Feeling Blue, 16 x 12 inches, oil on linen
When I get a lot of positive feedback for my "instructional" blog posts, I get into a mindset that all my posts should be instructional. And then I get stuck because I can't think of a lesson that might be interesting to a lot of people. And besides, I've been blogging a long time and it feels like I've pretty much said everything I needed to say. It has become increasingly difficult to come up with anything new to say, especially if it also has to be instructional.
If I waited until I had a great idea to write about, it might be months in-between posts! Forget that, I'll just post a new painting and talk about it. Maybe a few of you might find it interesting.
So this painting is something I started in a figure session. It was initially a B/W study, but I had other colors on my palette, and I accidentally dipped my brush into a pile of Prussian Blue, which looks pretty black out of the tube. I liked the color, so I just went with it.
I used Prussian Blue, White, and Black. the black was used to tame the intensity of the blue, especially in the lighter values. Prussian with just White is just too happy looking, you see.
I painted this in two sessions. I let the first part dry before going back into it, so that I can do some glazing.
If you haven't noticed already, I have a preoccupation with lost edges. Where dark shape meets another dark shape is an obvious place to lose the edge in between, but we can do the same where a light shape meets another light shape, like the white fabric meets her butt, foot, and her knee.
Usually losing edges means simpler design and more impact. Sometimes it results in loss of information, and each time, I need to think about whether that lost information was critical. If so, I have to either put it back in, or find a way to suggest it without being literal. If I decide that the information wasn't necessary, obscuring it or losing it was the right decision.
All around the figure, I try to use a variety of edges combined with value contrasts (or lack there of). Super sharp edges coupled with high value contrast draws the eye the most, but sharp edged can also be combined with closer values to describe a well-defined but less obvious area. A soft edge combined with a variety of value contrasts are also used to manipulate the viewer's eye and to add interest.
Soft edges aren't all the same, either. Some are smooth transitions from light to dark shapes, while others might be a broken edge. Different brushes and tools produce different kind of edges, too.
My point is that there are many ways two shapes can meet, and I like to explore this variety in every painting. I often try different types of edges on one area before deciding what works best.
I usually make decisions on what areas should have the most impact - usually the focal area or some outside contour area that has a beautiful gesture – and make sure that gets a punchy edge; sharp edge combined with big value contrast. Then the rest of the edges must be subordinate to that, so I just start playing with softness and value contrasts to make sure they're less impactful than the focal area.
I'd do the same with color saturation (in terms of manipulating impact) but this painting is monochromatic, so I didn't have to worry about that.
Another "tool" that I consciously employed in this painting (and all my other paintings) is the juxtaposition of relatively noisy and active brushstrokes in the background, against the quieter, smoother application of paint on the figure itself. I'm not using soft brushes so even my tighter areas aren't all that slick, but surrounded by expressive strokes, the figure looks smoother and more "realistic". If you enlarge the image and take a closer look, you can see that my rendering isn't tight at all.
Anyway, I like how it turned out, so I'm doing more with Prussian blue. I'll post a blue cityscape next.