Saturday, May 31, 2008

A Tangle of Expectations

I began this painting in a daydream. I was thinking about how society's expectations can tie us all down - even when the expectations are disguised as 'good things to do' they can make us feel like prisoners. This is true for both men and woman.

So on Thursday during the open studio I began to sketch out this idea. I used color pencils to lay out the idea. My 'Body Language' series includes figures without faces so they can represent anyone - no matter what age, race, gender, whatever. In this way they represent everyone - I believe these are feelings shared by us all sometime in our lives, whether we admit to them or not. I decided on a single figure. These are feelings that make us feel isolated. I am using ribbons to represent the expectations of others. This is another theme I have used recently. Ribbons appear safe and soft. However they can be used to tie things up as well. I will have ribbons covering the eyes and blocking the mouth, the way expectations can hide things from our vision and keep us from expressing ourselves.

I first drew the figure and ribbons. I had thought to paint the figure green, but wasn't sure, and thought about red. Now I have decided I will probably paint the figure as if made of copper. A suit of armor we build to protect our inner selves. The ribbons will be many colors - mostly soft ones to keep the illusion that the expectations are not dangerous to us. Then I decided on a very dark background.

Today I transferred the image to my canvas. I decided to go with a 20" x 16" one, medium size - to keep the image intimate, to have the figure roughly life size. I adjusted the ribbons a little. I decided to go with a deep purple background - almost black. I never even considered using just black - I find it too stark of a color and it calls too much attention to itself. The purple is so dark that at a distance it reads black but as you approach you can see the color.

I got out all of my tubes of purples to decide which to use. I don't use tube purples too often, usually mix it, but I knew I needed a lot of paint and wanted to use it straight from the tube. So I got a piece of white card stock, wrote out the names and put down a dot of color and streaked it out. Then added a little white to the end of the streak and blended it out even more. Now I have a chart to refer to.
I went with four different ones, the darkest. Since there would be very little variation in the background, I thought having the slightly different hues may add a nice touch, even though it will be a small one. I painted it medium thick - enough to completely cover the white of the canvas and stay very dark. Most purples are fairly transparent so I used enough paint for good coverage. This is one of the great features of using oils, one coat and I am done. I softened the brush strokes to keep them to a minimum. This is a gallery edge canvas, so I carried the shapes over the sides as well.

When I demo or paint something I am very familiar with, I paint very fast. When I work on something like this, I take my time and think things through. Will keep you posted on how this painting continues to grow.

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