‘Navigator’ Artist’s Studio Steps
Step 1: Preparation
Welcome back to The Artist’s Studio! I have recently completed what I can honestly say is one of my personal favorite paintings, ‘Navigator’. It’s development represents what, to me, is an almost ideal progression for an artist working in my style, and as such, I thought it would be an interesting piece to walk through from conception to completion. It may sound strange, although it has happened to me several times, but the idea for this painting actually occurred to me while shooting scrap for another painting. The details of the other composition are best left for later (particularly if they do eventually become a painting of their own), but the essential details are as follows.
I had assembled various props for a photo-shoot with my daughter as the model. My daughter, at the time, was just under three years old…a particularly difficult age to work with in general, as any parent will verify, but specifically so as far as modeling for paintings is concerned. I have found that it is often useful to have a ‘Model Wrangler’ on hand for such endeavors….meaning, a person who is not me, who the model can interact with, and who can take cues from me as to how to influence the mood and actions of the model. In this case, the “Model Wrangler’ was my son, seven years old, and a favorite person of my daughter. I will skip over the mundane and numerous detail of the progression of events. In summary, at one point my son was demonstrating a pose that might look like fun for my daughter to take, just so…in front of the window. The props were different, but the pose and the lighting suddenly suggested to me a vague idea I had kept on the back burner for some years: a young boy aspiring to travel the stars. Anyone familiar with my work should know I am an admitted space nut, and an eternal optimist. The two characteristics are bound to lead to composition like this one. Anyway, I immediately let my daughter have a break, rummaged through the house for appropriate props, and shot a dozen or so photos of my son. This charcoal sketch was the first actual composition to result:
I loved the idea, but wasn’t really sold on the actual composition…at least not from a visual standpoint. I had almost resolved to re-shoot the scrap (artist jargon for photographic reference material), when I realized that cropping the scene into a square solved almost every compositional problem. Golden-mean ratios popped up everywhere, diagonals throughout the composition all seemed to line up, and I got a really nice division between lights and darks that appealed to me. Using one photograph as the basis for the pose, and multiple others as details for hands, globe, and star-scape etc., I came up with the following to-scale drawing:
One of my favorite canvas sizes is 18 inches by 30 inches. It makes for a nice, midrange painting with good aspect ratios in both landscape and portrait configurations…and I had several blank canvasses of that size on hand. But this time, I needed a square. It just so happened that I had four stretcher bars hanging around in the studio which had been intended for canvasses that I never ended up stretching. There had, historically, been eight…four of them provided the bones for ‘Study for the Triumph of Icarus’ in 2009…my most recent square composition. I found a scrap of linen, stretched and primed a 20×20 surface, and using an oil transfer technique I moved my scale drawing from paper to the new canvas: