Thursday, December 6, 2012

Pond's Edge in Progress

A while ago on this blog I posted a pic of my hot off the press last ever painting of Lucie, my favourite model from Toronto.  Since then I've decided that the title "Last Lucie" will make sense to approximately zero collectors, so I've started calling it "Pond's Edge," which will hopefully suppress people from asking me what is going on in the background.  I think that the title of a painting should either answer a question or cause a viewer to ask a question.  Otherwise you end up with stupid titles, like "Solitude III" or "Serendipity in Blue."

Drybrush.  Yawn.  This stuff must get so boring for you readers.

This painting was a little improptu.  Instead of starting with a concept and moving onto a photo shoot, I used some existing references that were just captivating.  The result is that I was freed up to focus on visual effects.  No fussing about anything else.

So I started this painting with the attitude that I was going to focus not so much on a complicated design or concept, but rather on doing something different with my materials.  I had this realization that I don't paint anything like the artists that I really admire, so my goal was to try to get closer to painting the way I really want to.  I've sort of been painting the way that I naturally paint up until now, without trying to push myself out of my comfort zone.

I definitely struggled with Lucie's face for a bit (as usual).  My mum pointed out once that truly beautiful people tend to have something really unusual about their faces.  Like Julia Roberts's cavernous grand canyon mouth or Brooke Shields's caterpillar eyebrows.  Lucie has these soulful eyes that look enormous, but are actually normal sized.  Throws me off every time.  The eyes are the first and last thing I paint and I can never get them right.  I recently painted a couple of girls who are not Lucie, and holy crap was it easy to get their faces looking right.

I decided I really wanted to experiment with a tight face and a loose background.  I hate backgrounds.  Trying to tuck a landscape in behind someone is lame.  I was trying to come up with a way of doing it that I really loved.

Painting with warms and cools, transparency and opacity to get the hair just right.

Right around now I took a break for lunch and read this while I wrapped myself around some bacon and eggs:

"In particular, another 'ism', Symbolism...has turned out to be more and more useful as an umbrella term to describe those strange new currents that began to emerge in the 1880s and that would reach their peak, on both sides of the Atlantic, by the turn of the century.  The drift was inward, a rejection of the external world that could be verified by touch our sight in favor of experiences that could be felt or dreamed in a terrain hovering between twilight and the deepest mysteries of sleep or myth...Whether in Moscow or Prague, London or Milan, Brussels or Barcelona, artists would shut their eyes in order to open the floodgates of feeling and imagination."

(Italics my own)

Wow.  If a blurb like that doesn't make you want to luxuriate in smokey, moody painting effects, I don't know what would.  There are very few things that get me excited about painting, apart from painting itself.  Usually anything an art historian or critic has to say about art pisses me off.  But just reading that made me think, "Wow, I want to be an artist when I grow up.  Wait, I am an artist!!"

"Mystery, as in a spiritualist seance, could best be conjured up by an ambience of haze, a milieu closer to reverie and sleep, where smoky phantoms appear and vanish as in a hallucination."

Damn!  I gobbled down my lunch and went back to the easel.

That background is my version of shutting my eyes in order to better see.

I've oiled in the whole shawl area, plus a margin of hair so that I can work into the shadowy areas between ringlets just enough to integrate the two areas.

Shawl in place

 Finished.  The last touch was to anchor her hovering head with a neck.

And here is a close up of the flesh tones.  They are much more broken than usual.  Drifting closer to how I want to paint.


We're not all fancy like at Underpaintings, which is real art journalism, so I don't know how to do the sophisticated little number trick.  The passage I quoted was an introduction by Robert Rosenblum for Eugene Carriere by Robert Bantens.


  1. Thank you Kate, for the in-process shots. I enjoy seeing how other artists go about their work. Lovely work!

  2. Beautiful! And, I love the watery reflections in the background.

  3. Beautiful and fitting tribute to your last painting of Lucie.
    Masterfully done.

  4. Yes - Superscript is what separates the amateurs from the fancy-pants, pseudo-professionals.

    Thanks for demo, but why are you picking on my painting, "Solitude in Blue"?

    1. Shiiiiiit...I opened my mouth wide and my foot flew in.

  5. Ha ha. I think it's funny that other people find that my children are difficult souls. I always regard Lucie's big-eyed stare with great trepidation. Your paintings of her frighten me. Such a well protrayed expression of her darker moods made more powerful through your creative direction.