Friday, 7 July 2017

First Light

High chiaroscuro oil painting of a Maine Coon cat
This high chiaroscuro portrait of a Maine Coon cat marks a new beginning for me: I have decided to change some of my approaches to painting in the hope that I can improve more quickly. 
It is difficult to sustain progress when you work alone and have no teacher or mentor to chivvy you out of your comfort zone.
But as the old cliché says: if you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got.

So I decided to change a few things to try and get off my plateau and on to the next level up of this painting journey.

My goal is to paint more freely whilst also maintaining accuracy. 

To work towards achieving looser brushwork I decided, first, to change my work area, dumping the desk easel and working as much as I can standing up. 
I bought a fab new easel and what I call my Yellow Brick Road Rug which shows me how far to step back to evaluate my work:
photograph of a working artist's studio
Yes, I know the road isn't yellow, but let's pretend
Second, I have dumped working with lines. At least, as much as feasible. I am trying to block in the painting using mass and tone. Here is the first stage of the cat:

underpainting of Maine Coon cat

Third, I have dumped black. I read somewhere - and annoyingly, I cannot remember where - of an artist who said you should use black exactly as you would tube white i.e. very very sparingly and only to make a statement.

In this painting, I have used no black at all apart from the cat's 'eye-liner' and pupils. All the other darks I mixed, using various amounts of: Burnt Umber, Alizarin Crimson, Purple Lake and Pthalo Green. You can see the shadow of the Pthalo Green in the stage photo, above.

It was Michael Harding Pthalo Green and I think one of his small tubes of this colour would be sufficient, if squeezed out,  to colour the entire ocean. I used a pin prick. I still have a suspicious green tinge to one or two of my nails. Makes a fab dark with alizarin, though.

Then I started to add the lights, but still no white at all: these colours are Yellow Ochre Deep and Naples Yellow Light, plus Transparent Oxide Red


I used great care with the brush because the darks were still wet and we all know what happens if you mix Yellow Ochre with darks (see previous posts on cowpats).

The final stages I painted next day when the paint wasn't dry but had tacked up sufficiently to reduce the risk of me creating mud.

I am pleased with this painting but it cost me great pains to make. It is hard to work standing up if you are not used to it. It is rare for me to actually be reduced to tears by a painting, but what with the tiredness and the wobbly legs and aching arm (from using unfamiliar long-handled brushes) and the final insult of not one, not two, but three wipers, that is what happened. 

Got somewhere in the end, though.

If you have got to the end of this - thank you very much for reading along with me. Have a great weekend.