Slide Show: Santons: Vence, France

Stage 1

A yellow background wash has been applied to give the painting a warm feel, and the underpainting of the upper portion has begun with several dark washes. Some details have already been exectued to a high degree of finish (the jewels in the central and bottom areas). Tolmie frequently paints one or two such details near the beginning of each painting; he regards them as a key, establishing what the lights and darks of a given work will look like. The rest of the painting will slowly be brought up to the standard that these initial details establish.

Stage 2

As washes are added to the central portions of the painting, the top is darkened to make it blend in. Tolmie likens this darkening to transposing a melody down an octave: all watercolours begin at the top of the scale (pure white), and can only develop by going down (darkening the tone with layers of wash). The yellow background wash is still visible in places, so the painting will still be darkened considerably. Some of the initial details have been obscured by the new washes, but the jewels at the bottom (Tolmie’s key) remain clear. Indeed they make more sense as context is added.

Stage 3

Many more tones have been added to the underpainting, and the top has been darkened yet further as the artist continues to blend it with adjacent areas. The construction of the painting still rests on tone, even though the artist is using more colour (note the bright blues and reds). Very little of the yellow background wash or the original drawing remains visible. The underpainting is nearly done; soon the artist will begin to bring all of the painting’s details up to the level of realism established by the jewels.

Stage 4

The added detail in this stage is striking: note in particular the large male figurine on the right and the small female figuine in the lower right corner. The figurine to the immediate left of the pink sphere is now complete, and the details in the figurines behind it have been enhanced.

Stage 5

The figurines and the jewelery have been worked up to a high degre of finish; however, other portions are less detailed. This contrast between sharp and soft focus gives the painting a surreal quality, and reminds viewers that they are viewing a painting, not a photograph. In the final stage of the work, the artist killed back some of the detail with another watercolour wash, and added effects that simulate reflection on the window’s surface. Excessive detail robs a painting of energy, so the artist frequently obliterates detail in completing a work. Click here to view the finished work.

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