Creating the initial drawings or studies for an oil painting is one of my favorite parts of the creative process. I take pleasure in every phase of the drawing, from block-in to the ending contours. Applying the final paint layers on a finished painting is also extremely rewarding; with them the beauty of the painting begins to materialize. Below you can see the studies that initiated two of my finished oil paintings.
Mother and Child
Study for Mother and Child (graphite, red and white chalk on toned paper, 16×14) by Lauren Tilden
I created Study for Mother and Child (above) five years before the final painting (below), for which I used different models. The drawing began with a focus on the light mass, which was built up with white chalk. The shadow mass and the turning of the form were then executed in graphite and red chalk. I prefer drawing on toned paper, which provides a mid tone from which to build the light and shadow masses. In addition to this study, I made a small oil bozzetto (model) from this original drawing and an etching with a similar theme.
Mother and Child (oil, 24×20) by Lauren Tilden
Mother and Child (above) inverts the figures from the original drawing (the child is now on the right side of the picture plane) and includes symbolic imagery. Caravaggio’s The Entombment of Christ appears behind the figures, which can now be seen as a reworked composition of the Madonna and Child. The brightest light falls across the infant, while red beads symbolize the Crucifixion. However the tenderness and relationship between the figures seen in the original sketch is maintained. This is an example of how an artist can work through a concept over several years and revisit old ideas.
Girl With the Yellow Ribbon
Sometimes I create multiple studies and undergo several unsuccessful attempts at starting a painting. Such was the case with the oil painting Girl With the Yellow Ribbon. Below are two studies.
Portrait Study (graphite and white chalk on toned paper, 18×14) by Lauren Tilden
Portrait of Cristi Tilden (graphite and white chalk on toned paper, 19×15) by Lauren Tilden
The above two studies were my means of grappling with anatomy, mood and the capturing of the model’s character. The subtle variations in the positioning the figure, the facial expression and the light source create varied effects. Both drawings began with a focus on the light mass, which was built up with white chalk. The shadow mass and turning of form were then executed graphite.
Girl With the Yellow Ribbon (oil, 20×16) by Lauren Tilden
Ultimately I was pleased with the final painting, Girl With the Yellow Ribbon (above). It captured both the solidity of form and the softness and youth of character.
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