Sunday, February 3, 2013

"Glass Sparrow" - Inspiration & Progression

My recent painting, "The Glass Sparrow", was inspired by a piece I saw at the Meadows Museum of Art at SMU. It was part of the special Diego Velazquez exhibit that I was fortunate enough to attend just before it closed. The piece that really grabbed me was called "Female Figure (Sibyl with Tabula Rasa)". It wasn't the subject matter that attracted me, but rather, the abstract value pattern. An abstract value pattern is what the image would look like if it were broken down into its simplest shapes and values, so essentially, what you would see if you were squinting at it from far away. A successful AVP will draw you in from across the room and make you want to look closer - and that is exactly what this painting did for me. I loved the square composition, the perfect diagonal 50/50 division of light and dark, and the fact that the figure's face was slightly obscured by shadow.

"Female Figure (Sibyl with Tabula Rasa)" c. 1648, by Diego Velazquez

I did a very quick thumbnail sketch of the painting while I was at the museum, and went home with an idea for my own take on that exciting composition.

After two 3-hour sessions with a live model, I finished "The Glass Sparrow." Below are some shots of the progression of this painting.

Though there are many "formulas" that I draw from for starting a painting, I look at each new piece as an experiment, approaching it differently from the last. This is partly because of the uniqueness of the subject matter and lighting, but also because I simply love to try new things. The last thing I want is for all of my paintings to look identical!

With this painting, I started by lightly blocking in the main overall shape that I wanted, making sure that both the model's head and hands would fit on the 16 x 15" canvas. Then I dove in with color, taking an alla prima approach to it, and trying my best to get accurate colors and values from the very start. After that, I began pushing the paint around and "chiselling" out the features - going back and forth between background and subject - until the likeness emerged.

Eventually, I had to decide whether or not I wanted to make the background uniform or more contrasty (as in the Velazquez piece). I decided that for this painting, more uniformity was required, but still with interesting brushwork that helps direct the eye and give the piece a feeling of motion.

Here it is, finished. Besides the interesting composition, there is some symbolism in this piece. The bird and the nudity are both symbols of vulnerability (a theme I have been exploring a lot lately with my figure paintings). I drew from this particular model's experience for the development of the painting. Like all of us, she has had some challenges in her life, and the painting represents a turning point where she is ready to be open and vulnerable again.

"The Glass Sparrow" - 16x15" - oil on linen panel - Available

By the way, I just found out that this piece has been accepted into the Greenhouse Gallery of Fine Art's 12th Annual Salon International! It will be on display from April 13-May 3, 2013 in San Antonio, TX. Click here for more information.



  1. I'm not surprised it was accepted, it's fantastic.

  2. Lovely work! As a fellow artist I look forward to seeing more!

  3. Hello.
    I am a Japanese painter.
    It is very interesting to watch the process of your painting for me.
    Thank you.
    If you like
    Please visit my blog.


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