In late August I was ready to tackle another big painting. There’s a whole series of images of Jeff on my bed (from my first photo shoot with Jeff in my Waikiki apartment back in 2009) which I really like. I had done several drawings and paintings from this series, but there were still images I hadn’t gotten to yet, and one in particular really made me think it would be fun to paint.
Above is the untweaked image of Jeff lying on my bed. We had moved a couple of my potted plants into the room to make the background more interesting.
Above is the same image after I tweaked it on the computer. As I’ve discussed in many other blog entries, this is a usual part of my painting process. I use the Median filter in Photoshop to remove detail, then use Posterize to reduce the number of colors. This gives me an alternate source image which allows me to more easily see the big shapes and not get too caught up in detail. When I work, both the untweaked photo and the tweaked image will be tacked up next to the painting so I can refer to both of them.
After drawing the image onto the canvas, then putting a neutral-color wash over the whole thing, I began laying in areas of color. I’m trying to get the colors right, of course, but not worrying about precise shades at this point. I just want to get the colors generally right so I can see how they’re working together. No sense in spending a lot of time trying to mix exactly the right colors until I see how things are actually interacting on the canvas.
I’m liking the bright peachy-orange shade I’ve come up with for the body at this point. It’ll be interesting to see how that plays out.
At this point I’ve added more color to the background and foreground (I’ve started laying in the greys and whites of the bedsheets), and I’ve added more color to the body as well, refining it a bit more. I’m doing my best to keep things really loose, and using lots of medium and water so there’s a lot of dripping. I like drips because they remind me that the painting has a mind of its own and my best bet is always to allow for that and not try to control everything.
The next day I work a bit on the body but spend most of my time on the bedsheets.
I spend the next day mostly working on the body, taking it to the next level of finish, but without overdoing it. I’m trying to keep the spontaneity of the early work intact, clarifying some areas, but leaving other areas alone. I’m not going for photorealism, I’m going for an energetic work that is clearly a painting, with brushtrokes, drips and other remnants of the working process still in evidence in the final version.
It takes a couple more days of work to finish the painting. This is often the hardest part for me, and that’s true for this painting: this is the stage where the fun of discovery is mostly over and it’s just a matter of finishing the things that need to be finished. Things like details of the plants, the books on the bookshelves, the blue wastebasket and its white plastic garbage-bag liner, etc. I also spend quite a long time reworking the face because I wasn’t happy with it.
In the end, I think I overworked the painting a bit. Although I like it, I wish I’d been able to leave it a bit less ‘finished.’ But, as Picasso (I think) said, Painting has a mind of its own. It makes you do what it wants.
The painting is titled Ohualani 1001, after the Waikiki apartment which is the setting for this painting.