When I think about starting a painting, I don’t necessarily think about the image details, but rather what feeling does the painting need to convey.

That sounds kind of vague, I know. But for me, it feels almost tangible, because once I know what the painting should feel like, only then I can figure out what it needs to be.  My recent painting, “Sailor” is one example of this.

My daughter got married in October and since she is living her best life in Antigua, we had the wedding there near her home. Friends and family flew in from all over. One night we got to sail around the island on a 75-foot catamaran. Staff and a bartender included. 

So while everyone made use of the bar and swam in the ocean during stops, I chatted with the boat staff. Of course, I had painting on my mind. (Oh, I drank and swam too, but for me the work never stops. It is a constant itch in the brain)

And so I took a lot of photos and asked the staff to pose for me. I used to be rather shy about doing that, but now I just ask. Most people are flattered. And I loved this guys’ hair in the rubber bands. It could be such a cool textural element and a great diagonal if I played it right. 

The word that kept coming to me for the last few months when I thought about what I could create with this model was cobalt. It whispered to me at odd hours and started to be never far from being on my mind. I knew then I had to start the painting. 

I love this color and rarely get to really unleash it in my work. So, I figured that saturating the painting (and him) in that color could be fun. I wanted the image to feel like that dense, deep saturated color of the sky and ocean. A fresh, and yet deep pigment that I could sink my teeth into. And since he is such a part of that environment, I could soak him in that hue too. 

How to paint him? I loved the diagonal of the hair, and this pose had his chin lifted like he was sensing the wind. Enjoying the sun. Looking towards the horizon.

Then my brain gets to ticking about the composition:  include the horizon or not?  A loose background? Detailed? Detailed with boats? Or just the simple color of the blue? I really felt like I needed direct and crazy dashes of that blue, but yet a rather simple soaking of that color all around. I used a Roche stick, btw, so yes, with that heavily pigmented pastel stick I probably spent $18 on the background alone. So worth it. 

I decided just a hint of a distant landscape shape was sufficient to show space. Without that tiny, green triangular shape he floats. (Put your finger over it-  see what I mean?) Then I took that green and added it into him as well. The hot colors in the face was fun to paint. (of course over my yellow stage) The reflected lights in his face were exaggerated into that cobalt color too and even the highlights his eyes are cobalt as well. Somehow it works.

I like stretching things a bit. Pushing color around and finding if I can make someone exaggerated with color and yet feel realistic too. This one was fun to do and although the background may seem at first very thoughtless and just mindlessly “struck in” it was the hardest part for me. I have an app on my phone that helps with planning so I can see what may work. It is called FreeForm and it lets you take a photo of your painting and then paint around on it in the app. That helps a lot because this is the kind of color and power that you can’t take back once it is laid down, and I needed to be sure of what I was going to do. Once I had something I liked I grabbed that stick and a bit of courage. Slam Slam… oh yeah. And the photo does nothing to show the true intensity of that pigment. Its glorious in person. 

When I look at this piece I feel like I am back on the boat. And that transportation to another time and place and to the feeling of meeting another human being registers in my brain as success.

“Sailor” pastel , 24 x 18”

Share this!