Slide Show: “Cold, Cold Heart”

Stage 1

The artist began this painting in acrylic, which covers the canvas quickly and dries quickly. Acrylic paints are light in tone and highly transparent, so the artist can establish the composition in many layers. The painting will ultimately be very dark, but making it too dark too quickly would produce a flat appearance.

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Stage 2

The artist has now switched to oils to establish the darker tones and the colour range in the dress. Oil paints produce darker darks and brighter colours, but the underlying acrylic layers still show through in many places. The artist has begun to sketch in the forms of the face using a turpentine wash.

Stage 3

The whole painting has now been repainted in oils. Yellow has been added to the reds to achieve the colour and tonal range that the artist seeks. The artist has begun to establish the yellow tone of the mannequin’s skin, which is intended to reproduce the effect of a hot spotlight.

Stage 4

Substantial changes have been made in this stage. The background and hair are now done. There is more yellow in the reds and more orange in the dress; the texture of the dress has also been smoothed, and considerable detail has been added. The yellows of the mannequin’s face are stronger, and orange and red have been added to the shadows to produce the effect of reflection from the hair in strong light. These changes substantially increase the drama of the piece.

Stage 5

Back to the drawing board. Dissatisfied with the conventional, portrait-like appearance of the piece, the artist decided to remove everything except the face. Using a solution of paint remover, he painstakingly erased the areas that he wanted to repaint.

Stage 6

By adding another mannequin on the left and a dividing line, the piece becomes at once more interesting and more recognizably a window painting. The artist is no longer working from a photograph, but is inventing his subject as he goes.

Stage 7

Continuing his experiment, the artist has added another partial mannequin, this time on the right side of the painting. The abstract feel of the overall composition contrasts in an interesting way with the formality of the highly finished central figure; however, the painting has now become rather busy.

Stage 8

Less is more: the artist removed the recently-added figure from the right, and replaced it with a darker background to offset the central figure. The deeper shadow combined with the composotion’s asymmetry make a much more dramatic statement. The artist has also turned to the most vivid alkyd paints in his arsenal to maximize the painting’s visual impact. Click here to view the finished piece.

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