This one began as a sketch on November 5th, I remember how many hours a day I was working then. I sorta want to capture the moment here. As most of you know I’m working on the COVID mitigation team right now, administering the system that manages testing and scheduling for the University community across the state. It’s a daunting task, exhausting on every level. That week it wasn’t uncommon for me to work ten or twelve hours in a day… full hours, maximum focus and mental attention. System issues to fix and very very angry parents to appease and terrified students to help…. exhausting.
At night I would drop onto the couch with some British Baking Show and my sketch pad and try to force relaxation (which never works really). What I noticed that week is that I did a few really interesting and arresting drawings. Drawings that took the tension I was feeling and pushed it into patterning and structure and a sense of order on the page. Super satisfying. Sometimes I dream of being able to just make art full time … and then this happens and I remember that the tension in my life trying to balance my technical work and my creative work fuels wonderful things.
I’ve had this background completed for awhile but never quite knew what to do with it. You’ll note as we proceed that the various lighting in the photos has a tremendous impact on the perceived color … this feels like a challenge as I want the colors I choose for painting to work well with that background no matter the lighting. Also, y’all see those circles? So, I like circles. I have a box of circle templates I’ve collected over the years. Plastic lids from various bottles and jars primarily. These are great for drawing … but most are far too small for a large canvas. Large commercial circle stencils are pricey, but bamboo embroidery hoops are not. They are perfect and extremely reasonably priced. I got mine here.
Well this makes me just incredibly happy, that blue peeping through. I’m thinking I may need to do more work on that blue, add some more dimension. Maybe work in a glaze of red orange on the top left edges of each blue section. I love the color but it seems flat.
Let’s just stop here for a second and appreciate that I have very little idea how I did that and confidence I could do it again. Odd no? I couldn’t explain it or teach it, but I know that if I were in front of a different canvas today I would be able to achieve something similar. It feels like magic at this point, to be unable to explain how it happens … there must be some visual equivalent of muscle memory.
And here’s where I grow unsure of the next steps. These were the primary elements I had sorted out going in. The blue/green sections are still really flat, but I’ll be back through with a few more layers to flesh them out. The real questions is what in the hell comes next! I want to leave some of the background showing, probably the rectangular center section and the very outside edge… which leaves me with the framing, the circles and the collar/neck … I’ve been playing around with a red orange for the collar and if I do that I could do the red orange glaze on the blue areas, keeping the highlight on the edge facing the collar, almost as though it’s a light source. Oh I like that idea! Which leaves the framing and the circles. Suggestions are most definitely welcome, I feel a little stuck.
A belated Happy Christmas to all of you!
With some feedback assistance from a good friend I decided to extend the white of the head into the circles and I am SO PLEASED. They feel very organic and round to me (I mean, they are circles afterall but they feel ‘fleshed out’ in a way). So this is all going gangbusters! I also added some shading to the foliage in the background. Next steps will be sorting out the framing color … I’m contemplating extending the red orange of the collar to the framing, which seems a good balance but also a little ‘matchy matchy’ for my taste. Lawd who knows?!
Well this was ABSOLUTELY a surprise! I’d never considered a different green! Yesterday I was messing with framing options using markup on the last photo. And picked a green on a lark and there .. it .. was.
I’d also planned to leave the outer edge the background color but found myself just working the green (phthalo green, raw sienna, Naples yellow) with some raw umber to the very edge. The rounding of the right edge is my favorite bit and I will be adding more shading to some other areas to complete the effect all around.
Magic guys … it’s very different for me I think. Things are getting so much more playful and curious than my old pen stuff. More fun and sunshine now. That’s pretty swell.
FINISHED – 01/10/2021
I’ve been sitting with this since the last update. I knew then that I was close but couldn’t quite get my feet under me with how to best finish. Today I stared at it for quite a bit and then asked Edina. I told her I knew it wanted something more but I couldn’t decide what. Ever a smartie pants, she told me exactly what shading was missing (around the central rectangle) and once I saw it all the other details fell into place.
What a very fun time I had with this one. A challenge from start to damn finish. I couldn’t be more pleased with how it turned out.