The struggle to describe form on a face continues…. still working from photographs …. ugh!
Everything I’m working on right now relates not only to human figures, but to masses of trees and landscapes, too. Returning to plein air painting made me realize I need to sharpen my eye and brain to organize the shapes of reality into strong patterns of abstraction. I thought, after so many years of painting movement and abstraction that I would have broken my habit of duplicating reality when it is sitting still in front of me. I was wrong!
Slowly, very slowly, I’m making progress. Every ten minutes I want to stop this discipline and toss or platter a bit of paint, swirl a bit of ink and simply play with color and shapes. I can feel myself tighten when I reach the limit of my ability in realistic drawing and painting. I want to return to something I am comfortable with. I want to do an ink drawing of the hollyhocks in bloom and color it in with gorgeous pinks and greens. I want to dash off to a music festival with my dip pen and watercolor box.
It’s hard to believe, but I worked on this little 5″ x 7″ sketch for four hours! It looked fresh and alive after about half an hour, but the forms on the face were wrong. I went back and forth with watercolor, then gouache, to bring back lights, to correct values of shadows, to simplify, to capture light falling on the different planes of the face. It ended up an overworked mess, but I am satisfied with the head looking like a solid form that might actually have a skull inside of it. In spite of knowing my anatomy, there is a glitch in my hand/brain/brush when I attempt to paint realistically.
This is how I love to paint. Why do I bother struggling with painting from photos, stiff and boring? Because I want to bring the skill and knowledge I gain from that discipline into my plein air and moving figure paintings. They will become more consistently stronger. And ….. I want to keep breaking through my limitations. Until I can paint from a photograph successfully with the result being as lovely, loose and descriptive as the portrait of V.D. King, I will not be satisfied.
I am as grumpy this morning as I was when the photo I worked from was taken. What is it that makes a face look old? look young? look middle-aged? When does the balance of hard edges and soft edges work in the composition of facial planes?
Top image: ink brush or ink brush and copic markers
Middle image: watercolor and gouache
Bottom image: watercolor