From 2005, a gallery stretched painting titled "Bellyrub," starring one of my original studio muses, a rescued and timid calico named Turtledove. I couldn't find a record of how large this piece is, but I honestly didn't dig for that long. I'm guessing it was approximately an 18" x 24" gallery stretched canvas.
Continuing yesterday's walk down memory lane, this week I'm sharing old pieces and talking about what I would do differently today. Here is a rather shockingly bad painting, and a few thoughts about how I would improve upon it.
But oh boy, does It burn my eyes to look at this one.
1. Can you tell this was a flash photo reference? Hard shadows that do not indicate a light source, a "hot spot" of white on her belly, large unnatural reflections in her eyes, and no detail/depth in the shadows. And look at how flat the colors are - there is very little modeling inside her markings.
2. It is dangerous to allow your love for your subject to overshadow a critical (and necessary) assessment. For instance, each of her paws/legs are of differing thicknesses and lengths. There's no way she could have walked about, given how I've drawn her. But all I saw when painting was her sweet face, and I didn't bother to really assess the rest of the painting.
3. I wanted to paint a sisal rug, but instead of finding one to actually look at, I imagined it in my head. Now mind you, I have no visual memory of sisal rugs to pull upon, have never owned one or lived in a home that had one. I just liked the idea and made it happen without investing in research first. Can I also add that globby paint never equals gestural brushmarks?
4. Every single edge is hard. There's no variety in brushwork here, and that creates a boring image. Look at Sargent's work, and study how he uses hard and soft edges to add interest.
5. Ok, so I've been a little harsh. Let's talk about what does work - the composition is nicely balanced. There is an "X" created with the shape of her body against the pattern in the rug, and that extended paw creates a nice little tension to the balance. Her markings dance in an abstract pattern (squint down to see) and accent her face while gently forming the shape of her body. And the stripes of the rug, while poorly painted, are an important element to keeping her form from sliding off the bottom edge.
I assure you that at the time I made this painting, I thought it was the bomb. It hung in a place of honor in our home for quite some time. It wasn't until I LEARNED about painting from life (and the hazards of photos and assumptions) that I began to see shortcomings in this piece.
Which is the hallmark of a growing artist - becoming disillusioned with works you've previously done. That is the price of steadily growing better.
Thanks, as always, for following along with my artwork,