"Blue" Gouache on board © Joanna Zeller Quentin 2009.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Work in progress- "Horsepower" or "Power" or something else altogether

Recently I met with a prospective portraiture client who wanted me to capture her two beloved horses.  In talking with her, it became apparent that she had looked at my portfolio pretty closely and was concerned about my use of exhuberant color against her neutral walls.  One of the nice and refreshing things about doing commission work is the chance to tailor the style of the painting to the client's liking.  Some people like crazy abstract bright color and others prefer softer more naturalistic tones.  Feeling pretty confident I could give her what she wanted, we started discussing poses, and I moved on to studying her horses.
But the idea- and her concern-  stayed with me.  What is the fine line between "too much color" and "looking like a photograph"?  Where is the balance between muddy brown and vibrant sienna?
Now, I know full well I will never be able to do a portrait with just a palette of browns- nor do I recommend anyone try to do so.  Oil paintings glow- and one of the reasons for that is the buildup of color.  Some artists (and even myself, occasionally) build up paintings over several weeks or months, layering each color carefully on top of the other (scumbling is the art term) and can speak of color mixtures as science... or alchemy.  Other artists (and I confess to being one of these too) can complete a painting in 2 hours using nothing but globs of paint straight from the tube with no glazing or drying time- just carving the image out of paint.  (art term: impasto).  And some artists (usually these are the ones hanging in museums) can do both- layers of color painstakingly built up ... and then straight from the tube acents on top of everything else (ie Rembrandt- the most amazing painter in the whole wide world- imo...)
As I mentioned in my other blog entries, I started working on a piece for a promotional postcard on Friday night.  Tonight I hit the first of what is usually 3 or 4 roadblocks- the paint is finally on the canvas, it's got this great buttery consistance, I'm jamming along, and suddenly... WHAM.  I just messed the whole thing up.  Disaster, calamity.  Should never have been an artist, should have been a dental hygenist, this is awful, what am I going to do????  Overcoming my first desire to pour turpentine over the whole thing and begin again- or at least get back to Friday night's beginning layers, I gritted my teeth and soldiered on.  And, a mere two hours later (my husband gave up and went to bed some time ago) I've managed to pull it back from the brink.  It's not right, it's not perfect... but it's a place that the painting and I can live with- at least for tonight.
And here, as promised, are the stages of the painting thus far.  I'm trying to keep the color restrained yet vibrant... and I have no idea what to do with the background yet.  Any suggestions?

(some glare on this one... darn retouch varnish!)

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