Fast forward to last month when the idea returned after watching a movie in the theatre about Rembrandt; a special monthly Exhibition Series on the Impressionists and other famous artists. Coincidentally I was also working through a book called The Artists Way by Julia Cameron, a most fascinating book that is opening my eyes to a lot of issues that have been blocking my creativity. I came to the chapter that would change my life and allow me to paint from the heart instead of trying to paint what sells. My self-confidence had improved to a point where I was ready for that glazing technique challenge. I decided to do a practice sketch from a portrait of a dear friend. It was a profile photo on Facebook that her boyfriend had taken of her while honing his photography skills. She was staring out the window looking longingly outside with the light shining on her face. I have this passion for Chiaroscuro. I love how the light plays on these particular pieces and this is why I tend to lean towards the Renaissance style of dark backgrounds and the light playing on the subject. My friend's portrait was the perfect subject.
Before I continue I must share her story. She is a Filipina immigrated to Canada 7-8 years ago on a work visa. Without going into her personal life let's just say her life struggles could fill a novel. Yet she marches on. I've always admired her spirit and tenacity. She has been working hard to acquire landed immigrant status all while saving money and sending it abroad to feed and clothe her family back in the Philippines. Her plan was to bring her three daughters over as soon as it was possible. I'm happy to report she got her status and the girls just arrived this winter,... 8 years later! Her youngest barely knew her, the elder ones are in their late teens already. I cannot imagine what it must have felt like to not have your children with you for all those years. The stigma, the guilt and always the longing. This photograph perfectly captured the expression of longing and of hope only a mother can know. There is also a glint of "knowing" in her smile, like a secret she's keeping to herself. I wanted to capture this in a painting. Just to add to the challenge, I wanted to try the old masters technique using acrylic glaze. This in combination with the work I had been doing in the book was all I needed to have the confidence and get started. I wanted to share the process with you.
Below we see the practice sketch, something I rarely do if ever. I had bought charcoals eons ago but never really played with them. That in itself posed another challenge; handling, getting the feel for how they smear this way and that, how to get a fine line etc.. You see I've only recently learned that I am a perfectionist (I called it something else) and everything I do is supposed to be good enough to frame and sell! Talk about pressure to perform! Hello? Obstacle? So I sat down one day and as part of my homework for that week was to do something such as a practice sketch, just for fun not to sell. It surprisingly turned out quite well for a quick sketch and this raised my self-esteem as well as my spirits. I guess when the pressure is off I work better too! I had been reading and re-reading the glazing article and searched online for information. A new hope was bubbling up inside. Just maybe I could pull this off! It was time to get cracking.
This second glazing was at my Wednesday "play date" where artists of every level meet once a week to paint or draw while under the security umbrella of a retired art teacher. I felt comforted just knowing she was in the room in case I lost my nerve. I consider her my mentor and therefore look up to her for guidance. As it turned out, I learned a few more things about glazing simply through the process! I was able to put down another layer of Pthalo blue, a contrasting cadmium red in the shadows of the T-shirt, cadmium red in the pinks of her cheeks and lips and a lemon yellow glaze for the window (blue seemed too cold). But as time to leave drew near, I realized that glaze really slows down the drying process! I had to rid some way to carry my canvas home in a dusty car. I used a reusable grocery bag with its stiff sides and square shape and laid the canvas down on one side with the wet paint facing up of course. then I lifted it up by the upper handle which ensured it wasn’t touching the surface. At the car I used that handle to suspend it cantilever style over the passenger seat head rest with the open side against the seat so nothing could get inside either. Worked for me! She got home safe and sound but still it took two more days for everything to lose its tackiness. Here you can notice things are increasing in richness. Quite exciting!