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Old 03-07-2009, 02:59 PM
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Re: ESP - Portrait & Figure Fundamentals - Lesson 4: Backgrounds & Depth

Gorgeous work, ladies! I'm way impressed.

And pressed for time, so pardon my not commenting on every painting.

I've painted a portrait of sorts... Am embarassed about it , as it is rather kitschy... Was invited to take part in an exhibition on the theme "Faith". (Who comes up with the idea to portray something intangible!?) So I've managed to use a bunch of refs to make the most sugary kitschy painting outside vendor stalls in southern Europe...

Ref of the little girl is from RIL, and I really will hunt it up again to take note of photographer, the pic was so perfect! Thank you, photographer.

I gridded, as I am in a hurry, no eyeballing, so stuff is generally in the right place.

The reason I'm showing it here is because it is a portrait, and because I think the hair turned out OK, for the first time ever!

A is the underpainting, and in B I realized I should make the head into one mass, and I've generally tried to make the colour masses near 'real' colours. Hard to see, but I've layered numerous colours including complementaries to gray down colour. This is the base I will create form upon.



C is the first hint of 3D form. Girl's hair is still just patches of colour.
D shows some more bands of colour that give shape, and I've shifted to directional strokes, working mostly on the girl. I've not painted strands of hair as such, it is simply directional strokes and careful observation of values and colours. The lamb is the primary source of light, but then there is a secondary light somewhere, but it is weakish. Lamb is otherwordly, as its light is actually bright sunshine, and I'm letting that light shine on the girl. (cringe... awful, I know, but there is a thought borrowed from old masters. Too bad I couldn't borrow their manner of execution too, as this doesn't have 'old master' feel, but modern religious kitsch feel. But, if invited to an exhibition, arranged by several churches, then I do try to paint "faith", even if I usually do not paint religious stuff. Gotta take all chances that are decent.

And finally (cringe) the finished painting:



Hubby got a sugar chock when seeing it... But I do kind of like it even if I (cringe) and

I've used colour to indicate depth. Possibly it is clearest on the bed. Right at the bottom edge, it is rather dully greenish purple, where it turns vertical, facing us. Above that is a greenish and turquoise band (indicating flat horizontal plane) that goes slightly cooler where it meets a red-violet band that fades into a deeper blue band in the section near the legs of the lamb.

C&C welcome.

(cringe)

Charlie
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Old 03-07-2009, 04:10 PM
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Re: ESP - Portrait & Figure Fundamentals - Lesson 4: Backgrounds & Depth

Charlie... love your painting!
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Old 03-07-2009, 04:39 PM
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Re: ESP - Portrait & Figure Fundamentals - Lesson 4: Backgrounds & Depth

Charlie, please stop cringing! This is beautiful. And the girl's hair is phenomenal! Any painting beautifully executed is not kitsch - and this is beautifully executed.

Don
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Old 03-07-2009, 05:50 PM
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Re: ESP - Portrait & Figure Fundamentals - Lesson 4: Backgrounds & Depth

Mette, Don, thank you so much! I feel heartened! Sometimes our dearly beloved spouses may not express the enthusiasm they *ought* to... ;-) so I had doubts about this being too sweet. But hey, I used 'real' colours, and not what I call candy and ice-cream colours. Rather, values -- I've got a full range of values.

Thank you again!

Charlie
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Old 03-07-2009, 10:04 PM
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Re: ESP - Portrait & Figure Fundamentals - Lesson 4: Backgrounds & Depth

Nice work on the hair, it is very sweet, but there are lots of sugar addicts in the world

I wonder if you could play down the hands a bit, there is strong focus on all three areas right now, the lamb, the hands and the child. Also pardon me for saying so, but the rendering is sort of weak on the hands compared to the child and lamb ( not that I could do any better ) and all the busy fingers right in the center are a bit distracting. I has a lovely feel that should appeal to your audience.
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Old 03-08-2009, 09:46 AM
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Re: ESP - Portrait & Figure Fundamentals - Lesson 4: Backgrounds & Depth

Colleen, thank you! I see what you mean with the hands... they do look better IRL, a bit more volume and variation, and the red edges do not glow (as they do on screen...), but I could tone down the reds a bit more. But, hey, you identified them as hands and fingers, so that part of the message is clear. :-D Dang small digits... my pastel sticks are too thick! I'll see what I can do, I basically agree with you. Good eyes, thanks a lot!

Don, I forgot two things: one was to say that I'd never been able to paint this before this class, so thank you so much for doing this huge work! That hair is straight from what you've taught, combined with my old method, and most strokes were made using side of pieces of sticks, about quarter lengths.

The other thing I forgot was size and support: It is on Fisher 400, and 40x40cm which is what? 16x16" I believe.

