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Sunday, February 20, 2005

Compulsion

Last week at work a friend brought in a book of old photographs of Knoxville (one of the Images of America series by Arcadia). Leafing through the pages of old black and white photos, several jumped out at me as candidates for possible paintings, but most captivating was a photo of an old downtown fruit market taken at the turn of the 20th century. I'm starving for color these days, and the possiblities this image provided filled my mind for the rest of the week.

Friday night I started tentative sketches of the photo in preparation for a big "watercolored-Saturday." Saturday morning I pulled out my giant pad of Borden & Riley marker paper and started the big sketch. (note-- marker paper is my favorite tool for making planning sketches. It takes pencil well for starting marks, then I use grey marker to refine, then black marker for strong final lines to use for transfers. The paper is thin, so light shines through it very nicely to allow transfers by taping to a window or other light source; it also is great for graphite transfers since not much pressure is needed to make a mark.)

Several hours later, with an unsettling feeling that some of the proportions are just WRONG, I remember that somewhere, buried in the back of a closet, is a "project-o-scope" (or some such name) that I got years ago. Now, this thing is the cheapest low-end model available, and was never of any help at all (see comment about cheapest low end model...) so I've only used it once before. Nevertheless I pull it out and set it up and begin beaming fuzzy distorted outlines of the photograph onto my drawing. DH walks by.

DH: That's cheating.
Linda: That's checking.
DH: Looks like cheating to me.
Linda: (pointing at the already done drawing) That's planning. I'm having trouble with my ellipses.
DH: (looks at me blankly) Sometimes I don't understand what you're talking about.

My proportions must be OK after all -- at least they seem to be from what I can tell by the wobbly out-of-focus image on the paper. How does anybody use one of these things to draw with anyway? Even if I WANTED to use it, the minute my hand goes up to the sketch to make a line the light is blocked and the image is gone. I decide that people who use these things to draw with should be awarded some special prize.

1:00 p.m. I'm finally ready to transfer the sketch to WC paper. Normally I tape the sketch to a window at the back of the house, then tape the WC paper over that. Since this drawing is horizontal it won't fit in the window unless I put it sideways, so I settle on using the glass storm door at the front of the house.

IC: Boy, the neighbors are going to love this.
Linda: I don't care.
IC: Look, R. and her dog have stopeed and are looing at you like you're crazy.
Linda: I don't care.

I hurry anyway.

5:00 p.m. After going out to a late lunch and errands with DH -- time spent with me smiling and trying not to be inpatient to return to the painting, we're finally home. DH does not understand the compulsion that accompanies a new painting, and I've learned over the years to consciously curb my urge to spend every waking weekend moment indulging that particular compulsion. It isn't easy, but it IS only fair and right. Of course, the moment we walk back into the house I'm back at my worktable. Several hours away have given me new perspecitve on the piece, and I'm now feeling that I'm trying to be too tight with the watercolor. So I change my mind and scan my first small sketch, enlarging it into pieces on regular paper, and begin making a graphite transfer onto oil pastel board. I'm at the table making tracing lines through the paper when DH walks by.

DH: That's cheating.
Linda: That's checking.
DH: You're tracing.
Linda: (grinning and triumphantly waving a grimy graphite backed paper at him) I'm tracing my OWN sketch. That's planning.
DH: Looks like cheating to me. What happened to the other one?
Linda: I changed my mind. The watercolor was going to be too tight.
DH: (looks at me blankly) Sometimes I don't understand what you're talking about.

9:00 p.m. DH wants to watch a DVD. I fight the compulsion and go into the den.

11:05 p.m. The ending credits of the movie are rolling. I'm back at the worktable laying down the first strokes of oil pastel. Finally.

11:40 p.m. DH: I'm going to bed.
Linda: OK. I'll be up in a minute.

2:00 a.m. I finally go to bed with one corner of the painting done. Or at least started.

3 comments:

Dawn said...

It was fun reading about your process. Thanks for sharing.

I had to laugh about your last comment. If I had a dollar's worth of art supplies for every time that scenario has played at our house... Somehow minutes expand into hours in front of my art table.

Jim said...

Loved your word sketch regarding your painting process. I read it to my wife; maybe now she understands the dilemma more clearly. You made me laugh and you made me feel a lot better about how I scan pics I take, enlarge them on regular paper, tape the pieces together, enbolden the lines with heavy marking pens, then tape the whole thing to the window and put watercolor paper over it and TRACE the whole damned thing for painting.

Let me share one with you: http://bmgarnerart.blogspot.com/2005/02/on-track_07.html

It's part of one train wheel and the attached shock absorber. I wanted to do a "guy" painting.

Linda said...

Jim -- I visited the link you gave and loved your painting! I'm glad you understand -- the planning phase of a painting, especially a complex one or a portrait, is probably the most thrilling part of it all for me. It is like dating -- when you're deciding whether or not you're in love! :-D