In an earlier post I put up some pictures of the different stages of the painting “Eilidh in Northwest Light”. I mentioned about how I had originally started the painting as a much larger piece, but came to a standstill half way through and painted the smaller head study instead. It had always been at the back of my mind to carry on and finish the first painting but I hadn’t really planned to do it any time soon.
For the last couple of months, since around Christmas, I have been working on paintings for the various London portrait exhibitions, which creep up all at once around this time of year. As usual, I had started something way too ambitious, way too late to have anything finished in time, so after a bit of a panic, I came across the original, half finished Eilidh painting - which I had forgotten about - and decided I could do something with it. I left the painting I was working on (again) and started work on this instead.
It’s always surprising what six months, or even a year of not looking at a painting can do to your perception of it. Looking at something with a “fresh eye” is one thing, but looking at something which you’ve completely forgotten about pretty much makes it like a brand new painting again. I could see it had potential and I knew exactly what I needed to do as soon as I saw it, so got to work straight away. I think that it’s reassuring , and a good measure of advancement, when you can actually pinpoint the exact thing which was causing the problem, and which actually stopped you finishing a painting, and a few months later go back and understand it, paint it, and move past it.
The main issue here was that I had brought the face up to a certain level of finish ,or so I thought, but it still didn’t look finished. It didn’t look particularly like it was existing in three dimensions. It didn’t look convincing. It’s not that it was flat, it just looked “unreal”. And in trying to inject realism into it (but without understanding what it was really lacking), I ended up “overpainting” it, and managed to paint out any kind of expression that had been there. A lot of the problems were solved by a better understanding of colour mixing, more meaningful application of the paint, better drawing and in this case closer attention to the structure of the eyes. And because most of the groundwork was already done, it took a lot less time to inject some life back into it than I had expected.
I managed to finish it just in time, and went about as far as I could go with it. I’ll sort through the photos and put up the pictures in the next post.