This post will address the technical aspects. The photos aren't the best, but I'll try to talk my way through them. To begin, I started the piece by toning the panel with Earth Red. After that was dried, I started the underpainting with Paynes Gray, White, and Raw Umber. I get fairly detailed in a monochromatic underpainting with the portrait at this stage to set the focus for me. Trying to work out the major details in order to save time in the accuracy department at a later stage.
Next, I go in with local color with the background. This is a quick lay in of the background and her figure to give me a feeling of place. It will likely change over time. I've made sure to keep some of the color of the underpainting visible. The portrait is still staying minimal color.
I continue further with describing things. At this point, I like the streaks of orange as it works with the green, but am not sure how to keep that hot color prominent, without having it move forward too much, instead of reading as distant space. Still thinking realistically. In a loose way. I've spent an appreciable time on the portrait. The colors I've settled on for this one are, burnt sienna, torrit gray, viridian, white, paynes gray.
Now I'm thinking about building texture. There are already 2 layers of paint down, that have dried. I lightly oil out with M. Graham alkyd, and begin with mixing a batch of green using the paynes gray, yellow ochre, white, olive green. Lots of paint, and using my old brushes, and some palette knife work. In addition, I'm still not happy with that orange that now turned into coral somehow. Just like that, as if I weren't looking. I didn't like how I handled the makeshift dress,and decided to simplify it by making it black and nondescript. I scratched a flower stalk of sorts into it, which was fun..but overall, ended the day not being happy with it. I was ready to sit with it to see if it will work come next time.
Well, it didn't. I was really annoyed. It looked too sweet and candy colored. The paint is dry so I lay in a transparent glaze of raw umber to tone down the greens, and bring back the burnt sienna as a glaze over the coral color. It popped the background up some, and overall it was better, but still, eh.. After this stage, I stayed away for several days to clear my mind. This is where I have to break from my tendency to want to render the entire thing realistically, which is what I don't want to do anymore with my work. I had a bit of a tantrum here. Then took this bad photo, sorry.. I chastised myself for even wanting to GO in that abstracted direction, making a difficult thing even more difficult. How you ask? It may look like I'm taking some shortcuts, and I suppose it's true, but honestly, these non descriptive sections of my work are the most challenging. It becomes a dance of sorts. Of trying to balance the realism with the non representation. It either works, or it flops miserably. When it does, you don't know why, or how exactly to 'fix it'.
SO. I collected myself. For the record, each piece I've ever made has moments like this. Doubt. The only way to get through them is to furiously proceed. The worst that can happen is that I ruin a panel. There are worse things in the world. SO, back to it. I decided to do my usual and load up my brush with an offbeat color and drag it across an important section. In this case, the color was a cool gray mixed with the torrit gray, paynes and white. Used a wide brush across the top of her forehead. It looked like one of my veils, and that made me happy. (the meaning behind the veils will be another topic someday) Once I did that, I saw what else to do. Increase the texture on the portrait, and all around. I saw ways to minimize edges, and heighten others. The sky being red also came to mind. Suddenly the coral color I hated earlier wasn't so bad once I put that vibrant red down. It had a place. Then it became another experience. Truly going with the flow and seeing things happen, that I either opted to follow or not. At the end of the day, I had it in a solid place and I left the studio in peace, knowing that just the finishing touches remained.
And here it is. 40x30", oil on panel. ©stankakordic2013