With my newest paintings, as I have mentioned in previous posts, I am working on a series of figures. This one is "Looking Forward", a smaller oil on canvas, 16 x 20 inches. My goal was to place a prominent figure in a landscape that felt like one of my own paintings, and to do it in the most interesting way I could think of. There is a kind of mood with this figure and it's placement that I was going for, the piece acts as somewhat of a portrait, but with a feeling of anticipation for things to come. In my mind, she wants to move on from this place in order to grow, to start the hero's journey as in mythology. The model is 19 years old, and I remember myself at that age, my greatest desire was to leave the familiarity of home to explore the possibilities that awaited me. Hence the title.
For the painting's execution, I started with a quick sketch of the figure. I had taken my model (Michelle) to a neighborhood around Banker's Hill and Hillcrest in San Diego for a photo shoot. The light was particularly bright that day, with the sun scorching down on us. As I worked up my sketches later, I manipulated the figure drawing around in photoshop with the landscape sketch. I labored the precise compositional placement I wanted, with the figure at the end of the driveway, then enlarged my drawing to canvas. The whole underpainting was laid in with raw umber on a gray gessoed canvas, then I painted the figure. I even lit a plaster cast of a Roman sculpture to paint from, just to get the light on the head just right. I wanted a crispness with the form, a sense of reality, but slightly stylized in the manner of my sketch. The color harmony worked out well with the landscape behind her, there is a sense of a slightly hazy atmosphere going back into the distant hills, and the house at the end of the driveway is in sharp contrast. There is allot of foliage behind her, and I tried to treat it with the stylization of my own. I love the way the Renaissance painters would paint trees and foliage, or the manner in which more recent painters like Grant Wood treated plant life, I want to play around more with these kind of natural and organic forms in subsequent paintings. Over the years, I have painted many architectural forms. Including the figure forces me to add not just an organic and more naturalistic element to my work, but a more psychological element as well.