Friday, August 24, 2012
Friday, April 20, 2012
Wednesday, April 11, 2012
It would be much more orthodox to plan an entire composition before beginning a complicated narrative painting.
But I planned poorly, and now I’m improvising. I'm satisfied that my latest improvisation for this painting is, at last, getting the image to coalesce. By adding this figure between the viewer and the fireplace, I think I’ve created a bridge between the central figures and the distally placed ones at left. My wife saw it and said, “Oh, now Mary’s really slacking.” It’s a busier room, and Martha’s frustration that her sister has left her “to serve alone” is exacerbated.
I’m now envisioning another guest between the tables, leaning to our right in reach of some victual, creating yet another directional line to the interaction between Mary and Jesus.
Sunday, April 1, 2012
But before I go to too much detail, I really need to bring some people in to model for the figures in the foreground, which will undoubtedly cover up some of my work.
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
It’s taken me almost six months to finally be happy with Jesus’ face, and I’ll probably change it more. One problem with working at this scale is anticipating how it will look in reproduction, which will almost always be tiny compared to the original.
Sometimes I found myself pleased with a facial expression, but after photographing it and viewing it on my laptop or iPhone, I then found the expression indiscernible. Or I found even more troubling errors.
Illustrators working at a drawing table have long been able to use a tabletop attachment, configured like most desk lamps, with a reverse magnifying glass— a minimizing glass— to be able to anticipate how the image will look at reproduction size. The old masters surely had to envision how an alter piece or fresco would be seen at a distance, such as from the back of a chapel. Michelangelo painted the 50,000 square foot Sistine Chapel ceiling to be viewed from sixty feet below, but he could not have seen it from that distance until the scaffolding was removed. How did he know not to waste time on details no one would see? Clearly, Mike was a lot smarter than me.
Stage drama is played differently than screen. Opera singers have a reputation for being lousy actors, and some of them deserve it. But I’m thinking of a young soprano who plays a character as well as anyone in Hollywood, whose facial expressions give marvelous meaning to the slightest glance. Unfortunately, you can’t tell from the balcony— at least, not without binoculars.
I know that most viewers of my paintings will never see the original, and I want them to know my characters’ emotions.
Some of my reference photos have Jesus’ profile silhouetted against the dark wall behind, and some have the white of his robe showing behind that elegant nose. I chose the photos with the expressions I wanted, without thinking about contrasting the lighted face against the background. I found later that the highlights on the nose were lost against the white robe. I’ve been trying to create shadows between them, which look fine up close in the original, but still washed out when viewed on screen. Should I move the robe? I might yet.
The figure of Martha is the closest to being done. But the energy in her eyes is still lost in reduction. Mary, below, looks up to Jesus in anticipation of his words. I have the most work yet to do on her.
Thursday, March 22, 2012
I don't mean to imply with this headline that this painting is dead. But my oil on canvas of Jesus in the House of Mary and Martha sat on the easel for months without progress. Originally, I told myself I was just too busy with illustration work, which was true in December, and with preparing for wedding shows in January, at which I demonstrate my live wedding paintings. But eventually I had to admit to myself that I was avoiding it. In fact, I avoided looking at it. I'd painted myself into a corner, and was deeply discouraged. I found myself thinking of it as a failed painting. I didn't think it was redeemable.