26 November 2014

How To Create Trouble

Angel Can Fly - 16x20" - Oil on canvas

This is a post about what not, of sorts, to do while painting.

I had an image taken awhile back from a local pow wow I'd attended which I have had in my "to paint" file forever. I decided I'd finally tackle it. Late last week I got started on it by sketching it out.

Stage 1 - Oil sketch
I was pleased with the drawing. Now I almost wish I would have just refined that a bit and left it there, but I didn't. I wasn't able to get back to this painting for a couple days at which point I put in my darks.

Stage 2 - Darks
I didn't really like it anymore but knew I was a long ways from being done. All paintings go through an ugly phase and I figured once I started adding in my colours and lights things would pick up. I again had to wait a couple of days to get back at it.

When I did finally get back at it I was stressed. I had a lot on plate and was just cramming in some painting time during a brief opening. Company was supposed to be arriving the next day and then the rest of my week was gone, and my weekend too, so it was a now or ever proposition. I still had to clean the house and do some laundry, and, and.......but I tried to fit in painting time none the less.

Stage 3 - A Mess
This is what happened. I started following the photograph too closely and when I knew things weren't working didn't stop to analyze why they weren't working but started adding more colours and details. When a painting isn't working, more details is never the answer!

I just wasted the only four hours I was likely to have this week on messing up what had started off so promising. I quickly scraped it out.

Stage 4 - Scraped Out
I threw in a few brushstrokes to try and recover the original drawing before I left the studio for the night. The next morning I got up early determined to fit in some studio time before our company arrived. I got all the work I hadn't done the day before finished - bathrooms cleaned, laundry started, etc. Then I talked to the company to see if I could find out when they'd be here.

They had to cancel. It was snowing heavily and they weren't going to risk driving through the mountains. So I suddenly had the whole day free. So I headed to the studio. I was looking at the painting, and the pictures taken at various stages along the way. I still like Stage 1 the best.

I determined it was the light of the unpainted background and lack of details that I liked about it. So I abandoned my reference photograph and went to laying in a lighter background and suggesting movement and form without details. There's still a couple areas niggling at me, but overall I am much happier with the painting. Now it represents my original vision for it better, and I learned some valuable lessons.

Don't follow the reference photo to closely. Don't paint when I'm stressed and forcing myself to do so.

Stage 5 - Better