Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Falling In Love With Love

Everybody knows a "Debi".  She was engaged to be married to Doug, who was a real nice guy.  But the concept of a lifetime of marriage and devotion never entered into Debi's head.  We all knew what she was more in love with:

The Wedding.

Every topic of conversation was a kick-start for her to bring up The Wedding.  "Gee, I hope it's not raining like this on The Wedding!"  Or, "Oh, I hope it's a beautiful day like this for The Wedding!"  She talked non-stop about the planning of The Wedding;  What napkins to order, the flowers the bridesmaids would use, the invitations, the booze at the reception-- it was all about The Wedding.

Forty-eight months after The Wedding came the inevitable Divorce.

I will admit that when it comes to planning paintings, I am Debi times ten.  I thoroughly enjoy doing prep sketches.  I relish dwelling over the design.  I delight in thinking about how great I can make my idea.  It's not the marriage that's exciting, it's The Wedding!  Anyway, it's OK to snap a photo of a nice scene and make a painting from it, but I have to say my passion is to try and make a realistic painting from my imagination.  It's not easy, and it takes a ton of planning and preparation, but that's why I love it.  Take the picture I'm working on now, for instance.

I love history.  The vast majority of my landscapes might be scenes from today, but I hardly ever put modern elements in them.  I'm the old barn, rock wall and open field kind of guy.  Could it be today, or one hundred years ago?  Every once in a while I get the itch to do a straight-up historical picture.  I've wanted to paint a farmer haying a field for quite some time.  I would look longingly at my antique hay scythe and try to drum up an idea, but no luck.  Last week as I was finishing up a painting, the idea came to me.  I set up a mirror, grabbed my scythe and did this:

In case you don't know what this is, it's a guy haying a field with a scythe.  My idea was to have a semi-worms eye view of this guy coming at you silhouetted by the clouds of a hot summer day.  This sketch grabbed my attention.  I then went to the interweb to view videos of people scything hay so I could be sure I got the posture correct. 
Yes, everything is on the web!
Realizing that my mirror image had put my man in the wrong direction, I just reversed the photo to this because a right-handed hayer will throw the hay over to his left:

OK, now I needed someone to pose for me so I could get the proper view.  Often, I will take a photo of me posing, but I knew the camera perspective wasn't going to be as accurate as I needed it to be.  So I used my buddy Jim:

I did use photos (obviously) for wrinkles and such, because Jim's old, arthritic back wasn't up for long poses.  I did do a thorough drawing of him, though.  He thinks I made him look fat, but I reminded him that charcoal adds twenty pounds...  So anyway, putting all the info together, I drew up a 12X12 inch preparatory drawing:

I used all that planning and design stuff on this.  I want the clouds to kind of swoop down to the blade in the lower right corner.  I intend to give the blade a sparkling sun-glint, so I put a far off stand of dark trees behind it to make it more obvious.  I love doing these drawings because I can monkey with them to my hearts content.  If the whole thing blows up in my face, all I've lost is a piece of paper and cheap charcoal. 

The painting will measure 24X24inches.  So I needed to size the drawing up to get it on the canvas.  Lucky for me, I have a large screen HDTV in my studio I use as a monitor for my computer.  It has a 37inch screen, so I took a photo of my drawing, then blew it up on the screen to 24inches.  From there, I took some tracing paper and copied the drawing.

After that was done, I smeared soft charcoal all over the back of the tracing, then re-copied the whole thing onto the canvas.

I gridded the whole thing so my reference points would line up correctly.  Taking a break from all that, I also took a moment to do a quick color sketch.

Sure, it may not look like much, but it gave me a good idea of how I want to approach my color scheme. 

Now that I had the drawing lightly traced onto the canvas, I went back over it and redefined the entire thing.  I tweaked a leg here, I changed the scythe a scosh, and I noodled the sky a tad bit.  Now the canvas looks like this all ready for paint!

Now that the planning is just about done, the next thing is the walking down the aisle.  I know everything is going to be perfect and just like I always dreamed!

Just like Debi's Wedding...


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