Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Dancing on Light

For me a painting usually begins with a doodle or an idea. I take photographs for reference only after the idea is fleshed out. For "Dancing on Light" that process was reversed. I had a supplemental shot of my model touching her toes to a studio light. Something about the shot struck me. She looked as though she was dancing. I could picture her as a faery lit from below. However the visual image of a moth flying around a porch light was blinding me from coming up with a more attractive concept. I awoke one morning with the idea that she'd be landing on a rose that was it's own light source. It didn't make any sense but then an 8 inch tall girl with wings and antenna didn't either. I went to the hobby shop and bought some silk roses then went next door to the hardware store and bought a battery, a flashlight bulb and wire. I set it all up in my studio and shot my reference photos. The last faery I painted had leg markings that looked a bit cat-like. I wanted to do something more reptilian. I ran across some great shots of Copperhead snakes on the Internet. I took the photo of my model into photoshop and on a multiply layer, I drew the patterns onto her legs and hips.
After burnishing my drawing onto a wood panel with canvas stretched over it I layed in my darks with a burnt umber and turpentine wash. I then blocked in a wash of color. The basic color scheme was, complimentary colors, ultramarine blue and cadmium orange. There are other colors but that was the main scheme. I treated the lit up rose like a candle or small fire at night. Warm foreground with a warm glow around the light source with a cool background. My thought with the background was that the sun had gone down, you could still see the clouds in the sky against the silhouetted tree line. I took a series of out of focus photos at dusk to make sure my colors were correct. 
After painting the background I painted the roses going from the farthest back to the closest to the viewer. After the roses dried I layed down a series of thin washes to create the glow. Next I painted the wings since they were behind the figure. After that it was a matter of painting the figure and deciding what overlapped what. I painted her left leg, her right, and torso. Then the forearms, hands, face and hair. The hair seemed to disappear into the darkness so I added the flowers to help define the shape of the hair. 


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Journey of a Sketch

I'm an infrequent "blogger", I must admit. I'm an artist. I spend most of my time in my studio painting rather than writing about it. My hat's off to those who can do it all. When I do post on my blog I try to post new work. Occasionally I'll post old work if there seems to be a good reason. This is one of those pieces of work. Is it one of my better pieces or possibly a career defining piece? Nope. Not by a damn sight. It does, however, bare personal significance. This is more about the journey of a piece of work...

My grandparents lived next door to me for most of my childhood. In 1984 I did an ink sketch of my Grandfather. I was 19 yrs old at the time. I bought a very cheap frame, since I had a wallet full of dust. It was one of those frames you might put a perfect attendance award from fourth grade in. When I bought this frame there was a piece of paper in the frame made to look like a diploma of some sort. There was a semi-decorative border around the fake diploma so I carefully cut the fake diploma out and used the border as a makeshift mat. I framed the ink sketch and gave it to my grandfather. I don't remember him reacting strongly one way or the other but it did hang in their living room after that.

In 1989 my Grandfather passed away. My grandmother still kept the ink sketch hanging proudly in the living room. As the years went by and I'd progressed, as an artist, I looked at it with a bit less pride than I once had. Not my Grandmother. No sir! She was proud of it and proud of me. She showed people the sketch and bragged about me whenever she could.

As my Grandmother grew older Alzheimer's began to rob her of her kind and beautiful mind. She was eventually admitted to a nursing home. In her room at the nursing home the family tried to surround her with things that were familiar. There was her favorite chair, her end table, her television set and that cheaply framed ink sketch. A fact about Alzheimer's patients that I never knew was that they tend to take things from one another. My Mother labeled all of my grandmothers belongings to help the nursing staff figure out what belonged to whom. For the most part she just wrote on the back of things with a ball point pen, "property of Bessie Moore".

We lost my Grandmother in February of this year. My Mother went to the nursing home to collect my Grandmother's personal belongings. She pulled the sketch down off the wall. When she was putting the sketch into the cardboard box she noticed some writing on the back. Apparently Grandma had seen my Mom labelling her things. Sometime before the disease had robbed her of the memory of the sketch and any memory of me, she'd written on the back, "I would like for Fred to have this picture. Love, Bessie Moore."

The sketch has now journeyed full circle back to me. It has yellowed over time and now bares her additional notation. I am now 47. I keep the sketch in a flat file. I don't dare re-frame it. Monday evening I brought it out and looked at it and the note she left on the back. I ran my hand over the blue/purple ink. I thought of her peering down through her bifocals while writing her note on the back. Monday was her birthday. She would have been 92.
I miss her.