The large white space has been knocking around this room and that one for longer that I remember… a 4 x 5 foot canvas… totally empty, that I bought for something that must have been in my mind years ago. Every now and then it would be in the way and it would get shuffled to the basement or the studio upstairs… or even used in the big window in the summer as a sun shade. Forgotten, it would sit in a corner… or behind a stack of frames where I’d eventually rediscover it. It’s accusatory white face gleaming at me… wanting to be painted and hung somewhere… anywhere. It developed a cut from something… a careless moment or pressure from some unkind frame or piece of orphaned glass leaning too close… Oops! so sorry… I hope it doesn’t hurt too much. A 4 inch gash 2 inches from one edge. Now that would have to be fixed before it could be painted… another delay!
Several years ago… (God, this sounds awful!) I actually decided what I wanted to paint on the now spotted, fingerprinted and slashed white stretched surface. Vacationing in St Martin a few winters back, I took a photograph of a building whose orange color hurt the eyes to look at it… but, it changed the mood of the day to pass by it’s glowing walls! Everyone who walked in it’s presence looked outlined and “graphic”. One woman walked by in an outfit the same orange color. It was AWESOME! But, even though I could ‘see’ the finished painting in my mind… the start was still years away. Then……………………. I started.
The photo is fine for a photo but the painting in my head was a lot closer… a color-blocked composition with a figure walking through it. I rearranged the elements… sky, wall, roof, gate, sidewalk, street, figure… tighter and more focused… the elements becoming an abstract by themselves. Oh, and see that big hole on the right… yeah, gotta do something about that. I sketched the elements out and used a little fixative on the charcoal lines… then rough scrubbed in the blocks of color and values. Because this was so set in my mind, I felt there were few decisions that hadn’t been worked out even though I don’t remember thinking about it that much. I was just executing an already done painting. Weird… Next…
Things started picking up and I put an orange wash all over the figure and the sidewalk. Anything in front of the walls of Lucy’s Snack would glow! The under-painting let’s me work through what the values of the elements should be. I left off the iron gate because it would be easier to over-paint the wall instead of painting around the delicate lines. I really missed it as an element and couldn’t wait to get it back in.
I work on detailing some of the green metal roof, putting in a shadow for the figure on the wall and under-painting the clothing. The time of day is early morning just after sunrise with the sun low in the sky. This is when colors are their most intense, washing out in mid-day and softening in evening. This is the best time of day to photograph… and I love the light. The light is certainly an important subject of this painting. Oh, yeah… the hole is patched. Duct tape on the back and filled the gap with gesso and orange paint. Fingers crossed.
More detailing, building up that glowing color on the walls, adjusting values… darker or lighter… over-painting the clothing to the black and white in my vision… Really missing that gate. She needs that element to walk toward… to be ‘grounded’.
Finally… the gate from the unseen doorway. It adds so much… oh, well… that’s just me. Things are coming together. Lots of adjusting here and there… I think her head looks too big… so, I make it smaller from the back taking out some of the cap in the final. Seeking more movement in the skirt. Finishing the sidewalk textures and the street and painted stripes. The purse looks too important… no, just unfinished. I add a texture and more shaping, a shadow, a reflection from the white skirt on the bottom.
Is it done? Seems to be. I’m trying not to overwork it. Time will tell.
The canvas size makes it hard to see detail… so I’ve included these. It is great to keep a record of whatever kind of art project you’re working on.
So it’s done… the white canvas is no longer getting kicked from place to place. There’s a fortune in orange paint on it. The price of canvas has doubled since this one was purchased. And the empty white space in the kitchen is filled with something that reminds me of a very special place on the planet. It makes me smile… and want to plan the next trip there!