Happy New Year everyone. I’m well into the “off season” as I like to call it ... no plein air shows to worry about in these winter months. This is my time for reflection, exploration, and working-out some different muscle groups. If we want to stay healthy and keep in shape, exercise is the key, right? One of my choices is figure painting. I’ve studied the figure for as long as I’ve been interested in art, but with my “landscape” career in full swing, I don’t get much of an opportunity from spring to fall. So, winter becomes an excellent time for me to get back into shape. So with the new year upon us, I’ll discuss my approach to self-growth. (also see my entry: And Now for Something Completely Different).
Since I don’t have a trainer saying this or that will achieve better color, more interesting compositions, or this certain exercise will hone my brushwork, I’ve had to come up with my own methods. One of them, is exploration in different areas of painting. Growth for me is stumbling across something new by a process of trying different things to see if anything sticks. I’ll try to use different palettes or brand of paint. Paint looser, tone my canvas or maybe just slow down to see if there is some new approach that is appealing in one way or another. Which brings us to the painting above -- “Party Life,” 12x9 in oil -- was an experiment for me on multiple levels.
First, this was a figure painted from a photograph. While I usually only paint figures directly from life as I believe this is the best way to see structure properly, I was curious of my result otherwise. Second, I decided to use a different color palette than my norm. After doing some reading, I came up with a creation of Viridian, Ultramarine Blue, Cobalt Blue, Cad Yellow Light, Naples Yellow, Quinacridone Rose and Titanium White, and my brand was the M. Graham walnut oils. I also used their Walnut/Alkyd as a medium, which is fast drying with a high gloss sheen. Lastly, I decide to use a broader stroke while painting, worrying less on an exact likeness and more on defining planes with brushwork. This resulted in a lush painterly feel, different from some of my past figurative studies which were stiffer and I felt my skin tone choices were too brown. I also enjoyed the fresh, high-key tones from the different color combinations.
All in all, I came away with a couple of nuggets that I will add to my repertoire. Not everything ends up being a success, but discoveries such as these would not happen for me without this exploration. Trying hard now ... getting strong now. Enjoy!