The Lady in Red
Someone noticed the mention in the last post of the lady in the red dress being a big favorite, and wondered why it was that she had to go. Sometimes as you work on a painting or the design for a painting, you fall in love with a section and you do everything possible to not destroy that area. Sometimes it is a brushstroke, a color, a pose, or even the way you painted a certain part of the picture. But the more you work on it, you realize you are trying to force everything to fit with that bit, to the detriment of the whole. Then you have to decide to kill your favorite child for the good of the family. Sorry to be so brutal, but it does feel that way at times. It is hard to come to the realization that you can’t sacrifice everything for that one area, no matter how much you love it. It is so difficult that I usually delay the inevitable and try to make excuses, but finally I’ll have to come around. Besides, with the lady in red, I can try to fit her into next year’s poster and she might be perfect at that time.
In this case her posture was so low that she couldn’t fill the space strongly enough to demand the attention I felt the central figure needed. I tried making her bigger, but she was more of a horizontal shape and wound up being cropped too tightly. That’s when it became obvious that what the composition called for was a more vertical pose. This became the center of focus and the surrounding people became the background elements.
Painting a picture for me is a journey. Originally I start out thinking, “This is going to be the greatest painting I have ever done.” Somewhere along the way, I have to admit that I might have painted better things before, but this can still be one of the better ones. I still don’t give up trying though. And that’s where the “lucky accidents” come in. Here I am, trying this, trying that, when all of a sudden something wonderful happens. I go, “Wow!” Now the painting has direction, now it is starting to work. Now almost everything I do to it only adds to making it even better. Once that “lucky accident” occurs, the painting just marches on to completion with no false steps to mislead it. So I suppose you could call it an Aha! Moment, a Flash of Inspiration, or a Leap of Faith, but whatever it is, it definitely isn’t me controlling it. It just happens, and then everything falls into place and I suddenly know where to go from there.
An artist can paint a picture strictly based on knowledge and skill, and it will be a very competent painting, but I don’t believe it will have any soul until that “lucky accident” happens. At least that’s the way it works for me.
Bob — Thanks for sharing some of your creative process with us. As usual your end result is eye-catching and inspired. I certainly relate to the early struggles you describe and the breakthrough you achieved by channeling your inner artist.
One thing I often use for inspiration is to put on some background music that matches the mood I’m trying to capture in the painting. I find that the music guides me to do things that I otherwise wouldn’t have thought to do. (It’s always instrumental — lyrics are too distracting.) I often play the same piece over and over all day. It has never failed to transport me beyond my conscious abilities.
Congratulations on your new blog — please post often! –Dave Johnson