow in the pictures. Now, I know I used a light bit of irridecent paint for highlights in the eyes, but there comes a point for an artist where they have to ask themselves what they connected to when they painted - the essense of the painting itself. Something has been happening on a spiritual level the entire time I have been painting.

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