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Saturday, June 14, 2014

Lost in a Good Book nee Junior Great Books

Lost in a Good Book, 18x24, oil on canvas

This painting is a blast from the past. I started it at least 20 years ago when I first started to paint in oils. It is of my daughter at the age of 6 or 7. I must not have taken a photo of the painting in the early trial of the life of this piece. I was going to scan it if I had one, but luckily, I never saw any reason to photograph it. I had stuck the painting in the basement hoping to one day resurrect it, which I did about 10 years ago. Here is what it looked like from that point in time (below). I did put this painting in a show and had lots of positive feedback on it. But it went back to living in the basement as I decided it did not meet my standards after all. Everything outlined and not very clear as to the fact that she is in shadow! She definitely looks too light and bright for that. There are two light sources coming in, one as you see is an west facing window and the other is a small window that is higher up and faces north. The drawing is good and I like the composition so a few weeks ago, when I came across the original 4x6" photograph (remember now, 20 years ago there were no digital cameras!) I went looking for the painting to see what I could see. I saw that I could definitely improve it so set to work to do just that.
Junior Great Books, circa 2004
Having the composition already in place makes the work a lot easier. The drawing had to be corrected here and there along the way. I started from the top and worked my way down. From window/wall, to couch/pillows and finally placing her on top. The light was made blue instead of yellow and lightened considerably. The white background of the quilt had to come down in value to read as in the shadows. I had added the quilted "flower" above her head even though it was really just stitched in as a white on white on the quilt. I decided to take that out to see how it worked; I don't miss it. While working on that I noticed that the angle of the top of her head was off-that it needed to slope down into the pillow. Her profile also had to be restructured so she is not so flat faced, which she was not! I darkened the shadows on the couch to match the dark of her shirt and sink her into the couch. Her skin had to be darkened down and since the light is blue, I could use the red shadows I originally had used and have it be more believable. The book had to be given depth and the curve accentuated.

I was surprised to feel nostalgic about this old couch while I was reworking the painting. It is the couch I grew up with and it was called a studio couch. These are hard to find these days. It opened into a double bed by lifting it from the bottom of the front of the couch. You brought that up and then folded it towards the back until it clicked it into a flat surface. There was storage under it for blankets and sheets. The springs were a little tired by this point in its life, but boy did I love that silly couch.

These were the days when we lived month to month so I made most everything I could, including reupholstering the couch.The quilt was my first attempt at such a thing so it is by far not a piece of art but it was functional. The pillows I made from old curtains I had bought at a yard sale. The pink tropical patterned curtain fabric was from the 50's but I found enough to to salvage for these pillow cases. My daughter is in hand me downs from her cousin. "Those were the days!" Every picture tells a story...and speaking of that, I am curious to know if people who view and or buy paintings like to know about the painting or prefer to make up their own story for it? I was counseled at the opening a week ago by an art consultant to never tell the history of the scene in the painting to a viewer. That was not the way to sell a painting! I am not sure how I feel about that. I personally can rewrite the story if I choose but I am curious about where it is and what drew the artist to paint that particular scene.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love the original and the remake, both for different reasons. The first carries the brightness of a youthful mind, and defines a character that is bent on seeing the world as it "should be," with clear color, bright illumination, and comfortable symmetry, with the focus on the quality of the person. The later version reflects a tender acceptance of what is realistic and calls less attention to the person and more to her absence in the moment of concentration. In the second version, the light and the shadows are more correctly (naturally) aligned; the book becomes more a part of the moment, rather than being a separate theme. She is defined with the cushions and pillows as much as with the book: It is a more unified work.
I love to know the story and the emotions behind a painting, just as I love to know about your processes and progression in the work.
Maybe a buyer looks at the painting for what it means to him/her at the moment of sale. I think it is appropriate for you to point out features and special expressions in your works to enhance the buyer's perception of the painting and encourage a sale.
But perhaps having the story available - say, on the back of the frame - gives the buyer the choice to either preserve his/her own sense of the work intact or see your perspective on it, or even better, define a synthesis of the two. I would never take it as law not to tell your story, as the work of art and the appreciation of art are both so personal.
Then there are some people can love a piece without ever considering its meaning and impact: Just because it has the right shades or tones to match the interior they have imagined or created. I think that's why so many offices and buildings have such dumb works hanging, it makes me question the integrity of the person who is using it that way.
Thanks for sharing this, it's such a blessing. You have been granted such an amazing gift and you use it well to pursue His mission and yours. LNB