Thursday, November 5, 2009

Progress on the Alley Painting

Hey - I've been on an airplane all day. Well, two airplanes, but they were the same make of puddle-jumper. This is how the Alley painting is going:

Let's talk a little tech first, and then a little soul.

If you like the way her skin looks - particularly the yellows - try getting a tube of unbleached titanium. One of my favorite pastimes is going to Blick and opening random tubes of oil paint to see what the colors actually look like. If something really grabs me, I'll buy it and see what I can do with it. That happened with unbleached titanium - it's a kind of dull yellow, like an even more desaturated Naples yellow. I've had great fun with it on the Alley painting and this painting, which was where I first used it. I think I went through a whole 37 mL tube of it on that first painting. I went through another tube on this painting.

Enough tech. Soul:

Alley models a lot at Spring Street Studios and I've been drawing her there for probably a couple of years. I had always wanted to do a painting of her, but I never came up with a sufficiently exciting idea. Then last time I saw her there, this one popped into my head. She seems to throw herself into whatever she is doing, and I thought this idea caught some of that.

So I called her up to hire her for the painting. Here's the thing: my original idea was symmetrical. There was no lateral curve to her spine at all. That was how I did the preparatory sketch - and it turned out pretty boring.

During the end-of-session noodling around with the pose, she herself came up with the picture-left thrust of her ribcage relative to her waist. That made the whole thing come alive. I had the overall composition and color scheme, but I couldn't get the rest of the way to the quality of hers I was trying to capture without her contribution to it. Now I'm really happy with it, and she seems to be too.

Over the course of the last session, I painted the torso from the breasts down. This was an exciting part for me, because she has that really cool dink at the bottom of her ribcage picture-right. To me, the shadow in that dink captures the entire dynamism of the pose. Plus, if you've been reading this blog for a while, you may remember that I like bellies.

Alley has an awesome belly. That shadow at the bottom of her belly where her jeans are cutting in? The continuous change of that shadow from one side to the other seems so full of character and grace to me. It's a place where the sheer specificity of the palpable world comes to the fore. Each moment of that shadow is defined by all the structures beneath it - fat, muscle, bone. Each moment of fat, muscle, and bone not only defines a physical phenomenon, a body, but also reflects the motive force of a human being who animates that phenomenon. Painting is always about the physical, but it is never about the physical alone.

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