Monday, January 26 2009
Here are the continued stages as well as the final of the painting I call, "Natasha Waking"
I will start with the 3rd , 4th and 5th stages (earlier stages are described in earlier blog posts) of the painting and then the final. The biggest struggle here was the skin tones and getting that feeling of morning but still having some drama in the values or shading and a contrast with the background.
When I reached this point I knew where I needed to go and was able to finish the painting. Below is the image of the final painting. You can see a larger version of the completed painting here, "Natasha Waking"
Monday, January 26 2009
The second stage of this painting was to add the basics for the drapery and the background to some initial step. I want this to have a bright morning feeling of just waking up. That will mean a lot of light on her and a background that reflects that mood. The photos I took of Nat for this were just her sitting on the bed and there is a window behind her and another in front of her with morning light. The window behind her wasn't in that position but is roughly as it really exists.
I painted the window casing in a very thin burnt sienna just to define the outline. I then used a gray of burnt sienna and ultramarine blue with a little white to give a dull neutral gray to the wall. The next step was to put a wash of white over the window area and then define it with dark lines for the blinds. I then used the same gray as the wall to give some definition to the blinds.
I let this dry not because I needed to but because I was busy with other works and just got back to it this weekend. I painted the white comforter with a thin white and Naples yellow mix. The shadows and shaping was done with a gray made with the same burnt sienna and now cobalt blue. This was painted rather quickly and with more of a painterly manner. I didn't want to get too tedious about it or make things too smooth. The reason for this is I'm going to be painting the skin very smooth and carefully so I want that contrast with the somewhat more painted fabrics.
The sheets really were red but not that red. I wanted them to start as a deeper more neutral red that could be adjusted later when there was a skin color. The red, I hope, will help define the skin color. I could have used a green as a contrast to the pink skin but I didn't want that much contrast. I'm looking for more harmony then contrast.
The painting is only 20 X 20 inches so this whole fabric painting didn't take all that long. The next step will be to put the basic color and value range on the skin to define the shape. With that I will bring up the background quite a bit to get the window defined and get what will have to be the drawing done of the wood and such so that won't be an issue later.
The whole painting is designed to give that fresh feeling of a beautiful woman waking up and still half-asleep sitting in bed letting the cool sunlight help to bring her out of a good deep sleep. There are many times a woman looks beautiful but one of the times when she looks as if she were opening up as a flower in the morning is that first few moments when she wakes up and allows the day to greet with a refreshing light that says "Good Morning, You are Beautiful" (that is if she wasn't awakened when she didn't want to get up. [grin] ) Then just get out of the way and close the curtains very quietly.
Monday, January 26 2009
These few posts will be about the final painting I did of Natasha. This was written some time ago as I was working on the painting.
I have often enjoyed watching the way the sun hits her fair skin when she wakes in the morning, or sometimes it is afternoon, but she does wake. (for her sleeping is an art form) I have wanted to start a series of paintings of her with that lighting for some time. The other day I had her just sort of sit in bed for me while I took a large number of photos. Digital cameras are a great boon to my work. No more spending a day in a darkroom.
She did love to sleep and usually slept until noon. When she woke she was not really awake for quite a while. I liked the light in this painting as well as the mood. She was a very pretty young girl of 23. When she woke she had a little girl look about her.
I printed out a few of them and then did some sketches. The next morning I got her to just stay there a while for me to do a few quick sketches from life to better understand what I wanted to see in the painting.
When I start a painting as you may have heard me write, (can you hear a person write?) I have certain goals in mind. With this one I wanted to feel the morning light. Cool and clear but warming to the skin. She has perfect clear and fair skin so I want this to show that in a way that the viewer can almost feel the delicate texture of her body. The other thing is the mood.
I’m not sure what I’m going to do with the background. If I go dark it may lose the look of morning but I don’t want the light to take away from the soft fair creamy look of the skin.
Monday, January 26 2009
This about finishing the painting of Carina, my belly dancer. Carina is her dance name. It really didn't take all that long it was just I didn't get to work on it as steady as I had wished. For me, the key was the skin tones and the careful details of the gown. She is a terrifically beautiful woman with the type of body that works perfect for such paintings. I wanted to show the muscle tone of her belly without making her look masculine. I painted her with a rather strong tan and I feel it worked well for this gown. The gown was very elaborate. I wanted to capture both the flow of the fabric but the details of the ornament.
