A little progress

Sunday, March 4, 2018 1:10 AM

That first figural abstraction got me excited but I  needed to know that I could do it again. Like most artists, I have in my studio quite a number of bad to mediocre paintings. Using two more failed paintings from my depressingly large collection, I soon had two more pieces that I actually liked: Tourist and Hot Jazz. Creating these kinds of paintings draws on all the skills and knowledge of painting that I have been developing for the past twenty or so years. The ability to draw and specifically to draw the figure accurately and quickly is critical. The first step in this process is to make an outline drawing of the figure onto a very complex and distracting background which compounds the difficulty of drawing a good, expressive figure. One of the hardest things in figural abstraction is dealing with faces. As soon as you add eyes and/or a mouth, the face becomes much too demanding and specific. One way to avoid this is to have the figure turned away, thus avoiding the whole problem of facial features. That worked to my advantage in Tourist.  Tourist, 16 x 12", oil “Tourist” is based on a photograph my husband took of me in Havana Cuba last March. I was attracted to the billowy shirt but I never got pants to look right so I ended up painting in a skirt. In the underneath painting there was a hydrangea which became the shirt, and an american flag of which all that remains is a ruddy glow in the background.

I used the geometry of the shop windows and doors from the photograph to suggest some structure in the painting and I put a little pale turquiose area in the upper left to suggest distance beyond the foreground buildings. It does look windy! [gallery ids="32,33,35,34,36,37,142" type="slideshow"] 

Hot Jazz” is from a reference photo I took at a live model session a few years ago. It happens that the model is actually a jazz singer, so maybe knowing that suggested the theme. I dealt with the face problem here by not really dealing with it. Just some shadow suggestion on the darker side (visual left). Throughout, I tried to let the original colors come through in the figure and other areas where it created a nice connected line, integrating all the elements of that part of the painting. Taking cues from the original painting and from the model’s actual dress - a green similar to this - I worked in some other colors, especially the dramatic yellows that look like flames behind the figure. It would be disturbing except that the she looks so casual and cool. I was having a hard time with the lack of resolution on the sides of the painting and finally used a stencil to give them some ambiguous but readable structure. This was the first time I’d used stencils and I was pretty happy with the results.  Hot Jazz oil on canvas, 16 x 12"   [gallery ids="40,41,42,43,44,45,39" type="slideshow"] Relevant Links: Stencil Girl http://www.stencilgirlproducts.com