I’m thoroughly enjoying myself in the studio working out the architecture of the new painting, making shapes for a courtyard beside the ocean somewhere on the coast of California. I want to create a setting for two girls to look at a big old book, under warm sunlight and shady leaves, in the golden sunshine of early evening. They’re sitting in a private world, but among trees and plants, with stucco and marble. I think their lives are comfortable, but they want excitement, so they’re exploring the book to learn how to work magic. Another girl will probably be watching them from the doorway on the right. In order to get some sense of really successful spatial composition I looked through Peter Trippi’s excellent monograph on Waterhouse, one of my favorite Pre-Raphaelite painters. Several of his paintings make use of leafy courtyard spaces in this kind of composition, with pretty girls reading, or listening to music.

The painting looks terrible right now with nothing but structure roughed in. I’ve not worked this way before – usually I start with figures then invent backgrounds around them -this time I created the world first. I like this, but I had to be careful to consider the point of view so that the eyeline in the photo references would match that in the painting.

I shot reference photos of Trew for the painting – she’ll be both of the girls – with Aaron standing in as her friend for reference when she swapped characters. I’m very happy with the way the pictures turned out. Trew’s a natural model.

Architecture for the Priestess

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