Saturday, October 16, 2010

In May 2009, I did a piece I entitled Carol and Space.  It was one of my earlier pieces, and I liked it quite a lot.  Chris didn't like the "space" part of it - he doesn't tend to like the space I leave in some of my paintings, but I do - I like the compositional aspect of it, and I think it allows the viewer to have space to think about the body being presented.  It works for me.

But somehow the piece didn't work well enough for me to decide to show it at Sacred Flesh.  It didn't feel strong enough.  The model's body is quite exquisite, especially considering that she is 57!  It is smooth and sleek and very trim.  And difficult to paint, actually, because she has so few curves!  It was difficult for me to show the curves of her body because the planes are so flat.  Someone with more flesh on her bones is actually easier to portray.

When I decided to take a class with Rob VanderZee the weekend of the opening of Sacred Flesh, I wasn't sure what to work on.  I decided, finally, to bring Carol and Space and see what happened.  Rob taught us a painting technique which allows for a lot more interactions with chance than I normally have in my paintings.  He uses a medium called Galkyd Lite by Gamblin.  He mixes it in with his paint then smears the canvas with it quite liberally.  After it dries for about 15 minutes, he splashes turpenoid on the canvas which causes drips and sprinkles and all sorts of serendipitous messes.  He has been doing it for years, so his "messes" are fairly controlled.  Mine weren't!  Here's what the canvas looked like after a couple of hours of working/playing on it.  I like what I did to her body.  I think it looks more interesting.  The addition of green to the shadows is successful, and I think the strokes are more interesting.  The background is definitely interesting, but I wouldn't say I exactly like it!  (The glare comes from the medium - it dries extremely glossy, to the point where it's practically like polyurethane on furniture.  I'm not sure I like how plasticky it is.  It feels very unnatural.  But it's fun to play with and learn about.)

I brought it home at this point and sat with it a few days before going at it again.  This time I lightened up the background and eventually added some spirals and other designs to try to unify the background and figure a bit.  I like this better than the previous rendition, but it didn't feel complete.  At this point, I went into Adobe Photoshop to try out some options.  I tried adding other images of the model to see if that would balance it better.

 I think they're somewhat more interesting, but they don't do it for me still.  It's difficult to balance two things in a painting - I told Chris it's like having two candlesticks.  They're pretty enough, but they don't make for a very interesting composition.  These two images are a bit more interesting, but don't completely work for me.  I think the juxtaposition between forward facing and back showing are interesting, but ultimately neither worked for me.

What I came up with instead is the following:

I didn't really mean to come up with the green on the left, but once I did, I liked it.  It adds a different, more interesting element to it.  I have no idea how it'll look when I'm finished, and I guess I don't care very much actually.  I've decided that this picture is all about experimentation and play.  The results don't matter to me very much.

Here's the day's result from having painted the figure onto the right hand canvas.  The body is obviously not finished.  Her arm looks gigantically out of proportion.  I've checked it several times and will check it again.  I think it might look better once I do the left hand side - don't know.  I'll find out.

I've prepared the green side of the canvas - or am working on it.  I have a few versions of it.  Here it is next to the first half:
I think the green is too bright.  It definitely adds a different feel to it!

Tonight I showed my students what I was working on and they were very curious about the technique I used to make the drips and drops and all so I worked on that canvas some more.  Here's how it's looking now.  I've toned it down and added a couple more layers of paint.  The Galkyd is NOT a nice thing to use, though.  My heart is racing from the fumes.  I don't think this can become a permanent part of my repertoire.  Not nice stuff.  I am not willing to cause myself an illness from my art.  I like how this looks, though.  It's definitely a fascinating medium.  I'm a bit loathe to go back into it and add the figure because this is so fun like it is, but I'll do it anyway so I can complete the piece.  Maybe over the weekend I'll have time...

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