This week I have worked on both current paintings, though one of them has been “current” for some time.
Having changed the pose of my figures in the oil painting, and liked the new atmosphere the changes have created, I made a start on the man’s head. I have to say that it looks like him! and is exactly how I have wanted the figures to appear. I said all along that I didn’t want to paint a portrait, but only a recognisable figure. We can recognise people from a distance by the way they carry themselves, so detail is not necessary to create a likeness. This is much easier to catch, too.
The pastel also is gaining shape and perspective. I had intended to work on the two trees just in from the right hand side, and did start there. Inevitably the background was called into play for one shapes the other. I seem to have lost the path which curves among the trees, but the blue-greens of Australia are apparent. The sunshine catching the right side of those trees will also illuminate the nearest tree on the left so that the path (when I find it again) and the shadows will be balanced by the strong verticals of the sunlit trees.
A new term opens and I am using a photo taken in Australia when on my holiday there. The photo was taken a day or two after my arrival, and a first sight “a path through trees” may seem a tad ordinary. However these are gum trees, a source of endless fascination, their differing varieties, their pealing bark, their resilience, and I am hoping that I manage to get the colouring right. There are blue tones in the foliage in many trees, even as far south as Melbourne, (It’s winter, by the way) part of the subtle visual “otherness” I shall be seeking to pin down.
I’m using velour pastel paper which takes pastel strokes beautifully, and as I like the strokes to show, it collaborates with all its might. A light drawing in pastel delineated the trees – it was the placing of the trees which made this an appealing composition – then I indicated roughly, with as many darks as I could find, the foliage and the “stitching line” of darks in the near distance. With a few slashes of light on the trunks and darks for the shadows, the picture begins to emerge.
Using my sketch as a guide, I have altered the pose and the colouring of my pair. I think it already looks more relaxed and friendly. The new colours are altering the balance of the painting, and I am preferring the new view.
His creamy trousers are lightening the tone, his outstretched arm opening up the pose, and when he gets his feet …..
Meanwhile, her choice of dress goes happily with the greens and blues of the foliage, but it played havoc with the turquoise vase at her elbow. Now these vases are a source of joy to her, but when I took the reference photo, they were temporarily not on display for safety during building work. None of us thought about them! What to do?
I could change the colour of her dress – but I liked what the present colour was doing to the painting. I could change the colour of the vases though I don’t think that would go down too well. In the end, I took the one behind her out of the painting altogether. There is the large, very glossy vase and its attendant dove in the foreground which was sufficiently distant from her dress for an unhappiness to be avoided, and she looks less crowded now that it has gone.
Is it really September 4th 2017 when I last worked on this painting? Much has happened since then, not least I have finally got a good working photo of the pair on the identical terrace. I had to go to Nice to get it (but that was fun) and the pose has more animation now.
I have painted out his head and part of hers, and also painted out the feet. These areas had begun to show a little “halo” of adjustments, not quite matching the background, looking dirty. I don’t think that I need to paint out the rest of the figures – I think I can change them as necessary. We have a different colour scheme which will help, and the new pose is encouraging as it makes the painting more friendly.
I have done a line drawing to help me position the figures. Her head is not quite right as she is looking at him and smiling! But the figures themselves are right relative to each other. She has opted for a long dress, which makes things easier, and his pose means that I don’t have to do him full face (and he is pleased about that). This looks like a win-win situation!