The more time I spent looking at the painting the more I realized how many things were not well finished, so I began repainting substantial portions of the work in white and brown to make it ready for glazing. The left photo shows the repainted chest and neck with a second layer of painting en grisaille that has brought the hair still further to the right, correcting an overly wide neck and beginning to place the sinews in the right locations, although a little more editing will be necessary to get everything properly balanced. I’ve given her her missing hand, positioned almost as if she’s a gunfighter ready to draw from the hip.
The pants are half way done and clearly need further work to correct them, because presently poor Amelia lacks a backside.
In the second picture the leather has been reworked to give her forearm some shape, which it lacked before; I’ve also added highlights and shadows to the shoulder and the cuff of the sleeve, and reworked the hair with highlights and additional detail. When the leather and hair have been re-glazed I believe this alteration will pay off by giving Amelia a more dynamic action in her arm.
I spent some time bringing white and grey to the neck, hair, shirt, jacket and pants to bring some substance to these areas of the painting, first noticing that Amelia’s neck was over-simplified and in need of re-modeling. Shaping the neck with hair on the left side, I’ve reworked the highlights to bring more complex shape to the area where the clavicles meet at the base of the neck.
The shirt was overly simple, so I’ve begun adding some folds into the fabric of her shirt, perhaps adding some pattern later. The leather jacket’s texture and colour are both good, but the design of the lapel on the right needed a little reworking, so I’ve put some whites in to add reflections and the stitched seams. Finally, I began work on the right leg, where the light should brighten the fabric so that limb comes forward from the jacket. Everything is white and grey in preparation for glazing.
It sounds like I’ll be able to shoot pictures for the musicians in the Priestess painting on Sunday. I hope so. I want to have a plan for the next big painting. Ally showed me the fabric that she picked up Sunday, which looks like it will be perfect for the dress, being sheer and clingy, so it should create lots of folding drapes. She’s getting started making the dress now, so perhaps we’ll be ready in a week or so.
My colleague (and neighbor) the awesome theatrical designer Nate Sinnott says he will help with the rigging for the hanged man, so I’m feeling cautiously optimistic that I’ll get reference shots for both Priestess and Hanged Man this fortnight.
While I rode my bicycle to the cafe to pick up milk for tea I noticed a particularly interesting plant that I remember my father talking about; he said the acanthus was the leaf that was used for corinthian columns in Greek and Roman architecture. I stopped to snap some reference pictures with my phone, planning to paint some of these dramatic leaves in the right side foreground around where Amelia stands.
I’ve returned to the studio after taking a few days break for rest and recuperation, returning to the unfinished work on Amelia Beheads the Alchemical King. A new layer of leaves is filling out the layer of birch leaves at the top of the painting, but painted so that they come towards us rather than the side view that the previous branches were at. As usual I’m painting the leaves in a light grey first, which will be glazed with a yellow and green, with touches of Iron Oxide Red around the edges.
It’s quite refreshing to have a smaller painting on the easel, and feels rather strange to return to this piece, which I haven’t touched for a pretty long time. I’m rethinking the composition of the bottom right corner of the piece, which was never really thoroughly painted, perhaps adding some large leaved plants that like watery environments, and I’m not satisfied with the work I did on Amelia’s body, with the exception of her jacket and head. I think I’ll add more flower buds to the roses, and some more leaves to fill them out with another layer of detail. They feel a little flat right now.
Ally has bought the fabric for the dress for the Priestess, and I’m continuing to figure out what the rest of the painting is going to look like. The musicians are all the same model, holding different musical instruments, whispering as they face the uncertainty of their audience sleeping: should they play more, or retire? I hope to shoot pictures of the musicians this weekend, once I’ve done a little more sketching to figure out how they’re standing.
We’ve stretched the canvas over the panel ready for the Priestess, now we need to give it a few coats of gesso before the drawing begins. Ally has drawings of the dress made and Veronica has been measured for the fit, so as soon as it’s stitched and the hat made we’ll be ready to go. Meanwhile, I’ve found one of my male students who’s prepared to be the model for the Hanged Man, so I want to get the rig for the gravity boots set up so we can shoot reference pictures as soon as possible.
On the left of the photo you can catch a glimpse of a painting I’m doing for my mother of her brother (my Uncle Harry) and his wife (my Aunt Betty). It couldn’t be better timing for a little painting like this, right in between projects. I’ve done the first rough layer of Harry’s face en grisaille over a rich Burnt Sienna ground that will warm up the flesh nicely.
