Saturday, February 23, 2019

More New Works

I've been fairly productive in the studio this month.  I've been able to do quite a few charcoal and pastel works, both from life and from a photo session with Natalie.  I've also done a couple of oil paintings, started work on an experimental oil painting, had a photo session with another model, and this afternoon had a photo session for a commissioned portrait.  That's a lotta studio activity!

I'm not going to snow you under with a whole bunch of artworks all at once.  So to start with, here are five charcoal and pastel works of Natalie.  She's a wonderful model - a tiny young woman, beautiful, fairly reserved, but with a wild child buried inside.  She has worked with my Wednesday night life group quite a few times.  I've found life sessions to be invaluable - a critical exercise for anybody who calls themselves a figurative artist.  But one thing that life sessions can't do, at least not in a single 2-hour session, is probe much below the surface.  The model gets in a position and then holds it.  All facial expression goes away.  Don't believe me?  Try to hold a smile or frown or whatever for more than a few seconds.  It doesn't work.  Besides that, if you try, it comes across as false.

That's where photo sessions can be valuable.  Photos can capture momentary facial expressions or body positions that can't be held for more than a fraction of a second.  That's where a lot of personality is really revealed.  So, to try to capture some of Natalie's spirit, we did a photo session in the studio late last fall.  Here are several artworks resulting from that session as well as one Wednesday night life session.

Natalie #4
 I love the hand positions in this one.  She was just turning around, not even trying to pose, and there was some of her natural elegance.  In the artwork, I played up the elegance and simplified a few things to keep the focus on the pose and hands.

Natalie #5
 The reference photo had a good bit to recommend it: an interesting composition between her torso and arm, and the heavy shadows, particularly covering her eyes, gave her a mysterious air.  So that's what I worked with.  The charcoal and pastel dust trickled down the paper and I decided to leave it.  Hey, this is an artwork, not a photo!

Natalie #6
 Natalie is a lively young lady and I wanted to try to capture that aspect of her as well.  Smiles and laughter can be very hard.  That was certainly true here: getting the right balance of likeness and spirit kicked my butt.  But I think it got there.

 Natalie #7
This was another butt-kicker.  For one, it was done on black Canson paper.  This was the first time I'd used a black, and it required some different thinking.  All my other works have been on Canson papers with a mid-value tone.  With those, I could go both lighter and darker.  With black paper, you can only go lighter.  And black paper has NO depth.  I quickly learned that it required a pastel treatment over the whole surface to give it any kind of life at all.  And the pose turned out to be a problem.  In the original reference, she was sitting on a stool, but that didn't look right, so I wiped it out and decided to have her standing.  The upper torso, shoulders, and upper arms worked okay, but the first attempt at a face failed.  So I decapitated the poor girl (NOT REALLY) and replaced it with a head from another image.  And the hands came from a different photo session with another model entirely.  But in the end, it works.

Natalie #8
This one didn't come from the photo session, it was done during our Wednesday night life session a few weeks ago.  This pose was a challenge: visually, she's upside down and foreshortened.  And the light was coming from over my left shoulder, so there was almost nothing in the way of shadow to help give depth.  All of which made this one kinda fun.  I did 90% of it that night, then worked on her face and arms the next day.

Not everything is a winner, though.  There was one image of Natalie that I worked on, off and on, for weeks.  It finally went into the trash.  Sometimes you just gotta recognize when a composition isn't going to work and move on.

There are quite a few other artworks that I've done and would like to talk about, but will save that for the next post.  Oh, and all of these are available, if you'd like to have one for your own collection.  Just sayin' ...