I was particularly curious about this exchange because I had recently read an article by someone who took offense at being asked that particular question. He said he would answer it by reeling off the years he'd gone to school to be an artist then the years he has worked as an artist then the particular time it took to set up and paint that painting, then the time it took to market it. I found that answer a bit defensive (albeit truthful), so I tried not to respond like that. I just wish I'd had the presence of mind to find out why she wanted to know!
In case you're wondering the answer to that very hot question, now that I've told you all about it... I will give you a blow-by-blow sequence of the piece I'm working on currently. I photographed this model several months ago and have already done one painting of her - Woman in a Chair. It's hanging at Crossroads Art Center where it won 2nd prize. This picture has a similar feel, but I decided to do it anyway because I love the model's expression and the beauty of the light on it.
1. 9:31 AM - I decided to do something I haven't done before in starting this piece. The whole picture has a purple/green undertone to it. I want it to be more complex than just putting purple, green, and brown paint, so I decided to do an underpainting in glowing yellow and quinacridone red. This is right after I painted those colors on.
2. 9:43 AM - I used a paper towel to smooth the brush strokes and make them a bit more exacting.
3. 11:07AM - I had to mix up the paint for the canvas before I could begin with the final colors. That process usually takes about an hour. Then I painted in the shadow and covered the background with paint. The areas between the bars on the back of the chair are too light, and I don't like the darker color of the shadow. I'll work later to unify that color better and to darken the spots between the chair back.
4. 11:19 AM - I darkened the areas between the bars of the chair back. In that brief time, the light moved such that it fell across the canvas. It was very beautiful, but distracting as heck! Most of the year, the light doesn't come in from the south because of the overhang, but the architect designed the building so that it could come in during the winter so I could have more light and more warmth. I'm not usually in the studio at this time, so I'd never experienced it like this before. I love learning more and more about this beautiful building!
I decided to take a break for lunch to let the light move away.
5. 1:22 PM - After lunch I decided to tackle the dark parts, so I painted the chair and the part of her body which is in extreme shadow. In the photo I'm primarily using, I can't really see any distinction between the dark parts, so I printed out a copy that is much lighter so I can make some distinctions so the forms look better. I also worked to unify the shadow more.
7. 4:32 PM - After working on the feet for a while and starting on the hands, I took a break for a few minutes then realized how gorgeous it was outside, so I helped Chris blow leaves with his brand new leaf blower! Good tools are so much fun! After an hour of that, I was ready to paint again. I had definitely needed a break though - my back was hurting and my mind was wandering. I was feeling tired AND weary. Not a good combination. Here's what the hands were looking like at this stage. Her right hand was starting to look half way decent, but I was definitely struggling with the left. Ugh! That's when a break is a GREAT idea!
It's been interesting working on this canvas with the bold yellow paint all over it. I don't particularly like the purple opaque next to it. I know I'll like it when the whole canvas is covered, and I think I'll like the glow the yellow will cause, but it is distracting to paint with the yellow next to the colors. I'm curious to see if I'll chose to do this again next time.
So that's the process so far. She is slowly but surely appearing out of the canvas, semi-complete, though once the whole canvas is covered, I'll do lots of revisions to make things look better and more cohesive. I'd like to be able to cover the whole canvas at once, but this image is simply too large to work that way. I do that when it's smaller, but this one is 40"x60".
Stay tuned for further progress! Hopefully I'll have a good stretch of time to paint tomorrow! Hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving!