Here I’ve gone back to the darks, and the red portions of the dress. I stayed away from the face because I’m not exactly sure yet what is going to happen there. Not easy to see in a small photo, but there are a hundred variations of red. I don’t remember all of the colors I used, but some were mixed with raw sienna and raw umber. I'm not happy with the line of the dress on the left edge, next to the dark; I'll change that.
I encouraged the paint to do as much weird stuff as possible.
This Spanish dancer series is my own take on the placard-style techniques I like in Toulouse Lautrec, and the drama and color in earlier Lasansky prints. Obviously, people's tastes evolve; when I started in watercolor, I refused to even look at oil paintings - a common watercolor affliction in the early stages. I now enjoy many mediums I didn't care about before, particularly oil and prints.
For this piece, I worked from some photographs and used a digital projector. I drew all of the shapes, nooks, and crannies, based on my vision of melding realism with abstraction. Some element of abstraction adds a lot of excitement to art, I think, and invites the viewer to participate in the work on a level that exercises their own subconscious. I’m not concerned with what’s physically possible. Most everything I do is a result of what’s floating around in my head: co-mingled images, half-remembered half-forgotten, distorted by time - a spectrum of emotions and sensory chaos fanning the flames. In short, I don’t look upon a scene and think, "I’d like to paint that.” It may be a defect in my personality, but that just doesn't happen to me. However, that scene is stored in my brain and eventually emerges in a way that often has little literal connection with reality. I’m not painting to capture reality, but rather some interpretation of the real that has my own personal stamp. Art for me is an escape from reality. A friend of mine used to bait me with an essay by the great debunker Mencken, who took artists to task for being daydreamers and escapists. Guilty as charged!
Back to the painting...
Here is a good example of something that happens all of the time, especially when working on big paintings. When filling in large areas, it’s very hard to keep the leading edge of color constantly advancing. As a result, particularly with staining colors or acrylics, you can get a hard edge that dries in the middle of a place where you don’t want that to happen. I often prewet areas, so that as I work into them, the color dissipates, and leaves no edge. Unfortunately, with really big areas, sometimes the pre-wet part dries before you get to it. In this photo, area 1 dried and left a hard edge. (At least it had the decency to crawl back a little, which makes for some interest) As I recall, I stopped painting in this area because it was getting close to the neck and face, and I wasn’t yet sure what I wanted to do there. Going back, I was very careful while doing area 2 to paint up to the edge of 1, and not over it.This leaves a fine line that adds interest to the painting, and can give a better result than if the hard edge had never happened to begin with.
In this picture you can see that while adding another layer of color over area 2, I again painted not quite to the edge of area 1, which makes that line even more pronounced. It also makes it look as if the whole thing was planned, which of course it wasn’t - except to the extent that I knew there would be areas where I might be able to employ this technique.
You can also see here that I’m blowing the paint over to the other side of area 2 with a hair dryer (the watercolorist’s best friend), to create another cool edge. These are details that you can't see from far away, but look good up close.
The shapes for the face are consistent with the style of the rest of the painting, and impart a clear expression. Flamenco dancers are very theatrical with their makeup, and the dramatic lighting and shadows heighten the effect. I tried to capture that in a way that would have some impact from a distance. Overall, I'd like the picture to have as much a print look, as a painting look.
Next, I wanted to add some more interest to the dress. In this photo I’ve put down a puddle of water along the top of the dancer’s arm...
...now creating the beginnings of some small rivulets, with the brush. I do this in preparation for dropping paint into the water, tilting the paper, and making the color run and drip in a direction that will give more dimension and movement to the sleeve.
This is what it looks like after tilting the paper.
I hit it with the hair dryer to dry some (but not all) of it, and then use the spray bottle to wash away the rest. It leaves a delicate pattern that I like. I also did this in places on the large section of the dress to emphasize the twisting motion. I have found this method looks a lot more natural than painting the lines conventionally - it appears as though the paint did it on its own.
The next step in the painting was to soften a bunch of the edges. I have found I don’t have to do all of them - just enough to create the impression. Also, some hard edges give it focus, so the thing doesn’t become too mushy. I do this by dampening the paper, and painting along the edge with the darker color of whatever edge I’m softening. Then I did some spattering with a toothbrush, which softens in a different way.