Over the weekend I met up with fellow guild members J Edward Neill and John McGuire to discuss a project. During the course of our lunch meeting J Edward asked me how I’d developed the idea for my latest work in progress, Her Domain. I believe my initial response was a small snicker. My imagination can be a bit chaotic, at least from where I stand. It always begins with a spark, then the idea grows like a film in my mind and last the most difficult part of all must happen–the execution. Nearly all of my personal paintings develop this way, but let’s take a closer look at Her Domain.
Here’s my current progress:
The spark is often something I’ve seen. It’s like a trigger. The seed takes root and from that seed the idea grows. The spark for Her Domain was this photograph by Mark Walton featuring deviantART artist TheRedBamboo:
I was immediately entranced by this image. I envisioned her submerged in a small pond or river, the bones of her victims beneath her body. <– That’s how my mind works. I see more than what anyone might see at first glance. It’s like a domino effect. The story grows in my mind like a dream. I do not only see the painting, I feel the painting.
Ideas like this one are a never ending stream in my world. I found the above photograph in April of this year. I rotated the image, made a quick sketch, and then refocused on whatever I was painting at the time. When I returned to the sketch early this month the idea was still fresh, but now it needed to be developed. I began working on a more detailed sketch:
As I hope you can see, the original photograph was only a starting point–the spark–the idea involved more elements to be added. The basis of any good painting begins with a good drawing. Because I was expanding out from the initial image I was going to need more reference shots. I needed to know what the shoulders would look like when I angled the arm and hand in front of the figure. Guessing would only create something that looked wrong. So, I held a mini photo shoot in my studio.
I took these photos with my iPhone, leaning back in my office chair. Yes, I did feel a bit silly, but my muse demanded I get this right. At this stage I’m still in the Idea phase. I went back to my sketch with my new reference shots to work out the kinks.
The final phase is where the real work begins–taking the idea in my mind and giving it life. When I begin painting I have just a sketch, but when I look at the sketch I already see colors, tones, shadows, ripples of light, etc. The execution is making those a reality. When you compare the final painting to the spark, you may only see an echo of the original photograph. Through the idea and the execution I’ve created something different, something of my own.
How long does it take me to finish a painting? It depends on the complexity but usually it’s anywhere from 1 week to 4 weeks.
Here are a few more before’s and after’s, the spark and the execution:
The Price of Magic