Saturday, May 24, 2014

The painting and the study

Green Pail
40 x 30

Green Pail Study
10 x 8
 The reference for these paintings was an unpromising photo in which the child was far from me and blurry.  The day was overcast and, other than the gesture, there was nothing that interested me.  But I did really like the gesture, so I did a couple of thumbnails and this small colour study to see if I could make anything of it.

When I enlarged the boy on my screen, I found a few clues about colour: there was a suggestion of blue sky reflecting in the top of his chest.  That became my anchor.  Next, I had to decide if I was going to use a cool light and warmer shadows or the reverse.  So that the blue chest would stand out, I chose to paint his body in warm greenish ochres and make the highlights generally cool (ish).  These divisions aren't cut and dried and you'll see a lot of cool in the torso and warms in the highlights, but you have to start somewhere and that was my thinking process at that moment.

I also wanted to avoid a sense of specificity.  The boy is meant to be just "Boy", not an individual; he is the movement and the moment.  So, even on the large piece, I just indicated his facial structure, trying variations on minimal marks until I felt that the viewer would be able to imagine the placement of his eyes and nose.

Looking at the two paintings, I see that I've changed his movement from swift to slow.  In the large painting, the child is picking his way along in knee-deep surf, examining the water around his feet for interesting finds, while the study shows him dashing forward leaving a froth of water in his wake.  I enjoy the different moods and sensations that these gestures evoke: one contemplative and the other dynamic.  

I'll be posting more beach scenes soon as they seem to be what my brush wants to do these days.

Happy painting!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The depth of the moment

Red Pail
40 x 30
Children at play are every bit as serious and focused as artists at work.  Their games are intense, meaningful and thrilling, a fact that you can see in their eloquent gestures.

This little boy was, as always, a blurry figure off in the distance in one of my beach photos.  There was something pensive in his stance that looked as if he were pondering deeper things than the rest of us.  What he did next would not be frivolous fun, though it might look that way to casual observers.  He was planning serious pursuits.

I wanted to capture that moment of thought, and to give a sense of the timelessness of children's play.  I found it easiest to do this by taking him out of a believable landscape and creating a world of light, colour and energy around him; a heightened reality that suggested water, sand and sky, but wasn't tied to these specifics. By merging his figure with this environment, I hoped to amplify the pensive gesture that drew me to paint him in the first place.

That sounds pretty cerebral but it was just the opposite while I was actually painting.  My method was to work instinctively in colour and light, eliminating boundaries between the subject and his surroundings, and weaving the work together to create a moment.  If I got it right, this moment feels deep and rich, like the child's thoughts.

Happy painting!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Figure in motion

Stepping Out
30 x 14
Another child on the beach painting: this one came, as so many do, from a small figure far in the distance in one of the many photos that randomly snap while I'm sitting on the sand.  Invariably, the figures that I like are the ones that are far away and blurry, not the ones that are focused and close up.  That would be too easy.

This little girl looked like she was on a mission: intent and determined.  The photo was generally monochromatic because she had blond hair and her suit was overexposed, and I knocked around the idea of painting this entirely in variations on ochre, but I decided to try to get more colour into it.  The first element I placed with any gusto was her hair, making it blue black.  That helped me to gauge the value of the shadows on her body and allowed me to place the fairly intense colours of her bathing suit.

My goal with this piece was to capture her in as few marks as possible and to make each of those marks very descriptive.  I sacrificed modelling through this approach, but then, there wasn't enough information in the photo to model her convincingly anyway.

Another goal was to avoid slavish outlining which has the effect of freezing the action.  To make her feel like she was in motion, I used lost edges throughout the figure, allowing the background to invade the body and the body colour to move freely into the background.

I like this painting.  It's simple, but it moves me as the bold little girl on the beach did.  I hope you enjoy it.

Happy painting!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Rendezvous Art Gallery Opening Tomorrow

Wedding Gift
24 x 14
This is one of the pieces in the "Seasons" exhibition at Rendezvous Art Gallery.  The jug was a wedding present to my parents and, knowing that I love it, my mother recently gave it to me.  It's become a favourite model in my still life work.

You can see "Wedding Gift" and many more new pieces at tomorrow's opening in Vancouver.  I'll be there and I hope you'll join me for a wonderful evening of art, wine, snacks, and art talk.