With a couple of hours in the studio yesterday I managed to achieve a couple of tasks that were both important for making the paintings effective, but neither producing particularly interesting photographs for the blog. I got to work on the Angel, putting a glaze of Olive Green over the peacock feathers, dropping them further back and subtly dimming their bright colours which were overwhelming the rest of the painting. Curiously the high feathers that hadn’t yet been painted with the colourful “eyes” looked very convincing with this simple treatment, and I think I’ll continue with some more of these slightly less complex shapes as I move forward with the wings, finishing the tops around the arms. I’ve allowed the green to go over the edges of the wings now, softening the hitherto high contrast between feathers and background, and again letting the skeleton come forward from them. (Paying attention to maintaining the focus of the painting in terms of depth is a constant task; I pay particular heed to the rule that hard edges almost always push forward in an image, while soft edges recede.)
Over on the big painting I worked on figuring out the landscape, softening the edges of the wall and sketching in the shapes of the sea and the distant points of the bay landscape, which I’d like to resemble the Malibu coastline. I’m thoroughly enjoying those Alma-Tadema compositions with the lovely white marble low in the foreground and Mediterranean blue skies above. I’m also looking at Waterhouse’s neat compositional trick of dividing the canvas into two distinct vertical halves, with one darker than the other, split by vertical shapes – either architecture, people or plants.