Friday, December 13, 2013

Mermaids in Arizona

Newly sporting a REAL (and very cute, I might add!) baby bump, and enjoying my second trimester energy, I have been on the go since mid-November. As one of my friends said, "That baby's been more places in utero than some people ever go in their lives!" Steve and I had a weekend trip to New York City, where I got to check out Casey Baugh's solo show and spend a whole day at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Just a few days after returning from NY, we headed out again and spent ten days in Arizona. It was only supposed to be an 8-day trip, but the weekend we were to fly back, Dallas and most of the Midwest got blasted by an ice storm, leaving us stranded in sunny Arizona. :-) Okay, so it wasn't a bad place to be stuck.

Here are some pictures from our first weekend in AZ. We hiked in the Grand Canyon and Sedona. The Grand Canyon had a very rare phenomenon taking placed called a "temperature inversion." Usually it's hotter inside the canyon (which is considered desert) than at the rim (mountain), but for some reason this was reversed, causing an enormous cloud to hover over the entire canyon. We had to hike over a mile down before we could see anything below the cloud.

Sedona was a little warmer and sunnier. We enjoyed another hike at Red Rocks State Park.

During our stay in Phoenix, while Steve attended a sales conference, I had the pleasure of attending a 5-day alla prima figure painting workshop with David Shevlino at the Scottsdale Artists School. First of all, I can't say enough good things about the school itself. I took Nancy Guzik's workshop there a couple of years ago, and on this second visit, I was no less impressed with the friendliness of the staff, the quality of the facility, and the wonderful variety and professionalism of the models.

For me, the week was really about playing and experimenting, as David encouraged me to do. I often have trouble thinking outside the box or being truly creative, and this was my completely risk-free chance to go for it. David's style is loose and lives somewhere between the boundaries of realism and abstraction. While I could never go as far as he has with simplifying the figure, there is much I could learn from at least trying it. 

Below: David's demo from day 1. His work is loose but extremely strong - it reads especially well from across the room.

My goal was to learn how to use bigger brushes to paint broader planes, and to paint with looser edges. In five days, I ended up doing 6 or 7 different figure paintings from life, which was both thrilling and exhausting! My favorite of the bunch, though, was one where I reverted a bit more to my usual style, while still trying to keep it loose... and I turned the model into a mermaid. :-) I also had six hours on this pose instead of three, so I had the luxury of time on my side.

Originally, her legs seemed a bit awkward to me from my particular angle. You can see from the progress shot below (I think this was about an hour and a half in) what her legs might have looked like if I left them in that pose. But by this point, I had already made up my mind to make her mermaid, as evidenced by the horizon line for the "ocean" behind her. The model did have a bright blue background behind her, which further helped me envision how the final painting would look.

I worked from the model for six hours, eventually hinting at the mermaid tail and starting to turn her pink cloth-covered elbow rest into a rock. Here is how far I got for the day.

After that, I was on my own. I took the painting home and worked on it from my imagination (something I almost never do!). Thankfully, I had enough experience painting sunlit rocks en plein air that I was able to create some semblance of realism in my imaginary beach scene.

Below is the final painting, with some detail shots. I am really happy with this piece and really enjoyed this chance to let loose a little bit. Oh, and in light of my last blog post, I have started putting copyright watermarks on some of my images. I'm not sure how much that will protect me, but it doesn't hurt to try.

"Mermaid" - 20 x 16" - oil on linen panel - Available


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