Today I finally started just the very beginning of painting on my new and incredible project! I am starting in on the biggest commission I have ever received to date: a 12 ft x5ft painting commemorating the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sukkot - For this painting I choose to follow in the footsepts of tradition and my painting will be a variation of a painting by Jules Breton: . The 'inspiration piece' for my painting 'Calling the Gleaners Home' - is a beautiful outdoor harvest scene at early sundown, with workers just beginning to be called in from their work of the field. For my painting I will be using Breton's painting as a backbone to work from and changing most of the figures and many other elements of the scene to make it, really, my own painting. This tradition of following in a master's footsteps and using an existing painting as the foundation for your own painting is a long standing practice in many of the art academies of old and is still practiced in many art schools across Europe and Russia. If you study art history it can be very fun to try to 'connect' paintings in this way - trying to match a painting with the one it was inspired by and in many years I hope others have fun figuring out which painting I worked from with this piece as well. I will be having my sisters and family members help pose for my own redition of the figures in this painting. Mine will tell a slightly different story and will be more about 'evening prayer' and the 'prayer of work' than Breton's 'calling of the Gleaners in from work" .
I am so excited about this piece....I have never worked large before with oils - most of my still lifes are very much like a Vermeer - quiet and small, simple in size and style. This thing, in comparison, is a MONSTER! But, oddly, I have no fear and only feel very refreshed and very excited, thirsty deep in my soul to get this sucker out! The hardest part for me in any painting project is beginng. That empty canvas....so much to cover! As someone who loves and thrives on the subtleties and detail of a thing those large initial masses are sometimes a challenge to get through. But, non the less, I have enjoyed this project from the start so far, from building and stretching it to gessoing and toning it with a warm raw sienna, so when I faced it today to put those initial brushstrokes on I have only curiosity....where will this lead? what will it look like in the end? I wonder what will happen NEXT....(in the painting) are some of the thoughts I had when I started in today. I did not get as much as I had hoped today, mainly because of the initial challenge of figuring out how to work that big. However, I am very pleased with the thought processes I had today and feel very clear and certain now of what I am doing tomorrow. I can feel the thing begin to flow in me which is the first step to having it flow out from me. You can see in the photo below both me next to the empty canvas before I even started drawing on it (yes, it is THAT big! almost taller than me! :) Next, the painting by Breton I am 'copying' for this and, lastly, my first big dashes of paint on the surface. The color does not show up here like I wished it would and in reality my painting is lighter and more colorful than it looks below. I was not able to take pictures at the end of my session today as the light was almost gone, but after my session tomorrow I will take more pictures to post.
Tomorrow I will be working the sky primarily and where the skyline meets the treetops. I am facing this entire painting as if it were a real landscape painting. As if I really were out there, under that fading sky in the early evening, the moon just beginning to come through the warm, dying sky....and when I landscape paint I usually ilke to hit a few deep 'notes' on the canvas for contrast and then immediately work the sky. I begin with the sky in landscape painting for several reasons, first, because it dictates what is going on everywhere else. The color of the sky, the color of the light in the sky, is what falls upon everything in nature. By starting your landscape with the sky color you can proceed to mix this color (the color of the light and atmosphere in the sky) into every other mass that is literally 'under the sun' (pardon the pun! :) Mixing your sky and light colors into the main masses of your painting brings a great sense of truthfulness to your landscape. The second reason for beginining with the sky is that it keeps you from gaging your landscape too dark. In nature, there is always more color and light in even the darkest shadows than you originally think. Even though I begin with placing a few dots/ dashes of the darkest tone and shadow in my painting, after I begin to put in the sky I almost always find there needs to be more warth or coolness, depending on the time of day and much more light in my shadows than I had anticipated. So beginning with your sky helps you keep your outdoor painting from becoming too dark and heavy! Take a day this weekend and do a little experiment. Take some paints outdoors and start to paint what you see. You will immediately see what I mean about needing more light and color than you think in the dark areas of your landscape. So tomorrow I begin to work the sky and the skyline. This is important because the color and temperature of your edges (where two objects or planes meet) is important to what is going on inside the masses. If you can figure out the sky and your edges you will be in good shape for the rest of the paitnting. It will probably take three days, total, to get the sky just the way I want it, but I will begin and will be using an old master technique of applying the paint in round-brisk brush movements, trying not to blend at all and only letting the delicacy of the paint application bring the tones together.
I hope you have enjoyed this post and I will be posting more photos along the way!
myself with the canvas! :) (cudos and SUPER abundant thanks to Evan Hildebrant (check out Evan's work on facebook - he ROCK! :) for help building this sucker! :)
Jules Breton - 'Calling the Gleaners In' oil on canvas
putting in the FIRST BRUSHSTROKES OF PAINT. Already you can see that without the sky I am gageing my darks too dark. This is what happens without the light in the sky. Tomorrow you will see an incredible transformation take place when that light begins to come in from the sundown....
have a great weekend! back to the drawing board!