Tuesday, April 12, 2016

New Painting; Polar Bear

First layer of color on new painting
I have begun a new painting; the first in a very long time. It's a simple painting set up mostly to be non threatening, non intimidating and fairly easy. It's the first in what I'm going to call my Stepping Stone series, a series of new paintings designed to resurrect my failed artistic confidence and get me enthusiastic, confident and prolific once again. 

A famous artist once said (and I'm paraphrasing) "Behind every masterful artist are a lot of failures". That quote has stuck with me as I've struggled to get back into the game. I briefly considered calling new paintings "failures", but that seemed self defeating. Why declare a work of art a failure before it's even begun? Why bother putting much effort into it if it's destined to be a failure anyway? So, I've settled on considering them stepping stones on the path forward that I'm building for myself.  

Back to that new painting. Some time ago I bought a rather large plastic polar bear at Michaels, intending to use it as a model some day. It seemed like a good place to start with the first stepping stone in my series, a rather easy form to draw as compared to a horse or wolf or human. Stacking a couple of boxes of appropriate size, I set up a still life stand on top of a tray table next to my easel, covered the boxes with a bath towel and placed the polar bear on top, choosing a pleasing angle for his "portrait". 

Envisioning an arctic scene, I toned an 8x10 inch canvas board with thinned Naples Yellow and proceeded to draw the bear directly on the canvas with a brush. The first attempt didn't look quite in proper proportion, so I made some adjustments, painting over the wrong lines and made new ones.

The result looked better, but I wanted to check my accuracy so I did a little trick with the computer. Seated at the easel, I took a photograph of the painting and then took another one of my still life setup being sure to frame the polar bear in the viewer just as it was on the canvas. Next I brought the painting into Photoshop and imported the still life photo on top of it in a new layer. By reducing the opacity of the layer, I could see the painting underneath and just had to move the layer around a bit so that the two bears overlapped nose tip to rump tip. I was dismayed to see that the drawing was still off in some areas although the body length was spot on. 
Drawing with reference superimposed to check for accuracy

I immediately beat myself up for not getting the drawing exactly right and fell into deep despair. Fortunately at that point my Nurturing Parent stepped in to to say, "Wait a minute here, Bucko! Don't be such a perfectionist! Remember, you haven't done very much drawing from life (or still life) since art school 30 years ago. Yes, Yes, we need to do more of this and up our skills at drawing accurately. But for now cut yourself some slack."

I felt better after that and was ready to move forward. Then the next dilemma cropped up. Should I leave the drawing as it was or make another bunch of corrections to match the photograph? Would it be cheating to do the corrections now? I decided that I wouldn't be happy with the painting, knowing the drawing was still off, if I didn't, and so I did. 

Once I had the drawing set and had drawn in a rough landscape, I painted a thin first layer of color over the whole canvas. Shown at the top. It's in what we artists call the "ugly" stage, but that will be remedied in subsequent layers where I will work in more color and detail. 

Early in the process I looked up photos of polar bears and the arctic on Google. So far I'm very happy with the way I caught the diffused winter sunshine of an arctic day and the pristine blue of the arctic waters. 

Thank you for stopping by, and please visit again.