Do it Like Degas
Welcome to this months blog
I've been busy working on commissions since the summer and have finished my final one for the time being. It was a commission of 3 siblings in charcoal. They are a striking looking family with great features and good bone structures which is always interesting. And having drawn toddlers and young children for much of the time it made a nice change to do some teenagers.
So I have a welcome window of time, before my busy run up to Christmas, to work on my own projects. I've been continuing to experiment with my pastel paintings of Musicians in Motion using the techniques of Degas. I have become increasingly facinated by him, his figuritive compositions and use of colour were quite brilliant; I'm hoping that the more I study his work the more he will rub off on me. The picture below is my husband Col with his his sax, I used Degas' technique of lost & found edges keeping some of the edges soft and out of focus to give the feeling of movement and sharpening up and emphasizing parts of the portrait with more detail to draw in the eye to the focal point. I used a limited colour pallet, as Degas often did - the two main colours were yellow and violet, which are opposite (and therefore complimentary) on the colour spectrum. The yellows consisted of olivey ochres and browns to light lemon yellows. And the violets were made up of cool blue/ violet greys and warmer plummy purples. I like the way the use of colour has created more of a mood
I got the idea of using this colour scheme from Van Goghs Bedroom painting below. I liked the way the whole painting is made up of complimentary colours (yellow & violets, red & green) the different strains of each colour gives the picture harmony.
I experimented quite a bit with this colour scheme in these sketches before I arrived at the final painting.
I experimenting quite alot with this colour scheme before I arrived at the finished painting
This painting below is of our trumpet player Steve at rehearsals. I worked from a rather bland photo with a featureless background that was taken in daylight so I did the painting using Degas colour of reds and oranges. I think these colours have deffinately helped to make it more atmospheric and transported him to an intimate litttle jazz bar somewhere. I decided to add another shadowy figure in the foreground and make Steve the focal point. In the photo he was actually facing the opposite way but I thought it worked better visually to face the other direction. I did this by drawing his figure on tracing paper and then flipping it over to reverse it. What didn't occur to me, as Steve pointed out, is that I have now made him left-handed!
I'm still hoping to produce a body of work to have for an exhibition sometime in the future but I was a bit short on visual reference. So I got a bunch of local muscian friends to come round for a photo shoot. For authenticity and for them to really get in the zone they brought their instruments, plugged in and played. I managed to get loads of good photos of them in action aswell as having my own private performance! What I want to portray is the passion and emotion from the musicians when they play and also the pleasure from listening and watching live music. So I've been trying to acheive this by making the subjects facial expression visible and by using colour to conjure up the mood. Also composition is very important. Ideally I want several figures together but this is not easy. Trying to get the figures to interact pleasingly on the page is a real challenge (more respect to the Master- the way he composed his figures was so dynamic and unusual). It means lots of sketching out of individual figures on tracing paper and aranging them together to see what works
Frustratingly I feel like I'm along way from the finished article with these. For every good piece of work I have several unsucccessful ones. But I am getting closer each time to what I want to achieve. It may come as a surprise to know that being an artist isn't necessarily about talent, enjoyment or effortlessly producing great work. It's a hard slog most of the time, requiring endless practise and obsessive scrutiny. And the feeling that you'll never reach your goal is always lurking. You just have to keep going with it, it's better to produce something rather than nothing and I have to remind myself that every failure is a success if you learn from it.
On a different note my life drawing class has started up again which I've really missed over the Summer. I love having a real live person to work from. Here' are my recent ones- someone commented that this one below was quite Bacon-esque, totally unintentional on my part:)
Next month I'll hopefully have more work of my Musicians series to show and talk about. I'm also very excited to be going up to London to see the Degas exhibition at the National Gallery next week- It will be fascinating to actually see them in the flesh! Bye for now