(L:) "Bluebeads" 5x7" Oils on treated paper (detail view | purchase info)
This headdress-series has been an enjoyable exploration with no end in mind. "Golden" and "Silver" were birthed at the same time, with the same format and goals. The next two were paired together and became "The Balance of Power." So these seem to develop in pairs for some reason. I like paintings that have conversations between themselves. I've said before that I also enjoy variations on a theme. This series has also been enjoyable for being fairly spontaneous. Mostly, they've been about simply creating lovely objects, art for art's sake I suppose. With "The Balance of Power" I departed a bit, and decided to put a bit more message into it, but at its heart was the same aesthetic thrust.
"Bluebeads" continues in the original vein, and painted at 5x7", even smaller than the first pair, has a nice gem-like quality about it that pleases me. When I painted the first pair, at 8x10" I was a little sad that I'd painted them so small. I liked them, but we often have a bigger-is-better mentality with art, born in no small part from the physical impact that original paintings have when you view them. The giant ones rock you like a hurricane. That's a different experience altogether from looking at a gem, or a small bird. I think I've embraced this aspect a bit. I thought going in that I might really regret not doing this at 16x20" or so, with the head at 3/4 scale of whatever. Now that I've done it, I don't. Viewed on an iPad in horizontal view, the detail view is nearly actual size!
"Bluebeads" had its genesis months ago. Back in September I blogged about a whirlwind trip I took. There's a photo there of me working at Ben Thompson's studio. Now that story can be told.
Just before leaving NYC I took some reference photos for what would be this painting. I'd done my thumbnails, although to be honest I had not really worked out the costuming very in-depth. I packed my brushes and headed out. I was greatly looking forward to a couple of days painting at Ben's house. This small 5x7" was the perfect size for such travel.
I hadn't done any preliminary drawing or anything, and this piece moved quickly and almost effortlessly. It was probably due to the great time I was having. I arrived in SoCal, and within a couple of hours sat down, borrowed Ben's paints, set out my reference and got to work. Eschewing my usual methods, I just started doing the drawing with straight paint, skipping the pencil stage entirely. Within just a few hours I had a mostly finished underpainting rendered in Mars Violet, and then it was time for dinner with Daren and Tom, as mentioned, who came over to Ben's and had a look-see at what we were doing. Later that night we got back to work and I finished up the underpainting (at left).
Day 2 was a blur of non-stop painting, coffee and music. I painted the head and hands and began working on the bead work. I borrowed every blue and turquoise he had and mixed them up to get more variety than I might've had otherwise. It was probably my single most productive day in recent memory.
(L:) End of day 1 (R:) End of my stay at Ben's
Day 3 was really a half-day as I flew out early that evening. But at the end of it I was most of the way through, though I had more beads to paint. And that was that for this painting, because upon returning home I had to get going on other projects.
A few months later I pulled it out again and worked on it some more. Immediately I was unhappy with the value structure, which was too focused on the filigree in the headdress, too stark. So I repainted the background, and then did a little more work on the skin tones to adjust. Then it went back in the drawer for awhile longer, since I was working on it in and around projects still. The next time I had an opportunity, I pulled it out and just finished up the beads finally.
And so here it is. Oh, and hey, it was also selected for publication in this year's Spectrum 20 book!
You may have noticed what I said above, that these pieces usually come in pairs....Yeah, about that....