Thanks, guys!

Charlie
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Old 03-08-2009, 10:33 AM
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Re: ESP - Portrait & Figure Fundamentals - Lesson 4: Backgrounds & Depth

Hey Charlie,
I'm just trying to think this thru with you, that's not a large piece for all you put in. It is made for an express purpose to convey an idea, and I think all of that is present. So the question is how to strengthen that with the elements of art you have used. And I'm not trying to say I have answers, just working it out with this lovely piece you've done
Color, strong, light filled, you have that, what emphasis on what color will bring it out more if any, for instance blue has long been a spiritual color in art, like Mary's robe etc. So maybe use more on the hands to lower value.

Form you have 3 objects, so it makes a kind of triangle, the lamb is one of the symbols of Christ, so the painting says, to me anyway, Christ is with you have faith, so maybe the focal point is the lamb not the child, so the light comes from the lamb to the child could even bring a sort of glow like a halo very gently, another way it connects to the long history of religious art. Another way of seeing it is the hands are the link, our prayer brings us our help...You see these things considered bring the work out of kitsch into the long human tradition of religious art. So depending on what you want to say, you would bring out that object more and subdue the other two. You have used "icons" that bring out emotion in us, so knowing more what you really want it to convey will bring different emphasis.

Composition this is the part that is not clear to me right now, what or who is the focal point, when that is clear, then you would know what to bring out and what to subdue. there is not one answer here, the hands for instance could be more full and accurately rendered, meaning our connection with the Divine is what Faith is. or the Lamb , the presence of what we call in when we pray, is what we see first, or the Child, which again has so many meanings for any religious person, "except you become as a little child you shall not enter the kingdom" ( sorry if I misquote, I'm digging back a long way) or suffer the little children to come unto Me."
My point is knowing what your purpose is would guide how you emphasize each part of the comp.

And in keeping with this lesson, what bg will support what you wish most to convey...maybe more infinite depth and space, or more light, or less, just thinking about that as an element to support the purpose.

You see, you have chosen powerful, meaningful, images, that will bring out the deepest emotions, so as an artist you use your tools(color, form, comp) to imbue the work with the meaning, and then there is no kitsch, because your purpose is not to show a picture or illustration of faith, but to create the emotion in your viewer, a true gift, as they experience the faith within them by seeing your work. With deep respect to the artist you are I challenge you to bring this beautiful work from kitsch to art. But I cannot say how to do that, only you know.

Colleen
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Last edited by winecountry : 03-08-2009 at 10:43 AM.
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Old 03-08-2009, 12:28 PM
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Re: ESP - Portrait & Figure Fundamentals - Lesson 4: Backgrounds & Depth

Teacher/host is going to jump into the discussion! For the first part, these are just my opinions and responses to what is being discussed - please don't interpret them as being lessons in any way. Just my opinions!

When I first saw this painting - since I am not of a particular religious upbringing - I did not see it as an obvious religious painting. Since it is entered in a competition that is looking for religious paintings (I think?), that may not be a good thing, but based on the reactions of others, those with a religious background will immediately identify it as a religious painting, so there is probably no problem. Personally, the fact that it can be interpreted in a non-religious way, is a good thing, in my opinion. So I would not try to emphasize the religious aspect more. I think that is why I did not see this as kitsch at all.

I think that leaving some interpretation to the viewer is definitely a plus. The fact that you really see very little emotion in the girl's face is a plus. The viewer creates the emotion by interpreting the clasped hands, the closed eye, the body language. When the viewer creates the emotion, then the painting has meaning. This painting does that, in my opinion.

Colleen, you raise some interesting points. For you, there are some unresolved compositional issues. This is totally my own opinion, but I don't see it the same way! I see a strong connection between lamb and girl. I don't think one is more important than the other. The hands, to me, are of lesser importance and they seem to be painted that way, with less contrast and emphasis.

Of course, that is one of the great things about art - we can all have our own opinions, feelings, interpretations - and they are all valid!

OK, back to my role as teacher/host!

As far as the focal area goes, I think there is a strong one.



Not only do all the compositional elements converge there, but Charlie has used all the tools in our lesson to emphasize that area - the greatest contrasts - the lightest lights, the darkest darks and the most intense colors are there. The sharpest edges are there. Notice how the edges get softer and have less contrast away from the focal area. There is a nice lost edge in the hair (purple arrow)! The only edge that might need a little softening (or just made a bit duller, actually) is her back shoulder (yellow arrow) to push it back into the distance a bit more. It is hard to say without trying it!

