Tuesday, May 12, 2009

My Process with "Seal Rocks"

This is the original photograph I based the painting on. It is from an on-line exhibit of photographs taken in 1940 by the WPA for the purpose of promoting tourism in Oregon. The exhibit on the Oregon State Archives website on the "Web Exhibits" page. This is a wonderful resource of publicly owned images that are free for us all to use (though they do ask that we annotate them so that others may know where to access them) "Seal Rocks, #2413.
To access this resource: http://arcweb.sos.or.us

This is a shot of the initial drawing for the painting. It is 22"X28", on birch panel. I am trying to emphasize the strong "frame within a frame" composition of the image by assertively drawing the trees in the foreground from the start.

Here you can see I am trying to figure out how the person in the photo is sitting. I have drawn an inverted triangle where I believe her tailbone is. The positioning of the tailbone, shoulders and spine is integral to making her "believable" in the finished piece.
Then I draw the rocks by using geometric shapes. This makes it visually interesting, and it also helps make the rocks "exist in space" which gives the piece a feeling of solidarity and reality.

I start to lay on some color, going slowly to assess the effect they have, and in attempt to keep the wood showing through as much as possible.

Here I have most of the color worked out. But something is bothering me. So after a while of experimenting , sitting and staring, (a very important thing to remember to do -- stop, sit back and let your intuition talk to you!) I realize that part of it is the hard horizon that chops the composition in half.
Whenever a figure appears in an image, we as viewers are naturally drawn to it. I wanted to emphasis the landscape over the figure, so I softened the horizon, and made the colors in the figure similar to those surrounding her, so that she would blend in.
The result is a softness that counterbalances the strong, graphic lines of the trees and the "frame within a frame".