Monthly Archives: February 2012

Technical Insights from “Not Far from Home” #19


As I began to decide on the composition for this work, the question arose in my mind, (as it always does when staring at a white canvas), “How can I make this work unique”, or, “How can this portrait, not appear as just another stale, predictable depiction of a pretty girl.”  Many different elements may have been used to achieve this end, whether it is limiting the palette of colors, pushing the key or value range into something far more moody, the unusual cropping of the figure, or other various methods.

In this case as I was moving the lighting around the model trying to reposition things to get a fresh look, I noticed the striking abstract created by the model’s face against the lighter background.  This technique is certainly not original with me, as I have seen the great illustrators of the past employ this effect beautifully. The works of Frank Brangwyn and Dean Cornwell stand out in particular.  Notice how the figure or heads are not immediately visible but rather are part of the greater compositional whole.

Dean Cornwell

Frank Brangwyn

The lights and darks follow the pre-established patterning and flow of connected values.  The strong abstract pattern was most important to them.  This, too, should be just as important to us.  My take away from these masters  has been to try to see the subject in the abstract more than just a literal portrait  on canvas.  My former teacher Bill Parks would fill dozens of sketchbooks with 2” x 3” designs just to explore the infinite variety within shape and size juxtaposition.  He often mentioned that the painting should just as interesting at 50 yards away as it is upon close inspection.  His voice is still ringing in my head… how grateful I am for his tutelage.  I must mention that in addition to Bill’s voice, Jennifer’s parting words as I am heading for the studio are often, “Design, Design, Design”… for her reminders I am grateful as well.   😉

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Technical Insights from “Not Far from Home” #18

The Passage

As a visual artist, I am continually challenged with the idea of what I am to say with the language and medium I have been given.  Most often in my case, the simple and profound message of hope as it points to our Creator through “the beautiful” is more than sufficient and provides all I that I wish to say with most subjects. In other words, the fact that I am struck by the simple elegance of a line in nature, or the moving harmony of two or more colors dancing together are more than enough reasons to record them and provide ample material for a work of great meaning.  However, there have been instances when I have been inspired to include an overarching narrative to depict an emotion or tell a story.  This painting “The Passage”, page 123, was one of those for me.

The inspiration for this work came in a vision of the completed painting that flashed in my mind as I lay in bed ready to retire for the day.  Just weeks earlier, during a time of great sadness, I had the privilege of being with my father as he breathed his last breath and lost the battle from a relatively short illness.  This moment of profound loss was also one of the more sacred times in my life.  As I witnessed his passing, I could not help but wonder how we are transported to the next realm and what his journey may have looked like.  I, in no way mean to conclude that this image has any historical accuracy, is substantiated by scripture, or is what our experience will look like.  I was simply following the inspiration and seeing it through.  What I am certain of is the great hope of eternal life we have through our Lord and I stand on that as I move ahead.

These following passages have always given me great comfort and offer such assurance.

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

John 11:25

I know that my redeemer lives,
and that in the end he will stand on the earth.
And after my skin has been destroyed,
yet in my flesh I will see God;
I myself will see him
with my own eyes—I, and not another.

Job 19:25

As to the execution of this work, various studies were completed on location of the model in twilight light on the shores of a river.  As you can see in the study, not much attention was paid to detail or proper drawing as the light was fleeting fast.  In this case, it was only important to capture accurate values and color relationships to translate the effect of light in the finished piece.  Later in the studio, I then transposed the key to create the desired lighting to better depict the mood.  Finally, a sketch was created one quarter size to work out the harmonies and final design before the finished canvas was begun.

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