"Rue de Rivoli, Paris", charcoal drawing, 23.75 x 35.75 inches
For a long time, I have been contemplating how I can put the figure into my regular gallery work. I've made several awkward attempts in the past, but I wasn't satisfied and rarely exhibited those pieces. I had been able to draw and paint the figure quite competently, but only by itself, never in one of my landscapes. I think that one of the most difficult things for an artist to do is marry these two worlds of landscape and figure. The figure can look out of place, or the landscape can look like an afterthought.
Knowing that the figure in my landscapes isn't one of my personal strengths in painting, I decided to do my homework with a fully worked out preliminary drawing. I don't know why I've felt so timid, lazy, or rushed to attempt this in the past, because I really like these two new drawings.
The first one, "Fashion District", is located in downtown Los Angeles on Broadway. I shot numerous rolls of film of people walking by. I got in a couple yelling matches (and nearly a fist-fight) with people who REALLY didn't want their picture taken. I understand how intrusive this method of photography can be, but anything for my art, right? I'm not sure if these two girls thought they were getting out of my shot, perhaps they didn't notice me. Their faces seemed somehow in thought and slightly self-conscious. I found their clothes interesting, their attempt to dress as much alike as possible, the same kind of over-stuffed coats with fur hoods, similar earrings, and they were each walking with their left hand inside their sleeves.
The second one, "Rue de Rivoli, Paris", is of course from my vacation a couple months ago. After seeing the Louvre, I felt quite compelled to paint the figure. Almost no great artist in the museums I saw completely ignored the figure. And I knew that I would need a new challenge for my work when I got home. The time I spent on the drawing was more focused on the landscape than the girl in the foreground, but she is certainly the star of the show. I shot some photos early one Sunday morning, Parisians sleep in quite late, so I had to walk 4 blocks to find a place that was open and had coffee. As I shot pictures all along the way, I fell in love with the patterns in the street, the gray landscape, and all of the Parisian buildings. It felt like the perfect moment when she walked into the scene, especially since there were so few other people and only one car.
I have already mapped out a couple of large canvases for Paris landscapes. So my next step is to paint something based on these drawings. Painting the figure, I would prefer to be less impressionistic, more layering and glazing like the old masters. In the end, I'm sure it will be a combination. But these two new images have been haunting my mind, they resonated with me somehow. I'm very inspired to paint them.