Just after the new year began, the fetching Mrs. Slemons and I took a trip to LA. One day we were down along the theatre district and wandered into an indoor food market. This place carries baked goods as well fresh fruit and veggies. And there was a lot of foot traffic which can offer up some pretty good photo ops. At one point while I was waiting around I noticed a gentlemen who was picking out some fruit. Quick as I could I got some shots. The vender came out to talk to him and it seemed as if he was a regular. The two of them together made for a great scene but due to passerby’s the camera never got a decent opportunity to capitalize. So this was all could get. But I really liked it and I had a good feeling about at the time. There was something to say here. Was this his weekly visit to get his allotted amount of oranges? Was he having seconds thoughts and wanted apples instead, maybe? Did he live alone or was there someone to share this bounty with? I will never know, but it is my job to communicate clearly what I do want to say about him and his purchase. A writer friend of mine strongly adheres to his belief that great art has to emote clearly a distinct emotion. To a point I believe that, but part of me still feels that the viewer will still interpret what he sees in his own fashion. How he extrapolates what I put on the canvas, at some point, is no longer in my control. I may be wrong with this particular stance but that’s where I am currently. With more paintings under my belt in the future perhaps I will have a stronger grasp on this particular aspect of picture making. Anyway, I did a nice 9×12 of this image and I thought I would attempt to do a larger canvas of the same. So let’s see how that turned out.
The Painting Process
I usually paint on linen that is glued to gatorboard. Linen comes in a variety of textures. The weave is fairly tight on what use here. It’s not as rough as say a duck canvas. Rather than paint on the harsh white of the linen I put down a wash of Red Iron Oxide to soften it up. Plus it will pick up a bit when you begin applying the paint which yields some nice results. It also looks nicer when the paint breaks in areas and parts of the naked canvas remains exposed. Usually in my case that isn’t an issue because by the end I’ve painted so thick that there’s not much area left that hasn’t been covered.
Anyway, the focal point of the painting is going to be the man so I loosely paint a shape representing him. I’m not concerned with all the miscellaneous details that surround him. As long as I have a good idea where he is going to be on the canvas and the general placement of the cabinet in front of him, I’m good. Everything else will just fall into place in their own time. It’s important to note something about painting from a photo. First off, it lies. It’s just a reference tool and not to be taken literally. The color and temperatures are off and it’s easy to get into the bad habit of trying to get in every inch of detail. I’ve give my self a time frame to adhere to and try to just capture the important stuff and dismiss the rest. I haven’t mastered this. Painting from life is the best way to go. Obviously there are situations where that can’t be done. Like a fella shopping in a market, for instance.
After I paint in some of the other shapes around the figure I concentrate on getting the man’s face put in. I try to see the face and any other object as a shape. I paint in the shape of the ear. I paint the shape that will be the nose. So on and so forth. When the ear shape, for example, is correct I will paint the smaller that are there and when completed, we have an ear. Once the head is cut out as accurately as I can get it I will use it as a way to measure accurately the proportions for the rest of the figure
Unfortunately, I just noticed I didn’t shoot those stages, so there isn’t thing to show of the hands and oranges being put in. I’m gonna have to do better the next time I put up a oil painting post. Here I have blocked in more of the background. With the focal point put in, it is pretty much downhill at this point.
Here I have put in the foreground and a good portion of the background shapes. There are a lot of fluorescent lighting as well as the green neon lighting. It all makes for an interesting atmosphere. I see lots of green and blues reflected in the metals
and other surfaces.
The fruit piles and some of the shapes in the background I want to use to emphasize the man. The bunches of fruit I will try to simplify. They are basically reds and yellows. Now that I’m looking at it I probably should have made it one or two shapes. That’s one of the problems with going of a photo. One can spend too much time noodling over this type thing. In the field that wouldn’t happen. You would put it down and move on.
The background shapes and the rest have pretty much been put in place. Best to leave things alone now, unless there is a glaring problem that needs to be taken care of. Like a piece of color that is the wrong temperature for instance. You will notice in the final that the lamps above are not the same color or temperature. The light above the man is rendered the brightest. In life, if you were watching him and only him, nothing else would be in focus in the same fashion as the model. Therefore the lights are rendered in cooler colors and temperatures because the man is the focal point. Make sense?
Well anyway, 5 or so hours later, this is the end result. There were some quick tweaks I did here and there after the fact. Things like the softening of edges or scumbling some color which is easier to do once the paint has dried for a few hours. I think I like the smaller version better. There’s more of a sense of immediacy about it. That’s the way it goes. Every painting is a new set of problems that have to be solved. The second time around with this image and at a bigger size created different issues to be grappled with. The trick is to figure how to solve them at the time of executing the piece. Sometimes that seems easier to do after the fact. At any rate, it’s done and that’s a wrap, kids.