Following a start last year, my work has been progressing well on paintings focusing on eye contact. Eventually there will be works of around 8 models, all positioned in similar situations. Models have chosen a number of poses with which they feel comfortable, with the only requirement being that they make eye contact with me as I work. Much harder to achieve than it may at first seem. My task has been to find the essence of their pose and to transfer their “connection” onto the paper.
I have included some photos of the preliminary works building up to the final work. As you can see, I have been starting with the face and eyes for these poses. This area is key to the success of the work, particularly in relationship to the theme I am exploring. Once I am happy that this has been achieved, the rest is (relatively) easier.
Typically works take around 40 – 60 hours to complete, and are usually carried out over about a 6 week period.
I have almost completed the painting below. I will let it “rest” for awhile then revisit it to fine tune before framing.
I have had a burst of energy recently and have started another work. The model has made really strong eye contact, and this has become the real focus of the work. I intend to emphasize this, to some extent, by “washing out” the remaining form of colour/tone, and allow the form to disappear into the background. Please ignore the varying quality of the photos – this reflects the changing light conditions at the time. The final work will be photographed in “normal” light conditions
Final work. Some last minute alterations to the eyes, and some toning refinement
I am really pleased with this final result. The approach of washing out detail has had the desired effect of focusing attention on the eyes.
In addition it has a strengthened the sculptural quality of the form.
What I have found as a result of focusing on the theme of eye contact in this series, is that I am much more aware of the person modeling for me, and each work is developing in a unique way, to express their personality. Which explains the varying character of the works, even though the position, furniture, amount of light, and even the time of day is the same starting point of all works.
This particular pose is characterised by the complex geometry of the form and the quality of light – both soft tones and strong sunlight falling on parts of the form. To make the best of this opportunity I decided to create the painting in monotone, allowing the strength of sculptural form to be more clearly read.
This particular pose of mother and baby is very challenging by the complexity of forms and the need to depict the relationship between the two while including the observer. I chose to set the work in a “classical” setting, and worked on developing a sense of warmth and security in the work. It called on a great level of observation in getting the proportions of the baby correct, and communicating a sense of different skin texture between the two.
This “upside down” composition has certainly been a challenge with the effects of gravity changing the face in particular, with facial features needing to be carefully positioned – I ended up rotating the drawing continuously to ensure that it read correctly when viewed normally as well as upside down. I particularly wanted to maintain the believe-ability of the eye contact.
With the cantilevered and arched form, muscles and form become readjusted to the body’s structure. I particularly like the way that I have managed to capture the rib-cage.
Then I tried to break the form, allowing it to merge into the background. Quite a challenge all up, and highly worthwhile. This work required many preliminary sketches before the final work.
Here I have attempted to capture the transparency and weight of the laced material by the position of light onto and through it, and layering the levels of transparency to reflect the number of folds or layers of material.
The whole arrangement has a classical feel that I feel captures the character of the pose and of the model.
I also like the feeling of space around the model, partially the result of positioning within the drawing, and partially the result of the amount of light entering the composition. I have emphasised the strength of light by allowing the form lose its edges into the greatest areas of light.
AUGUST – 2014. Update. I can confirm that my next exhibition will be at the Sidespace Gallery at the Salamanca Arts Centre, from the 5th to the 17th of February 2014. I still have a number of works to be completed before then, and am working hard to get another 4 or 5 completed for the exhibition – spending a greater amount of time per week on each work to meet this target. Each work takes around 40-60 hours in total, with work varying on the complexity of the drawing/rendering.
I have chosen to draw this work on yellow-based pastel paper to bring out the warmth of the skin tones and hair, and enabling this to flow through to the setting. Colour has also been selected to match the mood.
I have deliberately positioned the model so that there is a large amount of space above and beside her, which allows space for the light “glow” around her. The angle of the background material and arm leads your eyes directly to her face, and her eyes in particular, emphasising the strength of the connection.
Originally I had developed this work showing both the model and environment, however, I reduced the area selected to focus on the geometry of the form, which in turn focuses on the eyes.
This now completes (possibly) the series with the models positioned in the chair, and I now embark on a series of works using a mirror to provide the means of eye contact.
The use of a mirror adds a significant level of complexity and interest, and allows one to be both an observer and participant. It also provides the model with the choice of looking back to the observer or to make contact with themselves.
With this work I particularly wanted to include the “environment” but at the same time did not want to let it dominate the picture, but rather assist in directing your eye to the model’s face.
I have included a drawing of the structural set-up of the work so you can see the reflected face is positioned in the centre of the top third, and on the diagonals that are further enhanced by the position of the arm and chair frame.
The plain back leads your eye to look over the shoulder, and at the reflected image, and the reflected is the part of the work that has most contrast and detail.
I decided, after the previous work that involved lots of detail, and formalised structure that I would reduce the elements down to just the model, the mirror, and the reflection, with the reflection being the focus.
To simplify further I have increased the amount of apparent light to reduce detail and let the form be defined by the eye connecting elements across space.
I think that the simplicity has strengthened the image and suits the contemplative mood of the pose
I started this work sometime ago, with the fine winter’s morning low sun penetrating into the studio, illuminating the model but still having the washed out shadows typical of that time of the year.
It seemed to give the whole pose a somewhat classical illumination, and peaceful atmosphere that I have tried to capture here.
I really enjoyed working on this piece, possibly because of the level of complexity it involved.
Spring has come with bands of sunlight adding warmth and an extra dimension to this pose. The mirror captures almost another world, introducing landscape and sky, and making sense of the shafts of light.
I thought, as the pose was reminiscent of the “mermaid” pose ( in Copenhagen), I would emphasize the folds in the blue blanket folds to represent the waves of water, and the dark blanket to become the rock. The “water” wanders through into the mirror, linking the images, and making an almost circular pattern of form on the paper.
This is the final work of the series, and is now now on its way to be framed! I approached this final work with the aim of simplifying the form and colour palette and emphasising the light, to allow the geometry of the form to show through
I have really enjoyed working on this series, it has developed my observation enormously, but I must say I am now ready for a break after working on the 18 pieces for over two years .
The exhibition of this series will be at the Sidespace Gallery, Salamanca Place, Hobart, from February 5th to 17th, open from 10am to 5pm. The opening celebrations will be be 5pm Thursday 5th February.
I hope to see you there.
Exhibition was very successful with a few paintings sold and a few enquires and possible commissions to follow up.
I am now just catching my breath and preparing for new directions – more to follow