Her hair is very long and perfect for painting a dancer. The photo I had didn't give any hint of details or even color just a black blob so I had to sort of invent the colors and even some of the details. She told me she had a lot of split ends so I went ahead and gave her some. I did enjoy the details of the strands falling over her shoulders and face. I think that helps to give it both realism and also that sense of movement I wanted.
As I mentioned in earlier blogs on this painting the background was out of my head and a bit of a struggle. It may not show very well on the web but there is a nice glow to the column and the background including the pool, yes, pool, not rug, were a challenge to get to recede to the proper distance to give the illusion of depth. This was done with a series of thin transparent glazes of various blues and reds all done over several days.
I had only one small photo and have never seen in person this lovely model. Therefore, I don't know if I captured her facial expression correctly or not but the face I did create is one I think is all beauty coupled with total concentration. I hope the expression is one of joy as she has told me she feels when she dances. It is the face I wanted and I can only hope it is very close to the beauty in her face, which I'm confident, is even more impressive than my painting.
I've written quite a bit about this painting in the past blogs so there isn't as much to say here that isn't repetitious. The photos should tell more about it than my words.
What I can say now that it is done is how it felt to paint it. I don't know rather the world will consider it good or bad, that is for the galleries, buyers and critics to say. What I can say is it felt better painting this than I have felt about a painting in a very long time. It is true I have been busy with other things and distracted during the painting process but it was never out of my mind. For various indescribable reasons every moment of the painting process felt right and was a joy.
Almost all painting is a pleasure to me but this one connected to me in a very special way. I have done few paintings where this was as true as it was with this. It was a combination of the pose, the model that posed for it and the feeling I came to have for dancers and their art. I hope to do many more. I hope to do more of the same model or of her friends but as fate would have it I recently found there are a couple of belly dancers living near me.
This is the best of worlds. I love to paint woman either nudes or semi-nudes and the dancers allow me to paint them as they are during the dance. I get to paint beautiful skin, hair and all the details of wonderful gowns. Above all this and on more of a commercial note not everyone is comfortable having nudes or semi-nudes in their home. With the dancer paintings there is the same actual subject but anyone who enjoys and appreciates figure painting can justify a painting such as this.
Monday, January 26 2009
If want to learn all about this painting please read the previous blog entries to see how it started. Now that I have been able to work on it I started by doing several sketches of what the background should be. I wanted more than just a dark blank background to give her a place to be but not so much detail in that background as to take away from the beauty of the dancer. After the sketches I did a final drawing of the background on paper and then traced it on the canvas. What I was looking for was a place that gave the idea of a palace somewhere in the Middle East. I hope the column will add a sense of distance be being in the mid ground and then the other features such as the pool behind her will give a sense of deeper space as well as a tranquil setting.
The goal was to create a mood of her dancing in the palace but there are no other people. I want the viewer to get the feeling she is dancing for him or her. When I paint her I think of her dancing for just me. As I have said before she is a beautiful woman from Florida who has been dancing professionally for some years. I met her on MySpace. Her MySpace page is: crisssyscorpio. (She did give me permission to mention this here.) You can go there and see many more pictures of her dancing. I hope to do many more paintings of her.
Once the drawing was on the canvas I did a rough painting of it with Burnt Sienna just to establish the basic shapes and give it some sense of depth and light. I knew from the start it was going to be much darker and not as red but this was a good way to get light and a warm color in the under painting.
With that done I let it dry and then went over the entire background with a darker brown and whipped it out to bring the details back up. This was done with a rag and my fingers. I'm not done with it yet and it will get much darker in parts and the column, I have now decided needs to move forward by adding some more details and light to give more of a sense of space and depth.
With that dry I started on the face. Painting a woman's skin is as good as my painting life gets. I have not actually met this lovely lady and probably never will but I wanted to get what I feel is a look of enjoyment and happiness in the face as I see her from what I do know of her. It is impossible to actually do a portrait of her without knowing her but then sometimes my imagination is almost as good. I did the face in much warmer tones than it will be finally. I just wanted to define the facial structure and give a sense of light on her with what I hope is the proper expression.
