Painting of Elia at Play

Portrait of Elia at Play :: Oil on linen - 14 x 14 inches

Portrait of Elia at Play :: Oil on linen - 14 x 14 inches

I love painting people! It’s my opportunity to spend time with, and bring into being a fragment of the human experience that can be examined and appreciated. And even further, the opportunity to put on a pedestal the experiences that trigger emotions from both precious and critical moments in our lives. I think it can be said that every portrait artist is looking for that special commission. There was something quite magical about this one.

This work opened up the opportunity to explore most of what I like about portrait painting from almost every angle; Intense light and shadow, dancing warms and cools, and communicative gesture in the subject make this a wonderfully balanced piece. In the technique itself, it was necessary to display a sense of craftsmanship and spontaneity all at once. The brush strokes are assured, yet playful. My attempt was to keep the background soft and feathery, while pushing the subject forward with bolder strokes. This was not easy as it was quite dark. I handled the shadows differently than I normally would with the shadows of a face for instance, which I often leave slightly transparent and lacking in detail to suggestively separate it from the light plane. The extraordinary contrasts forced me to “push” the background with denser paint, although I compensated with thicker strokes for the subject and foreground elements to achieve my goal. On the topic of color, I do not often use yellows for their own sake, but I enjoyed integrating them slightly. They are not prominent in this painting, as they are in my gorse bush study, but much is mixed into the greens, and offers a pleasant lushness to the light in the trees. It’s as if you can feel the warmth of the mid-day sun sprinkling through the cooler shadows. My favorite aspect of this painting is the subject (Elia) leaning and passing through both light and shade. Truly immersed. 

This was the perfect reference. Painting from life is always preferable, however it is difficult to capture and deliver the "decisive moment" that can be snatched by a photograph such as the one I worked from. I am truly glad I captured that thin slice of time and perspective in paint, and perhaps gave it something more than it could have been otherwise. In this moment, young Elia is caught with a seemingly mature sense of reflection and contentment surrounding her play. A moment of true enjoyment. You could linger in it forever. I’m very proud of this one.

 

Thoughts on painting studies :: Scotland

Composition study for painting inspired by Scotland . Charcoal on paper. 18 x 12 inches. 

Composition study for painting inspired by Scotland. Charcoal on paper. 18 x 12 inches. 

Wild Gorse Study . Oil on board. 12 x 12 inches.

Wild Gorse Study. Oil on board. 12 x 12 inches.

I had to pinch myself upon my first arrival to Glencoe. As the roads north of Glasgow winded broader into the foothills of the highlands, I was stunned. My eyes never able to stop moving, I scanned the soft greenish-brown winter landscape that began slowly wrapping around me. The rise and fall of the earth changed like a moving organism, with some parts sloping gently up from the moors, and others jagged and wild. All the elements of design and balance were in place. In Scotland, on the west coast, it never really gets much colder than 30 degrees Fahrenheit. It always seems to hover around 36-40 when I am there anytime between November and January. But it does rain quite a lot - the sun scarcely seen. The land is wet, lush, and calm… Sometimes. I love how it all seems to change so quickly. One minute the sky can be marbled black and heavy, dispensing a torrent of watery sheets, and then quietly disperse only 30 minutes later, leaving a timidly low sun and a curiously faint, almost non-existent rain the Scots call smirr (end with an “r tap” of the tongue). It’s hard to dress for the day, as you can run into a variety of weather in just a few hours!

I am forever charmed by the harmonies of Scotland. The Thistle, the national flower, is an emblem of pride for the Scottish. Beautiful and dangerous - unable to be uprooted. But I often like to think about the sprawl of wild gorse instead. Nothing quite like visiting the sea with my lover. The gorse grows thick near the shore by Dunure Castle in Ayrshire. The scent of salty coconut in the breeze that blows over the spiny bushes of radiant yellow blooms is the stuff of dreams. She is like Scotland.