Sunday, February 1, 2009
Let's make a painting the hard way!
Here's a painting I made at the end of last year. I have made one of these blue night scenes every December for about thirty years. I did it in the way that many of the old illustrators like Norman Rockwell worked. I love that guy. It is just the opposite of the plein air approach and is slow, but can produce great results. Let me show you the machinations I went through to make it. The first thing I did was to make a sketch from nature this fall, up in Jefforsonville, Vermont. This sketch is 18 x 24 and is pretty rough. I also took photographs, and then I went home to my studio. I made about ten small thumbnail drawings pushing the composition around until I got a design that seemed to work. I next made a charcoal drawing 16 x 20 the size I wanted the finished painting to be. Here is the charcoal drawing.
The charcoal drawing has a much higher viewpoint than the painted sketch done on location. I did this by extending my eyes on glistening stalks a hundred feet above my head. I made the charcoal drawing on toned paper highlighted with white chalk, as finished as I could. I wanted to confront all the problems that would inevitably occur before I touched brush to canvas .Next I took a photo of the charcoal drawing and printed that out and traced it onto an 8 x 10 panel. On this panel I painted a completely finished color study in oil. I can't show you that because it went to the Guild of Boston Artists where it was sold and I neglected to get a photo before I sent it . The color study looked just like the painting you see up at the top of the page.
I then pulled a tracing onto architects tracing paper from the charcoal drawing. I layed that over the stretched 16 x 20 canvas and using Saral graphite paper, which is like carbon paper but won't bleed through oil paint, I transferred the drawing onto my canvas.
All of the preplanning I did, meant that there was no reworking and the painting went down in a single coat with few if any corrections. I used a varnish and oil medium so I'd get a glassy sort of surface. It looks pretty slick when you do that. In the 19th century academies all of this preparatory drawing would have been pretty much standard procedure but it is certainly not an impressionist way of doing things. Down here at the bottom of the post is a blue night scene I did in 1988, this one was shown in the biennial at the National Academy of Design that next year. The tendency when you get into a major show like that is to think,"Ive made it now ,everything is going to be different"but nothing seemed to change I added it to my resume and life went on pretty much like before.