I admit I had to struggle more than usual with the mouth since I had only a very small photo to work from and wanted to get a smile without making her look like she had a piano keyboard in her mouth. Teeth are always difficult to show in a painting without overdoing it and having her look as if she had a lobotomy and was just jumping around in some sort of frenzy or had just won the lottery.
I have emailed back and forth with her and have come to understand and appreciate her feelings about the dance. I am trying to show that in the painting. It is erotic only to a limited extent and more to give the viewer, that lucky viewer, a feeling of happiness and freedom as she portrays those same feelings. When I paint her I sometimes almost feel as if she is moving and I can hear music in my head. The closer I can feel to the subject the better the work.
I am back to the easel most of the time now and want to immerse my head in the work. It is difficult but very necessary to stay focused and concentrate with painting and to think of almost nothing else even when I'm away from the easel. It must consume me as it is.
There are many stages to go and some things I'm still not happy about. The next step is to do the rest of her body with the same coloring as her face and then bring the background up to the next level and then go back to the skin and get that closer. When the skin is right and the background is where it needs to be I can then concentrate on the gown and the jewelry that needs to flow over the gown and her delicate skin. The hair is just roughed in now and needs to have details and darkness added but that is several layers to go.
I hope this is at least sort of interesting to some and anyone wanting to know more or with comments please do leave them or questions. I do have a few other paintings in the works and need to work on them as I go forward with this one when it is too wet to paint but all the time I'm working on the beginning stages of others I keep part of my mind on this one and on what I see in my head as the final work.
Monday, January 26 2009
If you have not read my previous post about the beginning of this painting I would recommend starting there, for all others who have shown the tenacity to stick with this, read on.
Monday, January 26 2009
This painting started as almost a joke. I was looking at photos of a lady who is a "friend" on my MySpace page. She is a belly dancer from Florida. If I get her permission I’ll mention the link to her page. I was just looking at photos in general and wrote a small note to her saying I loved the costumes and poses and it would be fun to paint one of them in oils. Well, it was about this time a lady in North Carolina bought one of my paintings and mentioned she was opening a gallery and would like more of my nudes and semi-nudes. I got to thinking of belly dancing and how beautiful it is and how the body and the costume make up my two most favorite things to paint; one, beautiful women and two flowing fabric.
I contacted my dancer again and she thought it would be fun to have me paint her dancing. So, I grabbed one of the photos from her page and printed it several times and different ways and then had my model, Natasha, pose for me in that pose as I did more sketches. I ended up using mostly just the exact pose I had from the original photo.
All of this jabbering leads me to the actual process. I create the paintings by first doing photos and then sketches and combining them over and over with various layers of tissue paper maybe a dozen layers deep changing little parts on each layer to get to the final drawing. I have established the size more from the early stages of seeing the rough sketch in several sizes. The key for size for me is how big do I have to make it to make all the features express what I want them to say. Also, big can it get before some of the elements start to get boring. There is a fine balance there.
Once I have the drawing done the way I want it I stretch a canvas to the correct size. I won’t bore the world as to how I do this but it is a sort of standard way of creating a surface except I do a number of coats of what is called "gesso" put on the canvas with a trowel and sanded between each coat. I want to reduce the look of the texture of the weave of the canvas. It bothers me if it is too visible and can distract with the final look of skin tones when you paint in the style I use. This can all be done in one day with modern products. The next day I tone the ground, as you can see in the photo. I do this with a thin coat of oil paint mixed with turpentine. When I’m painting figures, especially if there is any amount of skin I tone the canvas with a green hue. This is much the same as the old masters. If you go to museums and look at some of the paintings that are in disrepair you can see some of the green under tones showing through. All this has to do with the way I paint. I TRY to emulate most of the ways of what we call the "old masters." I paint in traditional oil paints on canvas or board that is prepared to accept the oil in a way it will last for centuries. The two types of what we call "canvas" are cotton duck and linen. Most paintings are done on cotton and this is fine and will last for a very long time. Linen, usually called Belgian linen because it mostly comes from Belgium or Ireland is probably the most traditional. It is very strong and will accept a ground better than any other surface. It is much more expensive than the cotton.
