|Study for Leaves of Grass. All works by Patricia Watwood.|
With the image of a female figure reading in the summer grass in mind, I began to develop my oil painting, Leaves of Grass. I started with a preparatory drawing. I work with models and from life as much as I can, only using photographic reference when absolutely necessary for practicality.
Models brings their own presence, and sometimes, I have to be patient for the right pose to arrive, or begin with one thing and let it evolve as I work and learn more about the arrangement based on my familiarity with it.
|In the final composition, I adjusted the model’s foot position from flat on the ground, as it was inthe drawing, to resting on the ball of the foot, giving the whole pose a freer, more fluid feel.|
The early studies are done quickly, so that I can feel free to change things around, and be open about how it will unfold. I spent about 1½ hours on the drawing, and then forced myself to switch to another project so that I wouldn’t get locked into my image too quickly. The more hours I invest in any particular picture, the harder it is to break it down, revise it, or throw it out altogether, so I stepped away.
The next thing I did was to transfer the drawing I made to a canvas, to begin an oil study. I liked the pose and the figure so far, and felt ready to move forward in developing it. Here are the steps to transfer a study to canvas:
1. To begin the large painting, I like to transfer the drawing, and copy the information from the study to the large work. This saves me a lot of time by not having to re-draw, and also saves on model fees! I took my small painting and laid tracing paper over it. I traced all the principle lines of the composition, in graphite pencil, reducing the design to a simple linear graphic. You can see that the lines are very simple and in some areas (clumps of grass, for example) there’s very little information transferred. In those passages, I will just copy directly from the painted study to the large canvas.
2. Next, I take the tracing paper to a photocopy store, where I get the drawing enlarged. At some stores, you can do this yourself on an oversize black and white copy machine. Some places will do it for you, and you just tell them what the finished dimensions should be. The paper is three-feet wide, on a roll, so you can enlarge the drawing quite a lot, and the machine can enlarge up to 400%. I have had good success enlarging drawings in this manner. I have made photocopy enlargements of original drawings as well as tracings.
3. The next step is to take the photocopy and rub pastel on the back of the paper so you can transfer the lines. I put the paper on my studio window and rub NuPastel (dark red or sienna) on the back where I see the lines. In an area with a lot of detail, I tone the whole area, but if it’s a simple line I just trace the line. Next, you tape the paper in place on your prepared canvas. Then, I draw over the lines on the front of the photocopy with a graphite pencil. Make sure you press hard enough to press the pastel onto the canvas. I usually lift up the paper and check to make sure I can see it (if not, press harder or rub on more pastel).
4. When that is done, I set the photocopy aside (tape it to a cardboard or foam core board), and fix the transfer lines on the canvas. To fix the lines, I use a small brush–a round with a good point–and redraw all the lines in paint. I will mix raw umber or burnt sienna with a bit of white, and just a touch of medium. Then I thin the paint with my solvent so that can paint the lines fluidly. I compare the painted lines to the large photocopy as I go to be sure I have drawn the lines accurately. Sometimes I will compare with the study or original drawing to make sure I retain the likeness of the original. Once all the lines are redrawn in paint, I let it dry overnight. Once the lines are dry, I begin the underpainting.
Have you worked the same way? What have you found along the way? Do you have any tips to share with the community?
For more painting instruction from Patricia, check out her latest DVD, Figure Painting: Realistic Skin Tone.