Two weeks ago, a wonderful gentleman came to sit for us at the Old Town Artists studios. I was in charge of the front door; letting folks into the secure building and ushering them to the freight elevator, which would take them to the fourth floor. There was great turnout that night, and by the time I made it back up to the studio, there was quite the crowd surrounding our model.
That suited me fine. For one thing, I like to let our paying guests choose the premium spots. A studio-mate of mine is always encouraging me to show up early so I stake out the best place to set up. I should show up early, but not for that reason.
Secondly, I wanted to do something other than another close-up portrait. The last few had worn me out. I deliberately set up at the back of the pack, and surreptitiously added a couple of my fellow OTAs into the frame flanking the model.
As we settled in to the pose, I quickly sketched Betty Livingston (link) into the lower left of the picture. She was wearing a puffy black jacket and her signature baseball cap. You can see her busily capturing the model on her own canvas.
To the right, Thomas Winterstein (link) was sketching away. He offered a couple of unique challenges. The first challenge was preventing him from becoming too prominent in the picture. Because of the way I ended up positioning him, he takes up a lot of the frame. Plus, he was wearing a plaid shirt, which can tend to be ‘busy’. Patterns like that tend to attract the eye, so I had to tread carefully, or this would end up dominating the scene.
The second challenge was caused by his leaving after about 15 minutes and not coming back to draw! I guess things were not going that well for Tom on this night.
I tackled the first issue by keeping his figure monochromatic, fairly simple, and the pattern light. You can see that the plaid on the shirt is actually just the original pencil lines. The second issue was solved by just trusting my original sketch. Even though Tom was no longer there as I finished this area of the painting, the rapid sketch I had made of him in the first few minutes was enough information to go on.
There are so many parts of this picture that I really enjoy. The wicker chair is one of them. Then there is the curtain behind the model. The yellowish color of it and the loosely suggested folds contrast in hue, but not intensity, compared to the rest of the wall. On top of that, I added the finishing touch to the painting: the white swirls.
This pattern and the black outlines present elsewhere contribute to a somewhat flattened, decorative effect. That can be a bad thing in some paintings, especially if it happens by accident. Here, though, I wanted a sort of flat-looking ‘illustration’ style of image. It reminds me somewhat of a Japanese woodblock print, and the oddly panoramic horizontal dimension of the piece reinforces that effect.
At the end of the session, the model joined some of the other artists for popcorn. I took my leave, but that was not the last I was to see of ‘Bill.’
The story continues, next time . . . when our model RETURNS!