I will now to try to move on to the more interesting parts of the work. Well, maybe not, first let me explain how the drawing gets on the canvas. Once I’m happy with a drawing, I make a final tracing and then copy that on the dried toned ground canvas. This is just a simple line drawing taped to the canvas and then using graphite paper I trace the lines so they show on the canvas. This drawing is correctly called a "cartoon." The word comes from the Italian word, "cartone", with was the paper on which the drawings were done. This is a technique done by many painters and goes back to the old masters who often gave the task of putting the drawings on the final surface, be it canvas, board, plaster walls or tapestry, to assistants. Since I’m not able to afford assistants, I have to do all this mundane work myself. [grin]
What you see in the photo is this drawing which, after being traced is gone over with a thin line of oil paint in a not to obvious color. That will dry either later that day or the next day and be ready for painting as more of a real painter and less of a craftsman.
Now that I have the few of you left who have actually read this far, almost in a coma, I will go on to try to explain what goes on in my head as I do these preliminary steps.
The key is being inspired or excited about the image. From the time I first saw the photos of my belly dancer I could see paintings in my head. She is a very beautiful woman with long dark hair and a body built to dance. This coupled with wonderful gowns in all sorts of colors and different fabrics, all flowing and flying around as she moved, even if it were still shots, just made it almost a necessity to paint. Yes, I have seen my share of live belly dancers and even sort of knew one rather well once a long time ago. She was also from Florida so that was a bit scary at first. [grin] I have heard the music and when I look at the photos I can hear the music. I’m going to get some of the music to play in the studio when I paint and to burn incense here also to add to the atmosphere. But, then, I do that most of the time anyway.
There is a great deal of mental work to a painting, at least for me. I have to find a connection to the subject. Even when I’m doing portraits of a businessman I have to find some hook to make me have a goal in the work other than just a likeness and getting a job done. Every paintings starts with a list of questions to be answered in the process of painting. Can I make her as beautiful as I see her, can I make her look as if she were moving, can I make the viewer feel what I want them to feel when they look at it, and what do I want them to feel? What do I feel? Can I make the viewer see what I see so they can have their experience but also share to some extent in mine. These are for most all paintings but some more than others.
I’m not going to go on and on about what I’m feeling or trying to express now. I will save that for more blogs and more images as the paintings progress. I’m working on another one now also. I usually like to keep at least 3 going all the time for drying times and just my always changing moods.
If you have really suffered through all of this, I promise the later photos and text should be less technical and I hope more interesting. I will say thank you for sticking it out. [grin]
Monday, January 26 2009
Many people have mentioned their favorite painting was "Thinking."(pictured to the left) It was purchased some time ago. When I shipped it out I sent along a short story about how it came to be. I realized that story should be much longer and went over into a story about the model and a series of paintings I did of her.
No reason to mention her real name but it all started when a photographer friend of mine told me he had met this young girl who wanted to be a model. He gave me her phone number so, of course, I called her. When she came to the studio it turned out she was just 5 feet tall and 20 years old. She was pretty in a rough sort of way. She had long dark hair, almost black and it fell to below her shoulders. It was very thick but never really combed or styled. Just sort of there and she always looked as if she just got out of bed, which was true too much of the time. She always wore pants and a boy's shirt. Never ironed. She had very deep eyes, which could have made her a very lovely woman, but she had such a chip on her shoulder all the time it never came out as attractive, at least not to me. She was short and slender, with a very nice figure. She had a tiny waist and was rather well endowed for her height. She had very pale skin from never going outside except to my studio or after dark.
After her first time to the studio we agreed to have her come by regularly and we would just see where that took my work. At the time, I was married and my then wife never did like my having models. I really don't blame her but for the most part it was harmless. Contrary to the opinion of her and many others I didn't necessarily end up rolling around the floor naked withe every woman that came to my studio. Then wife, hated this model more than any. She affectionately called her "That Slut" not to her but to me and anyone else she could find to tell.
We started working together by my taking about 100 photos of her and asking her questions about her life. She had no problem talking about it, which made my job easier, but it was difficult to keep her focused. She didn't have a clue as to how to pose and or much care what I wanted her to do. It became very obvious she had a real trailer park attitude. She lived in a small town of about 20,000 that was known for its unemployment and lack of class. (I know I sound like a snob.) She lived in a small apartment in the worst part of town.
