Pushing and Pulling Shapes, Tones, and Colors into Focus with Pauline Roche

by Pauline Roche

This demonstration is an excerpt from BJ Foreman’s feature article “For the Love of Painting” in The Artist’s Magazine (November 2013). To read the rest of the issue, click here, or to subscribe, click here.

Set vantage point and squint: Before I begin, I position my canvas next to my subject and, with the palette positioned on my arm, I step to a viewing position about 8 feet back. I start by squinting as I look at my subject, which helps me blur my view and reduce the detail of the subject so I see a simplified version of darks and lights. From this vantage point, I make a decision about the mark I’m going to place on the canvas and walk forward to apply the paint.

1. Establish basic composition: The beginning of a painting is a busy time when I walk back and forth a lot, applying paint in brisk, scrubbing strokes. I try to establish the basic composition on the whole canvas as quickly as possible. I use a neutral, midvalue color, such as thinned raw umber, to develop a simple statement with soft-edged, generalized masses for the shadows and shapes of darker areas. At this early stage, I haven’t made too much commitment to hard edges or sharp contrasts; I want to keep things loose and adjustable.

establish basic composition

 

 

2. Refine monochrome: Once I’ve made an initial statement on the canvas, I start to make more commitments with darker darks and firmer shapes. I can make adjustments easily by adding darker (less diluted) paint to build the darks and by wiping out areas with a rag (allowing white canvas to show through) to establish lighter areas. This stage often feels rather like “sculpting” the form on the canvas. The result is a monochromatic, unfocused image that contains a full, soft “preview” of the painting.

refine monochrome

 

 

3. Turn to color, contrast, and edges: At this point, I have a rough “map” from which I move forward. I start using color and developing greater contrasts and clearer edges where needed. After the early stages, I no longer squint my eyes so much, so I see more detail and color as I further develop the forms.

tam_nov_roche03

 

 

4. Work on the whole: I like to work all over the canvas rather than finish one element in one spot at a time. By working over the whole canvas, I feel I can “see” the entire picture from the beginning and keep my whole concept in mind as I go. The painting emerges like an out-of-focus view that gradually becomes sharper and more vivid. I feel this approach helps the painting achieve a harmony as a whole in the final result because it’s painted as a whole from the beginning.

work on the whole

 

 

5. Touches for emphasis: During the final stages, I can select which parts of the painting I wish to emphasize by “pushing and pulling” them into focus and creating a higher degree of finish in those areas, whereas I might leave other areas softer and less resolved. Here is the completed painting with all the finishing touches, The Costume Fitting (oil, 36×24).

touches for emphasis

The Costume Fitting (oil, 36×24) by Pauline Roche


Meet Pauline Roche

Pauline Roche was born in London, grew up in Australia, and has lived in America since 1995, moving first to Boston, then Tucson, and finally San Diego, where she lives today with her husband and two children. She has garnered many awards in juried exhibitions, including the Gold Medal of Honor at the Audubon Artists Annual Exhibition, New York, and others in exhibitions at the Catharine Lorillard Wolfe Art Club, the Salmagundi Club, and the American Artists Professional League, New York. Her work was selected as a finalist in the Art Renewal Center’s International ARC Salon (2007, 2011–12, 20012–13). Recently she received an award for Artistic Excellence from Southwest Art magazine (2012) and won second place in the landscape/interior category in The Artist’s Magazine’s 2012 Annual Art Competition. Currently, she’s working on a one-woman show for Newbury Fine Arts in Boston to open May 2014. Learn more at her website, www.paulinerochefineart.com.


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