Charlie, one last thing - the hands. I could not find the ref photo, so I may be way off base. Since we are doing the figure in our next lessons - and yes, hands are part of the figure!! - I do have a comment. Now, I know hands are difficult, so I am not suggesting you repaint them. My personal rule about hands is - if you are reasonably happy with them, don't touch them again!

That being said, when the fingers of hands start to bend, the tips start to converge (as you have shown to some degree) - each finger does not bend at the same angle. Again, children's hands may be different - in fact everyone is different to some degree, but here's what I mean:



These happen to be my hands, and you will notice the fingers angle towards each other considerably more than in your painting (on my other hand, the first three fingers were actually touching). There is also some overlap, the fingers in front obscure much of the finger behind (blue arrows). Again, without seeing the ref photo, I don't know if this is an issue in your painting.

Don

P.S. Yes, I should have cleaned my fingernails before taking the pic!

Last edited by DAK723 : 03-08-2009 at 12:32 PM.
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Old 03-08-2009, 01:55 PM
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Re: ESP - Portrait & Figure Fundamentals - Lesson 4: Backgrounds & Depth

Thank you, guys, this is an interesting discussion! To make things easier, here is the ref! (Sorry I forgot it last night. Really did forget, intended to include it. Stress...)



As you see, I've replaced the toy with the Lamb. Definitely a strong Christian symbol, which in that special exhibition will be completely understood as a symbol of Christ -- even if the lamb is not standing up carrying a little staff in one hoof with a banner with a legend...

Don, thank you for noticing the carefully "vanished" edge of her hair! (Btw, her ponytail isn't this sharp in the painting, accident when I tried to PS colours right.) And the magenta light in her collar glows less IRL, but I'll soften that, as she's rather flat anyway. The back of her neck is also a lost edge.

Her hands: as you see in ref, I'm pretty close to it, and am happy enough with them. (Hands are a pain!) But I will gray the reds around the nails with a bit of green. (Don, your fingernails are *clean*, try using a TL near black with staining pigment.... takes days of scrubbing with a brush to get rid of that.)

Colleen, thank you so much for your comment so full of thoughts, and thoughtful too! 3 objects (clasped hands are attached to girl, but I too regard them as one mass) and none is an obvious focal point, or all are. Three objects = hidden symbol of Trinity. Also, lamb's head has a trianglular form, another hidden symbol. It's volded leg forms another triangle. But so does whole shape of girl. All these were half-intentional.

Don got it (bonus points!). All the elements of contrast, colour and brights and sharps are gathered in that area, because in a way it is the space between them that is the focal point. In the same way as people say that the actual music is between the notes, I'm seeing living faith as a relationship between the human and God. And it is there even if we can't see it, just as light is invisible until it actually hits a surface. (As you know, rays of light reflect on what is in the air, like dustmites, so we can sometimes see rays or shafts of light.) Usually an object or a human is chosen as the focal point, not the space between.

So the focal point is the relationship. The little girl is praying ernestly with her clear bright innocent faith, and she's not aware of, doesnt see the Lamb with her earthly eyes which only at best see a clouded image in a mirror. The Lamb, who lovingly is near her, watches over her, sees her fully and knows her heart.

Then there is a tension between the sweet little lamb and the sweet little girl. The Lord will be/was slaughtered as the sacrificial lamb, the firstborn and only begotten. And the girl will grow up and go forth in her life, and encounter her sorrows and pains and hardships. But this is all very implicitly a parallel (paralell? In Swedish we spell "parallell") to the Lord's commandment to Israel in Egypt, when the tenth catastrophy hits the Egyptians, and .... well, it is all in Exodus. (Yes, I go to Church every Sunday.)

Indeed, quite a lot in a wee painting...

And another factor: I envisioned this painting hanging on the wall in the room of a little girl. So I've painted for children really, not adults. A child may need the subconscious assurance that Somebody will love them no matter what. All precious little girls do not have safe homes, even if they are OK materially.

The thought that it would hang in a child's room is probably part of why the painting is a flirt with Kitsch. I wasn't really conscious of that thought, not until today, when I discovered it had been hovering in the back of my mind.

Colleen, at my present skill-level, I can not make this painting into great art, it is too sweet. I've stayed away from religious images because they are so very difficult. OK, if I could hire models, arrange a scene like the old masters did, dress models in costume, and paint from life, maybe. I'm not that great an artist -- yet! I'm building skill and educating myself as I would like to become such a great artist.

I really appreciate the input and the discussion, thank you so much!

Charlie
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Old 03-08-2009, 03:00 PM
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Re: ESP - Portrait & Figure Fundamentals - Lesson 4: Backgrounds & Depth

Charlie,

Thanks for showing the ref! It brings up a very important point when critiquing...namely, even when you think you know the answer, even when you have learned the answer in books, even when your own observations of a similar situation tell you that your answer is right...you may be wrong! The girl's hands, do indeed, look just like the reference photo!

