Friday, March 30, 2007

Progress: Anne

AnneYes, progress is being made, and for the most part, it's not 'ready for presentation' most of the time. To show all the steps or stages, or shoot a picture every hour on the hour would feel too much like someone is watching over my shoulder. More unnerving than creepy. Besides that, to paint something so large and make it accurate, there's a place I have to go in my head that is neither automatic nor explainable. In some ways it's mindless — not thinking about what I am painting (an eye, a cheek, a neck or hair), but rather what are the shapes and hues, values and edges that make it look good?. To snap out of such a mental place is a bit abrupt and disquieting. So I just paint on. Blank CanvasI start, of course, with a blank canvas. This one, at 32" wide by 40" high (81cm x 101cm) stares back at me like Goliath to this Little David. "Go on... I dare you," it taunts. No it's really not that bad. Even if Norman Rockwell said it better, a blank canvas just has to be dealt with. Dangling prepositions notwithstanding. The first thing I have to do is tone the canvas. This serves at least 2 purposes: One is to get rid of all that glaring white which will effectively fool my eyes while I paint, likely resulting in too light of a painting. The second it to get a darker tone down into the valleys of the canvas weave. Often when painting, a gentle brush stroke will apply paint only to the high-points of the canvas texture, (the threads and crossovers of the woven linen) leaving the valleys (the space between threads) untouched, revealing the white acrylic (in the case of this Classens 166 acrylic-primed Belgian Linen) priming. The result is an unpleasant bright speckling, especially in darker passages. Direct from the tubeWorking very quickly due to the extremely quick drying time of acrylic tube paint, with my left hand I spray a mist of water all over the surface of the canvas to wet it, then with my right hand I squeeze random squiggles of Cobalt Blue and Raw Umber Liquitex Acrylic. These are both compatible with the existing acrylic ground, and subsequent oil paint will adhere to it safely. Acrylic Brushed OutIf this were oil-primed canvas, I would have to use these colors from my oil paint supply, since acrylic cannot be painted over oil and expected to last long, if at all. Using acrylic saves waiting time. Without even taking the time to cap my acrylic tubes, I begin brushing frantically to gain an abstract thin coat of acrylic all over the surface. I do this with a moist, cheap, 1.5" house painting brush (the $1.25 kind from the warehouse hardware store whose name rhymes with Foam Depot). The already moist bristles will help the paint flow, and not grab hold of the hairs of the brush, instead. Dabbing on a textureQuickly, I grab a paper towel and start dabbing and wiping, patting and dragging. The purpose here it to gain a "natural abstract" effect, with dissimilar textures throughout, while lightening the value of this tone so that it is not too dark. This texture can add interest to areas of transparency, but will mostly be covered by the final painting. Tone CanvasIt needs to be light enough to draw on with charcoal... which is my next step. A careful drawing is done with a 4B General Charcoal Pencil. The softer charcoal pencils draw darker with a lighter touch, and are easier to erase with a kneaded eraser. In the case of this painting I erased my first completed drawing after "sleeping on it" for a night. No, I did not sleep on my painting — I did the drawing in the evening and purposely did not start the painting that night, for two important reasons: 1) I wanted to give myself a mental and visual break so that my fresh eye in the morning would warn me of any corrections that needed to be made, and 2) I wanted to have a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon. Charcoal UnderdrawingBefore I retired for the night, I took one more look at the drawing and decided the figure was just a little too big for the composition, and having learned to trust my instincts, went to bed knowing that in the morning I would erase the whole thing and redraw it. I went to bed a little frustrated. Stage One PaintingThe next day I began the drawing all over again, and when satisfied that I have a good road map for beginning my painting, I start applying the darkest of the darks, wherever they fall, and begin building a shadow pattern, constantly working wet into wet. Click to view a movie of t progress so farFor the curious, I have created an audio-free, short movie of the progress thus far. It's just a few aligned still-shots cross-dissolving. Note that none of it is in a finished state, even though I appear to move from section to section somewhat thoroughly. (Quicktime 7.0 or higher required. Some browsers may force you to download the entire movie before playing. The file is 2.7MB, and you may have to right-click [PC] or option-click [Mac] to properly Save the file). The entire painting, so far, can be seen here.

1 comment:

Mary Sheehan Winn said...

Norman Rockwell was a genius.
I remember when 'they' started saying he wasn't a 'real' artist, like he had somehow cheated the viewers.