Returning to my big painting “In the sunshine” after about a year has left me in a bit of a state. There seems to be so much wrong with it. When I left it last year, I though it was nearly finished, but now I can see bad drawing and awkward concepts all over. Still, on the positive side that means I can attack it with gusto, rather than dabbing at the faces with the aim of achieving a likeness. This time, though, I need to keep the momentum going to the end – I don’t want another period of re-entry like this one!
It’s mainly, but not entirely the figures. One of those things which happen when you are struggling with a painting is that the area under attack “grows”, so that properly proportioned figures become ridiculously long limbed or large-headed, and the area around grows a halo of mismatched colour are you seek to make correction. Both the figures and also the pillar beside them have grown in length and halo.
Since correcting her legs, I have become dissatisfied with her pose, while his arm is miles too long and bent in a funny place. I don’t like his legs either. The two pillars are no longer aligned, and the pristine paving has a bad attack of measles. (All these points may have appeared because I am observing more clearly these days, so maybe that’s a positive too).
Here you can see some of my corrections. I’ve lifted the whole of the right hand pillar by quite a bit, but it now lines up with the far pillar. This necessitated altering the ironwork, as well. I also lifted the belt of his trousers as his torso had grown longer and longer, and changed the bend in his arm. She is better proportioned too. However, her legs are like tree trunks, and his legs look like he wants to go somewhere in a hurry! The return on the pillar base near the figure is too acute, and I am now wondering if I should have altered the far pillar instead of the near one. Maybe I should wash off those corrections with turps right now while the paint is wet, and think again.
We were looking through old photos to do with Rachel’s “100 hearts” needlework (blog.virtuosewadventures.co.uk/wordpress/) when I came across a small one of my two friends taken forty years ago with the sunlight in exactly the right place! OK they were younger but at the size I am painting them, that will not be a problem, and most people don’t mind looking younger, anyway. So I tried another sketch using this new information.
That’s more like it – not a likeness yet but the shadows and highlights are better. Her left eye should be a trifle higher, perhaps. The tilt of the head is characteristic. It took me two hours to achieve this much, I have so much to learn! I used a charcoal pencil, which is a new tool to me, so even the medium was an experiment. I think I have more control over the marks than I do with a charcoal stick, more precision, anyway. However, I think this could be the basis for painting. Now to tackle him.
I don’t think the introduction of white has improved his appearance any! But light and shade, now observed rather than imagined are better, if rather heavy handed.
If time permits I will try again in pencil to see if I can achieve a likeness. I remember reading recently that if you don’t achieve a likeness in line, try again, because shading cannot correct an inaccurate drawing. This is a great incentive to observe more closely.
The final leg of this mini epic project to have a dragon wreathed around my lamp is accomplished. Coping with a dragon, however benign, with five visible legs (and one invisible, of course), and a long neck, and a long tail, required two pairs of hands and a lot of patience. My thanks to Rachel for invaluable assistance.
Honourable Giver of Contentment comes in three parts (like ancient Gaul), which did make him easier to assemble. First we decided exactly where his head should be, marking the place with a tiny cross. Next his legs were bent appropriately and strengthened with a bracing strip, while the middle part of his body had legs similarly attached. All four feet were then (PVA) glued in place, four sets of fingers restraining his desire to stray.
So far, so good. Greater security suggested that his midriff should be glued down, and one whisker strengthened. At the back of the middle section is a great body curl, designed as the principal place of attachment,though before we did that, the tail section, with its strengthened leg, needed to be placed so as to give the impression of following on. The fronds at the tip were determined to curl outwards – persistence won out.
Here he is, prowling among the eucalyptus (!) leaves, spreading peace and contentment all round.
P.S., I have a spare dragon’s tail if anyone wants one.
Since the Dragon project is in abeyance until I sort out the imperial/metric problem, I’ve returned to my muttons (i.e., painting!)
It’s nearly a year since I did anything on “In the Sunshine”, partly because other things took precedence, and partly because I couldn’t see my way forward with the faces. Since then, I have discovered new-found confidence in my drawing ability, so I am more willing to try out ideas in pencil or charcoal rather than lift the brush and hope!
I need to alter the lighting on the only good photo I have of my friends – I don’t want to ask them for a different one as they are not 100% aware of what I’m up to, and I can’t photograph them unawares as they live in France. So I’m going to try a series of charcoal drawings to really get to know the faces and to work out how the different angle of the light will affect things. Here is the first one.
I can’t say I’ve got a likeness of either of them. Shifting the light from the their right to their left is an interesting exercise, and, indeed, the primary purpose of these sketches. I had found pictures of various other people with the appropriate lighting to help me work out what to do but some of the anatomy of these assistants seems to have worked its way on to the paper, I think! I will try to paint the revised shadows on to the canvas using these sketches then see what I can do about a better likeness later, small bits of elephant, as it were.
HGC is giving me furiously to think. I have redrawn his body and painted and cut it out, He prowls nicely, doesn’t he?