Don
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Old 03-08-2009, 03:13 PM
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Re: ESP - Portrait & Figure Fundamentals - Lesson 4: Backgrounds & Depth

LOL! Don, it can also be expressed as: Nothing beats observation, paint what you see, not what you think you know.

Actually, I think the wee gal has tucked her thumbs inside her hands, side by side, so her fingers rest in the spaces between the other hand's fingers. That spaces the finger way more evenly. Had she clasped them as you did, with thumbs outisde, her fingers would have converged too.

Charlie
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Old 03-08-2009, 05:26 PM
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Re: ESP - Portrait & Figure Fundamentals - Lesson 4: Backgrounds & Depth

thanks for explaining more Charile, very interesting and revealing,

You can see this kind of thinking about what you are making in a pic has a way of centering your intention, which is what my post was really about. With a more centered intention, one has a better chance of conveying meaning. Although as you say there can be more in a pic than just what we knew we were intending and that is good, and also what we intend will be added to by the viewer....that's what art is!

I see in the pic the hands are rimlit, and so that could easily let you bring a bit more shadow into her left hand, making them more a mass as you say but highlighting them for meaning and connection.....I really didn't want to say you had to do anything at all, but was addressing what you said was your cringe factor Maybe I missed that you were doing this for children

I do think considering what can actually communicate to bring emotion and using our skills to do that, is one thing that lifts any work into art, in that way even kitsch is art, and in fact Od N. ( sorry cant spell his name, famous Nordic artist of incredible talent) started an international kitsch festival, because his work has been criticized as such. Good Luck at the show, it should really be a winner.
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Old 03-08-2009, 07:36 PM
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Re: ESP - Portrait & Figure Fundamentals - Lesson 4: Backgrounds & Depth

Thank you Colleen! Totally love how you got me thinking. When I paint, I'm in a non-verbal zone and many times can't describe what I'm doing. I just know if it "feels" right or wrong. I may "feel" right about something that isn't my most skilled work, and I often don't know more than "it feels right". I'm so happy when someone asks about my intentions! Btw, I cringe less now.

You just have to mean Odd Nerdrum. He's a bit of an enfant terrible, but he paints divinely in a Rembrandt manner. Unfortunately he is a tad too fond of portraying ... er... male anatomy in a provocative way. I've seen one of his earlier exhibitions, with work painted before he got famous, actually, that show was part of what *made* him famous. (Odd is a bona fide Norwegian name, btw. It is only funny in English.)

I'm aiming for that emotion communication you mention, but am still working on handling this medium. I started painting seriously late in life. Sort of, I paint what evokes some kind of emotion in me, but I have yet to think about sending a message.

Painting certainly never becomes dull, as there is always some new aspect to try to master.

Charlie
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Old 03-08-2009, 09:32 PM
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Re: ESP - Portrait & Figure Fundamentals - Lesson 4: Backgrounds & Depth

Yes that's him...amazing painter, and a little rough for me too.
Hope this is not off topic, if so Don just delete

Knowing intention in a work is something I do when I'm just getting connected to why I feel this particular thing is worth painting, and then I reconnect to my purpose somewhat into the work, asking is it still my intention,or has a new one come up if so should I follow it? Then I just paint, but having set an intention lets the subconscious intuitive part make decisions without over analyzing. Sometimes it is just an exercise so who cares, even then you have an intention to learn something so the brain pays special attention to that. Did you know we have an actual physical part of our brain who's job it is to pay attention to what we say is important? It's called the (something) reticulator, so that's why I feel at least considering intention and clarifying it is useful, and it's my experience in a lifetime of art making as well.

This relates to bg because we want the bg to support the themes of our work, and how many wonderful works have you seen with great subjects that have weak bg on WC? I've never seen your bg's not support and relate well to your subjects, and in fact in this one it's just dandy, due to many of the things Don has set out in his great lesson.

Sargent has an amazing array of them and each works as a whole with his main intent, quiet, elegant, dramatic etc I read today a quote in a letter, " I just put a layer of rose over that dark bg and it's much more alive now" this was on a painting he thought was done.

So hope you get my drift, not about over thinking, just thinking through, but not attached in case something better shows up. And a way to view the work aside from the formal elements to asses it now and then as you work, but not both at once
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Old 03-08-2009, 10:09 PM
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Re: ESP - Portrait & Figure Fundamentals - Lesson 4: Backgrounds & Depth

Colleen,

Some very good thoughts and insights into the creative process here! If it's about art and the process, then it is definitely on topic! No reason to even think about deleting!

(I don't have the delete power, only the mods do!)

Don

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