In the middle of the photo there’s a glimpse of a lovely blue that I painted as the sky for a small Temperance. I don’t remember why I stopped work on it, perhaps I was just distracted from it, but I think I should do a little more to it and complete it. The bars behind it in the stack against the wall are the stretchers for the Amelia Beheads the Alchemical King painting in which she’s reaching for the ball of light, which also needs little work to be complete.
I’m moving from Amelia’s verdant green springtime to winter leaves, blown to the feet of the angel of death. So far I’ve painted the base of a grey brown, and begun to render the richer orange browns in that delicious Iron Oxide Red that I like so much. The colour is a little intense at the moment, and we’ll see it fade back a little with a glaze of light grey that will unify the leaves with the rest of the painting. Shadows around the lower right sides of the leaves will make them feel as if they are resting upon the objects behind them, rather than floating above them as they are right now.
Amelia is on hold for a while until I am ready to put more branches into the sides, now coming towards us and darker than the existing work. If I paint these new branches dark, the lighter leaves will appear closer to the orb, giving the painting a strong sense of depth. Forward angled branches will also break up the rather linear pattern of the leaves to the right.
My students are installing their show of icons into the gallery today, so I expect to be pretty busy with them. Reception at six in the Kwan Fong Gallery at CLU!
I’ve expanded the range of green leaves across to both sides of the canvas, and I’m surprised to find myself really enjoying the play of the green against the dark background, because I have used green so seldom in the past. I’m thoroughly enjoying this period of foliage painting that I’ve entered. I’ll darken the leaves I’ve added on the right, behind Amelia, than add a layer of branches that are coming towards us over the top of the first layer, creating a convincing layering of foliage.
Thanks to a lovely new book by Peter Trippi I’ve been admiring the paintings of Waterhouse, the Victorian Pre-Raphaelite who made the fabulous Lady of Shallot that hangs in the Tate Britain in London, close to Millais’ Ophelia. I’m really impressed with his compositions, and plan to use some of his structural ideas in my work. I particularly like the way he divides space into two in his tall canvases, using a light top half against a dark bottom half.
I’m making arrangements to take pictures for the Empress painting on Saturday morning, so I’d better get a bit more drawing done to prepare for the shoot so I know clearly what I want the models to do.
I’ve put a glaze of Sap Green with occasional dabs of Iron Oxide to the leaves, then added shadows of black to the edges of the leaves and around the rocks, which has made everything sit together much more effectively. A good solid days work so far, which I hope to continue this evening.
I picked up a thirty foot canvas yesterday afternoon, ready to stretch onto the wall tomorrow so I can start working on the big painting that I’ll be doing with my class next semester. I’m excited about working with them in this way; it’s a different methodology than anything I’ve tried before, and I’m very curious to see how well it works. I’m going to do the drawing, shoot photos, then the class will render the work onto the canvas, making sure that there is consistency of style in the finished work, in much the same way that the old masters worked with their apprentices.
Here’s a before and after shot of how the first layer of the foliage is going down onto the canvas. First I’ve painted the leaves in grey so that the green has a light surface to lay on, or the next layer of transparent Sap Green would simply disappear against the dark background. It’s reading a little too bright, but I expect to see that drop back a bit with the addition of a layer of yellow and some opaque green, finished with a little edging of my favorite Iron Oxide Red, which will tie the leaves to the coat, balancing the palette of the painting a little better. The roses around the caput mortem are particularly bright now, obviously they will drop in value with a similar treatment to those above.
It took a while to get warmed up, but once I got moving I managed to cover quite a lot of the canvas, adding a new and more useful layer to the trees which had little substance and needed detail. The patchy grey is broken by black scars in the birch trunks that gives the background a lot more character. Presently the trees are popping a touch more than I would like, but this will change as the next layers gain substance. I’ve done nothing to the area around the orb, which is still soft and grey.
Doing the water was pretty simple, using black to darken the deep side of the ripples and white for the highlights, then pushing a soft one inch brush backwards against the canvas to create a broken, random surface. I’ve added light to the stones, which will need detail to make them work – they’re a bit flat at present.
Finally, I glazed the jacket with a layer of Iron Oxide Orange to return it to life after fixing the hair and hand.
The Angel is taking a back seat now, following a black day for the skeleton and Amelia. My big easel looks almost comically small without a giant canvas on it.
I’ve been deepening the shadows on both pieces, working the foreground skulls of the angel, then adding Cremnitz white to pop the highlights again.I wouldn’t normally use a lead white for highlights, but in this case its a great choice, because the finish really feels bone-like.Amelia looks much better for a little cleaning up, and I’m confident that the next few days will improve her even more. Her orb isn’t orange any more, having had a coat of white over it.
I’m looking forward to getting those peacock feathers from China, and hungry for canvas to match the Angel and the Traveler.