Of course, first comes the idea- or the first germ of it. Staring at a blank sheet I wonder - what should I paint? What must I paint? What do I want to paint? I cannot be like the German artist Tomma Abts( who won the 2006 Turner prize) who "begins every piece with no idea what she is about to paint and that they(her works) symbolize nothing at all."
Tempted as I am to win the the Turner prize (for the moolah , not the "prestige"), I am unable to begin like this.
Me? I have to say something in my work, even if unwittingly. However this approach (of beginning every piece without any idea) works (sometimes) with sketches. I can start to draw randomly on a rough sheet and the germ begins to germinate. Okay, here is that little germ.
As you can see, that the platform in the painting has become much taller than in the sketch. Now why did I do that? What was I thinking of? Do I know it myself? Artists, even more than God, work in mysterious ways. The fog of art is great. Okay, okay I am exaggerating! I do know why I stretched that platform to the sky. I wanted to dramatize, to heighten, to elevate, to mark that distance between the pious and the unbeliever -though nothing in the painting says that the tourist is an unbeliever, one can imagine from the carelessly relaxed manner contrasted with the assiduous ablutions going on below that piety(at least the ritualistic variety) is not her forte. Indifferent to them (and they to her with one exception), bathing in the cleansing glow of the early morning sunlight- is she in some unfathomable way closer to God than the traditional devotees below. Yet I do not want to over-dramatize, I want the elements to retain a delicate touch, the light to be suggestive of radiance, not look radiant itself. I want to create that delight that one gets when one looks at a work one admires and not get lost in the "message". If this is what I want to say then have I said it well? You tell me.
Okay, enough of story making. Let's leave interpretations (even of our own intentions!) to critics and get down to work.
Working out the lights and the darks
One important decision to make is to decide the tone of the different areas i.e. which part is going to be the darkest and which to be the lightest and which the in betweens-and not just that, the relative and the absolute tone of all the areas. For me this is one of the most important decisions to make. A work of art can stand and fall on this judgment. Looking at the plan, I knew instantly that those areas on the tourist receiving the sunlight would be the highlights i.e. the lightest parts of the painting. However I wasn’t sure about the darkest areas. It could be the tall walls of the ghats in the foreground or it could be buildings rising over the ghats- dark but dullish and indistinct to suggest recession. I decided to decide later after I had put some color on the paper.
I chose Canson C à Grain 180gsm. It's not a tough paper, quite the contrary- in fact, over working on it could easily cause a tear. Also since it is a thin paper I would have to stretch it. But it is a surface very sympathetic to delicate color washes and carries both very pale and rich colors very well. Let’s say it is a good friend who will listen and help as long as you don't push it beyond a point- just like real people!
Permanent Yellow Deep, French Ultramarine, Burnt Sienna, Raw Sienna, Scarlet Lake
1" Flat, Round Sables No.10, No.8, No.6 and No.3, an old Tooth Brush and an old No.3 round brush for applying Masking Fluid.
Canson C à Grain 180gsm, stretched on a board with Gum Tape.
Acrylic Gel Medium, Masking Fluid, Tissue Paper.
The major technique used was that of glazing i.e. laying washes of transparent colors one over the other. In this work, several such washes used to build up the darks. The great advantage is that one can build semi-transparent darks without muddying the colors.
This painting was made over 9-10 days. So I worked in varied light conditions including from daylight to yellow lamp light. For this reason there is no consistency in white balance of the photographs taken. So, this being an inherent limitation in representing accurate colors , I hope that you will still be able to enjoy the demo.
p.s.-I have adjusted colors of the images to come as close to the original as I could
After marking out a rectangle using a roller scale ( the area inside the rectangle is my picture space, also the edges of the rectangle will help in framing when the painting has to be mounted.), I make the drawing of the essential elements without marking many architectural details. This is done with a 4B graphite pencil. The reason for not doing a more complete drawing- I had not yet stretched the paper. Ideally, I ought to have stretched the paper before doing any drawing at all. But I was feeling all enthusiastic and wanted to put something on paper. The process of wetting and drying the paper would have taken at least an hour or two and dampened that fire inside. Architectural details are the ones that might ( more likely than not) need some tweaking. And I have found that if a paper is stretched after making a drawing then the pencils marks tend to get 'fixed' i.e. difficult to erase or modify. So to be on the safe side I drew only those elements that I was unlikely to modify.
Next the paper was stretched. It was dipped in water for about a minute and then placed on a drawing board and stuck to it with gum tape(okay, okay, this is not a tutorial about stretching papers..). When it was completely dry, rest of the drawing was done.
The areas on the figure of the tourist which were to be the lightest areas of the painting were now saved with masking fluid applied with an old brush.
Next I poured some acrylic gel medium onto a ceramic plate and using an old toothbrush, I scrubbed(gently) the medium over some areas (but not on the figure of the tourist).This was done to obtain the texture that you can see in the final painting
Now I applied a pale wash of acrylic lemon yellow all over the paper with a flat 1" brush. I did not particularly care for an even wash. I also removed the color over some areas which I wanted to keep lighter than the others. This I did by blotting with a tissue paper. This left a pale yellow impression on these areas, not white but lighter than rest of the wash. These areas include the tourist, parts of the figures below, the parts of ghats and buildings receiving direct sunlight. I used acrylics for this wash because this is the color that is going to shine through all rest of the washes, so I would like this wash not to disturbed by all that is going to come after it.
After the paper was almost dry, I applied a pale wash of French Ultramarine(watercolor- from now on I shall be using watercolors only), again blotting out those areas that are to have a light tone.
On drying, another pale wash of French Ultramarine was applied, again saving the lights by blotting.