She said she lived alone but really she lived with the stud de jour and never really knew who was going to be there from day to day.
She came to the studio three days a week for three hours each time. I paid her well, since she didn't have any other job. She would arrive, get out of her clothes and wrap up in one of the many drapes I had in the studio. She would spend her time either walking around or lying around on the modeling stand I had which was covered with a sort of thin mattress.
She talked on and on about how hot she was and how all the guys were after her and she had them all jumping through hoops for her. The truth was she was the doing the jumping and they only stayed around until they either got bored or found a new toy. Every one she mentioned was either unemployed, barely employed or just out of jail.
She came from a traditional family who were mostly appalled by her and her life. They rode her all the time about what she did which made her do it all the more.
Each time she was there I would take about 50 B&W photos of her and let her talk. She would look at the photos I did the last time, which was way back when I had to process them in my darkroom after she left and pick out all the good ones. She would talk about how she wanted to be painted. This was, of course, all new to me. I've had many models and they did what they were told and were really only a figure to express what I saw in my mind or dreams. They helped me say what I wanted to say but weren't really in charge of it and even though all were an inspiration at times it was still a singular experience for me.
After listening to her for a week or two and doing several sketches of what I thought I wanted to do I realized I wasn't getting any inspiration from her but was finding myself sort of wallowing in her life. I listened each time she was there to what she felt she would look best as in paintings. So, rather it was a brilliant decision on my part or more likely just the only option left I decided to let her pick the photos and tell me what she wanted to be in paint. I did the sketches as per her almost instructions and then went to the canvases. She saw herself as this elegant beauty that would or should be a sort of female star as a vision of beauty or goddess. She was really a pathetic little girl who had surrounded herself with trash that thought nothing of her but let her think she was a very hot babe.
I did a number of paintings of her as she saw herself. A few of these are pictured below. I wanted to keep the compositions simple and just about her. The backgrounds not important as anything more than to accent her. I love to paint in a very old traditional manner with glazes and deep shadows. This gave me an opportunity to do just that and at the same time depict this young girl as she and many other women would want to feel or see themselves.
I had a few paintings of her in my studio and in those days I was more open about letting people visit me on weekends. I ended up selling a few right from the studio. After a few months and a dozen or so paintings I was asked by a gallery to have a solo show. I got the idea of having the show be all about the one model. Painter's models usually don't get recognized and often aren't even at a show or opening. I wanted this show to be all about her and less about me. Just to see what would happen. So I set up the show by putting in the paintings she chose and displayed them, as she wanted. I then set up a high directors chair where she sat for the opening.
It was sort of fun. She went on and on about herself and took offense of anyone saying anything about her nudity or of her being my model and it not being all JUST her. I just stood in the corner and let people come up to me as always and talked about the work but tried to keep them going back to her for answers. As for sales, the show was a total failure. I didn't sell a single painting.
Soon after the show she showed up to model and sat there very down and sad, or at least, quiet. That wasn't her style. I finally got her to talk and found she was pregnant and didn't know exactly who was the father. I was taking photos as we talked and from this came the painting "Thinking." I painted it almost completely from the photo because she didn't like it. It wasn't too long after I had finished it when she showed up one cold and rainy day in an old heavy coat and ball cap. She looked just like the person she really was. It was about this day she told me she was turning 21 and even if she was pregnant she was going to go get good and drunk just the same. It was who she was. So, from a photo of that day I was able to create "Turning 21" (pictured to the right) which she hated and never wanted to have to see again. I wanted to capture the simple frailty of this sad little girl who was in a world she didn't completely understand. I wanted to show her vulnerability but at the same time, using the coat and hat as a metaphor for her struggle to hide her true self.
I started to do some paintings of her during her pregnancy but life was getting complex for her and to be very honest I was not just bored with her but so offended as to how she was now conducting her life I just didn't want her around.
I didn't see her again but I've been told by a person who bought one of the paintings of her she is now working as a security guard and told her, if she saw me, to tell me she was happy now and finally got to carry a gun. Great. Now I am scared.