It’s all about the background – Progress report 2

"Creativity can be described as letting go of certainties. " ~ Gail Sheehy, American author and journalist.

working from this photograph

There are so few certainties when I start each painting.

Uncertainties are many as I continue to work on a large canvas featuring my granddaughter as ballerina and using this grainy photograph as my inspiration.

The flowers I had "tested" on each side of the canvas have been removed after I received emails from friends and subscribers when I requested feedback. The consensus was almost unanimous so I painted over them.

Another uncertainty had to do with the background which couldn't remain black even though it is very dark in the photograph.

A friend suggested that I examine some of Degas' ballerinas for ideas. I found two of his paintings with backgrounds including what looked to me like alizarin crimson, raw sienna, burnt umber, yellow ochre, and I think these colours work better than stark black.

I still have a bit of adjusting to do on the background, but I am much happier with the changes I have made.

the background on acrylic painting of ballerina

While the background dried, I returned to the ballerina.

Her face is partly shaded in the photo. The next steps will involve trying various skin tone recipes. The light on the ballerina is tricky. Her forehead and nose are in the light, but her neck and chest and the rest of her face are dark. Somehow, I have to find skin tones that will match the rest of her body and not be too far out of the colour range that we see on her arms and legs.

Rather than trying the recipes on canvas, this time I will use watercolour paper. I feel a lot of trial and error about to happen.

....And probably a few more uncertainties too!

Doubts set in on big canvas painting – progress report 1

"If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends) "Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist? Chances are you are. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death." ~ Steven Pressfield, "The War of Art".

another painting session begins

I wonder if any artist ever feels totally confident? Surely there must be times when the stars properly align, when everything goes smoothly, and the painting is just right?

Being cocky about one's work is just plain obnoxious. But so is excessive self-deprecation. Doubts are just a normal part of growth in any field.

I admit that I have doubts on this large 30 X60 canvas, the largest I have ever undertaken to paint. However, the big surface is a pleasure to work on and allows for large brush strokes and therefore, freedom of movement, and I think more large projects might be in my future.

Since my last post, I have been diligently working on the stage, the central figure, and testing flowers that will break up the horizontal line which is the stage.

The doubts that have set in so far?

I didn't like the roses and I attempted another type of flower although I wouldn't be able to identify it. I first painted it soft pink, (too pale), then added orange (too brash), and white, (a little better), and finally, in the last photo, which is where I left the painting yesterday, I covered it with a white wash.

starting here today

The unidentified flower on the right hand side still needs refinement. I might keep the core part (bud like area) and delete the rest.

The mystery flower is less traditional than roses, and in my mind, a better match for the painting. Let me know what you think. Do you prefer the roses on the left side? The unidentified flower on the right? Maybe you have another suggestion?

I suspect that I have to try other designs. I will leave that for later in the process. Sometimes, procrastination is a good thing!

My next task is to start painting the background. I think this will be another struggle as I try to find a substitute for black (Payne's Grey maybe?). I don't want the colour to be uniform so that will entail more experimentation and of course, more doubts.

Yesterday, I concentrated my efforts on the ballerina adding flesh tones to the limbs and face and working the colours in the dress to suggest folds.

The figure on this canvas is so large that I can allow myself to move from one area of the body to another without smudging any wet paint. I suppose that could be one advantage of working on such a big piece.

This is where I stopped yesterday (see below).

today's progress on large canvas acrylic painting

I am pleased with the ballerina so far, and I really like the stage, the skin tones, and the way her white filmy dress turned out.

I remain optimistic about continuing to work on this canvas. Doubts are present but they are not crippling me. The work continues and I will keep you posted!

A big blank canvas is always daunting

"Unless you put yourself on the line and give it your best shot, you'll never know what you could achieve." ~ Paula Radcliffe, marathon world record holder from Great Britain.

 Daunting big blank canvas 30 x 60

There are no guarantees in art. Each stroke of paint, each mark might result in disaster of colour or proportion or conversely, it could improve the work and bring about greater beauty. Artists speak of many trashed paintings on the road to their one successful painting. And so I understand what it means to be putting "yourself on the line."

Growth (or achievements) in any endeavour can only occur if one is willing to accept challenges and be on that line.

All winter, this 30 x 60 canvas has been waiting outside the art room. The canvas is too big for any of the easels I own so I will work on it propped up on the table in my art room.

For a few years, I have had something in mind for this canvas so last summer, I gave it a base coat of black acrylic paint thinking I would work on it over the winter.

Filling a canvas that size is daunting. As time went along, other projects kept me busy and I procrastinated starting work on this large surface. And thank goodness I did because I was recently inspired by a photo I found of my oldest granddaughter at her dance show.

She is the subject to be painted on the canvas.

Initial measurements on 30 by 60 canvas

As I have never worked on such a large surface, it was important to get the correct proportions right from the beginning. Out came the ruler followed by a sheet rock T square. Head, torso, legs, were all measured out before any paint was applied.

initial sketch on 30 by 60 blank canvas

At this point, my greatest concern is whether or not I have left too much blank space around her. I have to leave room for the stage at the bottom and that might change the look of the piece once it is added to the canvas.

Here she is with her body partly gessoed and roses lightly sketched on one side. I will be testing different flowers and deciding the type and colours that will be most suitable before proceeding too far along.

I like the idea of breaking up the stage and not having it run from one edge to the other. I have a possible title for the painting and the flowers on the sides would work with it.

underpainting for large canvas

Painting is putting myself on the line, and blogging is doubly so. Sharing the work that I attempt or that I complete and writing about it is always a bit of a risk. After all, both are lonely activities that I pursue in my art room each day and then publishing a post allows everyone to see my vulnerabilities.

Those of you who get to the end of my posts, (thank you so much for your understanding) or who have been in contact with me on social media sites or elsewhere, realize that I am not always happy with the outcome. However, I must let go and move on.

Each challenge, each decision is part of the journey I have undertaken in the last two years. Putting myself on the line means that I will give it my best try, and accept that where I am today as an artist is not where I will be tomorrow, or next month, or next year.

What challenges have you accepted lately? How have you "put yourself on the line"?