Saturday, October 05, 2013

Penguins - WIP

"Every creator painfully experiences the chasm between his inner vision
and its ultimate expression."
                                                                               - Isaac Bashevis Singer

My lovely models from the Pittsburgh Aviary

This new project was a little daring; I had a week to complete a painting (a good painting), from start to finish, for a show. I'd already finished and tossed a completely different painting that refused to cooperate and now I had to come up with a better idea in a lot less time. I was scrolling through my archive of reference photos and this group of African penguins caught my eye. There was something appealing about their comical, somewhat confused postures and I really enjoy working in a limited palette. Nothing else was inspiring me so I decided to go ahead with this idea.

Detail from value study in colored pencil.

I did a value study first, but as you'll see later I didn't stick to it faithfully and ran into some problems because of it.

I decided to alter the penguin group a bit. In the photo, they are too evenly spaced apart so I clumped three of them together and then turned the fourth penguin away to create a bit of a story ("Do you know where Joe's going?", "No, do you?", "No, I don't know. Do you know?", No I don't.").

Laying in the basic placement and values

One of the challenges I ran into with this painting was that African penguin habitat looks a lot different than what my reference photo showed. I've never been to South Africa where these penguins (sometimes called jackass penguins) are found, but a quick survey of Google Images showed scenes of warm-colored, rounded boulders and strong sunlight. My photos were of pale, angular rocks and diffuse lighting. This is what I get for arbitrarily choosing a subject at the last minute. But it really wasn't that big of a problem - layer by layer I started to round off the rocks and warm up my colors.

Adding more detail, layer after thin layer.

Painting the rocks became downright fun. I would dribble watered-down acrylic on the canvas and then tilt the board in one direction and then another to allow the paint to make random designs, giving the effect of texture and varying color in the rocks. I started thinking about how perhaps I should start a whole series of rock-based paintings and I began to dream of visiting the Canyonlands in Utah. So many rocks I could paint... But the calendar was keeping me from daydreaming too much, and I still had to find a nice (and affordable) frame!

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