– but not round the lampshade! Somehow his curves are in the wrong place, though I had planned them carefully. Also, even though I have lengthened his body, there is still a large gap between his head and his tail.
So, using small masking tape pieces, I positioned his head and his new body on the actual shade and considered my options.
- I could start again. Ouch!
- I could make a whole new tail. Errr, really?
- I could design more connecting pieces – will this ever end?!!!
Upon reflection, I feel having him in bits makes for easier prowling. I arranged two pieces of paper (don’t ask – we’re on a coolie hat lampshade, remember?)) from the body to behind his head, created a loop of body to hide the first join then a curve to join that to his head part. I’ve a feeling that with this length of body, he should have more legs. If this goes on, he’ll go twice round the shade and still not be right. To be more certain that this time I had done it correctly, I cut out the new pattern and tried it on the shade for size. I am cautiously optimistic.
Meanwhile, Teshoo is having his moments too. Being made into a lamp in the 1930s means he doesn’t have anything to do with the metric system. This is not insuperable, but certainly tedious. Nil desperandum .
“I think I’d better think it out again!” I have painted and very carefully cut out my dragon, but ….. – look at him now!
If you remember I had drawn him on the shape of the shade so that I could make him the right size and curve. Unfortunately, I forgot that in so doing, I would only be able to curve him on the shade if I laid him down flat. When I tried to make him rise up and prowl, his tail rose up with a vengeance and sat over the light bulb!
Desperate situations require desperate remedies – I cut him in half. By way of compensation for this hurt, I have redrawn his body, lengthening it a little and repositioning his right back foot. I’ve included his old body so that you can see the image more clearly. The join can be tucked under his neck, so all is not lost, but I will need to paint – and cut out! – his new part.
The good news is that the shade has worked well, and the various electrical bits, in black instead of white and clear plastic, have arrived.
I’ve drawn him out on Bockingford Watercolour Paper which I used as the template for the shade itself. (That is also progressing.) I did that so that I could make him bend around the shade, as well as filling the whole shape. I have extended his limbs and tail, and sorted out his convoluted body. I am going to mount him proud of the shade so that he truly prowls.
Chinese Dragons are generally benign, kindly creatures. There is one story of four Dragons helping villagers during a drought, being pinned down by mountains on the orders of an unsympathetic boss who resented their actions, then turning themselves into the four great rivers which water China. So my Dragon needs a name which reflects his benevolence.
Meanwhile I have started to paint him. Since the curtains are all the colours of the rainbow, I reckon I should do the same to him. A “tasteful” dragon is a contradiction in terms, don’t you think?
So, a golden body shading to yellow for his underbelly, turquoise for his spinal crests shading through ultramarine blue to indigo at his tail, and a green “mane”. He’s my blue-eyed boy, of course, with eyelashes to match. A bright red nose, pink tongue and very clean teeth finish the painting. I decided not to cover him in scales as I liked the sweep of his golden body. I have put some scales on his feet, largely because I made a pig’s ear of painting them and the scales cover the indiscretion nicely.
His name is Honourable Giver of Contentment – HGC for short!
We have been re-decorating our sitting room, and now have an exuberance of parrots swirling over the curtains. They cover the length of the room so are very dominant and they lift my heart every time I go in there. Closed, they veil the room in pale green light, like suffused sunlight through trees.
It follows , to me anyway, that bright colour accents must dance around the room, so I have sought out our most colourful ornaments, especially the more exotic ones. I have a herd of disparate elephants, three “traffic light” Limoges enamel bowls, a twenties vase covered with splodges of paint, six brightly coloured clip-on budgerigars climbing over the lampshades, and a black wooden statue lamp of a Chinese boy holding a bat, wing extended, (!) and a lotus flower. This last I have known since before I can remember. He needs a shade. So, I have bought a “coolie” frame, and some handmade paper featuring leaves which I intend to be the base for a Chinese Dragon crawling round the light.
I have sourced the Dragon ( he needs a Capital Letter, I think) from a kimono, but he’s very confined. His limbs must move out from his body if he is to curl effectively. I also want him to stand proud of the shade to create a sense of movement. He’ll be in watercolour when I get that far so this story does have relevance to a painting blog!
I decided I wasn’t happy with my finished watercolour of the Post Office window,so I put it in the sink, ran some cold water on it, and gently scrubbed it with a nail brush.Since this was a line and wash, the drawing is still there, with a haze of colour informing the scene. Then, I painted it again. Since I wasn’t demonstrating this time, I had no over-riding issue to teach, and was able to “just paint”.I have to say I like it more than my previous attempt! What do you think?
This is the completed painting –
– and I’m very happy with it! In fact, it’s a happy painting, scudding clouds, sunshine, peace and quiet. That bank really catches the light. What more could you want?
I used a palette knife for the dry reeds, and to touch in the sunshine on the golden stone of the stringers and the very top of the bridge parapet,then introduced lighter tones (with a brush) in the grass in the near ground. I hope you like it as much as I do.