Below are in progress details of the study for the “Emily in flowers” painting, which, hopefully I will begin by the end of the summer. This will be a challenge for me in many ways. I am working from a combination of about 35 photos, graphite and charcoal tonal studies of the model and, once they bloom, actual life studies of hydrangeas from my garden. Because I am working from so many sources, I have to be careful not to make things look pieced together. This is much more difficult than working from a single reference photo. Secondly, pairing Emily’s body with such an abundance of complex and intricately detailed flowers is, in itself, challenging. Although the painting is more about the flowers than Emily, I still want her presence to capture the attention of viewers. The flowers will be painted in a trompe l’oeil style. Strong splashes of light will dance upon the complexity of shapes and textures, adding a range of brightly contrasted colors and luminous, deep shadows. All of this will create crazy, chaotic patterns, in which Emily’s soft, creamy flesh tones will quietly emerge.
This study is very in depth. I want every detail to be carefully planned in this stage, so that I can project and trace this onto the life-size, 90 x 36 inch wooden panel that I have prepared. The drawing ultimately should mimic the same boldness of color that the painting will eventually have. In order to achieve this, I am combining several mediums. The initial layer for each bouquet of flowers was applied with a soft pastel, and smoothed out with a tortillon. These initial layers have a light to mid-tone value. Next, I worked in darker, more saturated variations of color with both Pitt pastel pencils and Derwent colored pencils sharpened to a fine point. If colors need to be toned down or darkened further, I use a mechanical pencil with black lead. Finally, to give it that extra punch of contrast, I stippled over the darkest shadows with a Micron black ink pen. Emily will be left in a tonal stage, so as not to compete with the flowers. In the painting her flesh tones will be limited to neutral warms and cools, much like Bouguereau’s figures, although I wouldn’t dream of comparing my figures to his.
This study so far has taken me a month. At the rate that I’m working, I imagine it will be complete sometime in August. The painting will be executed on a Maple panel prepared with an oil Celadon ground. If I’m lucky, I’ll finish the painting in about two years. I will keep posting works in progress as it develops. Below are two details.