09 January 2014

Absolve

Here's a lesson in humility and patience (among other things): I sketched a bunch of ideas, settled on a composition, gathered and took the necessary reference photos, prepped a canvas, painted for nearly two weeks, then stopped painting just before I was done and erased all trace of that painting from the canvas because my work on it was painfully mediocre and the concept was too much of a muchness.

"Absolve" would have been #10  in my ongoing Tournament of Shadows series and featured (among other photo reference I've taken) a re-use of the photo ref I shot and used in two versions of Unravel Me I did years ago.



The pencils started out well enough; this is the super-optimistic baseline where all is currently good –yet everything can still go wrong. Obviously, I still felt strongly about the concept at this point, since I'm quite picky about what makes it to this pencil stage (most concepts are often overhauled severely in the planning stages or abandoned altogether).


I started with the darkest area, making glowy areas around bands of light looping around the bones and hands as well as in the sky just above the treeline and the buildings which, if all goes well, will be on fire.


The forest was painted during the ice storm blackout and I moved my materials from my chilly studio into the dining room to be near the big window for light and the wood stove for heat. The forest turned out quite well but the water is terrible and would have to be repainted later, especially to add the appropriate reflections of fire.


A couple of days later, power was restored and I began the bands of light. Getting the appropriate glow effect was tricky and I'm not sure I was entirely successful, and after this stage I took some more time off from painting because of various Christmas parties and visits.


The bones were next, but I didn't feel good about them almost immediately and it was right after starting the sweater(s) that I felt this painting might not be such a good idea, even if the sleeves were coming along nicely.


The hair and skin felt kind of off from the start and my feelings of doubt grew. Having so many interruptions between painting sessions allowed me to examine the painting very closely to see how I can fix what I didn't like. I fiddled a bit with the skin...but...my heart was just no longer in it.


I soon stopped painting and looked at it even closer, this time not looking for a way to fix it, but rather if I should even continue at all; although the composition was more or less sound, the concept seemed overdone. Besides, even if I still liked the concept, at this point my execution of it wasn't up to my standards and I didn't want to just finish it for it's own sake –it has to be excellent.


I've recycled older, substandard paintings before, re-using the canvas for better pieces, but this was the first time I abandoned a large-ish (24" x 48") oil painting so close to completion. It wasn't an easy decision, but feel strongly that it was the right one.

This newly-blanked canvas will be host to a different painting in the future. Tomorrow I'll begin on the new #10 of the Tournament of Shadows series, "Gravity Loves to Win," which re-uses (in a new and different way) the main photo ref and title from this earlier watercolour from 1998.




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