Mid-December 2016: I had been doing a lot of Expressionist works over the last couple of months (I mean the kind with bold outlines and somewhat-distorted forms), and I was in the mood to do something more realistic. Realistic, but with a lot of splashy, loose brushwork.
I went looking for images in my model-shoot archives. In my Bahia 2007 folder I found a great image of Israel, one I’d mentally noted before as having potential. This was a shot of Israel sitting on board the boat I’d chartered to sail us across the Bay of Salvador to a deserted island where I could shoot Israel and Wellington running around nude on the beach. This photo was after we’d done some of the beach shoot and were back on board for a few minutes.
This image was just what I’d been looking for. So I tweaked it in Photoshop as usual, and got the images above. These images, along with the original one you see at the top, would be my references while painting.
I like using the softened, least-detailed image as the main reference, only looking to the sharper, more detailed images when I need a little extra information. That keeps me seeing the big shapes and not getting too caught up in detail.
I worked on the painting for a couple of days. You can see the in-progress shots above. By the time I got to the stage you see on the right, I was frustrated. I had begun the painting intending to keep the brushwork loose and energetic; what happened was far from what I’d been aiming for. Rather than being loose and spontaneous, to me the painting seemed tight and over-careful. I decided to start over.
However, rather than destroying this first attempt, I decided to keep it and call it a study. Which is exactly what it turned out to be, since it helped me determine the color mixes I wanted to use, and gave me the chance to rehearse the painting before attempting the final version.
After all these years of creating art, I am still surprised at how difficult it is to maintain a loose, spontaneous approach throughout a painting. Sometimes the only way I can get to it is in this way, by doing a study first. Not that I planned it that way–I truly thought I could just dive in and do something spontaneous and exciting. That doesn’t usually happen, and I often have selective amnesia about this. I forget how thoroughly determined I have to be right from the start in order to keep a painting bold and exciting.
But now I’d been reminded. So on this second try, right from the start, I started throwing paint around with a lot of splashing and dripping. I think you’ll be able to feel the difference in energy between the first try and the above in-progress shots.
As you can see from the above shots, I did pretty well at keeping the painting loose and energetic. To me the difference between the earlier painting and this one is like night and day. The in-progress shot at above right is where the painting was after 2 sessions of about 3 hours each.
Here’s the final result. I did overshoot a bit; by that I mean I could have stopped earlier. But I’m pretty happy with it. There’s a lot more energy and lively brushwork going on in this one and it’s just more fun to look at than the earlier one. But I do like the study too, for what it is–the earlier part of the journey.