Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Experimental mode

Toby and Leslie
Work in progress 20x16"
by Susan Roux

In the words of Celeste Bergin, "Can't wait to see what comes from your new tools."

The answer is: Experimenting! Lots and lots of experimenting.

Family has been kind enough to be my guinea pigs. Many have posed for the camera, knowing they could be my next subject to paint or massacre. Really, its a toss up at this point. If I succeed, they get a portrait. If I don't, nobody gets hurt. Nearly everyone's been willing to participate. Thanks for that.

The double portrait. Little did I know, this held a whole new bunch of challenges. I'm so new at this I thought it would be like doing two portraits on one canvas. No. Not exactly...


Those nasty proportions. They need to coincide for both portraits. You can't just enlarge one head, thinking, oh his chin is a bit lower. Lower his chin and suddenly she needs adjusting too! Yikes.

I had to put more detail than I wanted to on the initial block-in, just to make sure their proportions matched. I find it very hard to tell if my heads are close to correct without adding some resemblance of features. Though my lesson was not to focus on features, rather on planes of the head.

Yesterday I worked on Toby. I captured a likeness, so for that I'm happy. One of my major challenges is with photos of strong light. The face is washed out making various planes void of any color or value change. The other big challenge is again related to the camera. I have great trouble posting what's really on my canvas. If you squint at this image, it'll look closer to what I actually have. The transitions are better than shown. (If you close your eyes completely, it'll look even better!)

Aside from the camera problems, I hope to bring in more exciting color as I continue to paint faces. Yes, it looks like Toby. He's dark where he should be dark and light where he should be. But as for looking exciting and vibrant, a major failure!

I want the focal point to be the point where the faces connect. I think I'll need to lighten the background to the left of Toby's face. Right now, the eye bounces back and forth between the contrast at his ear and the contrast at his eye.

Suffice it to say, this piece is still evolving. I will work on it for awhile and then move to another. That's the beauty of being in experimental mode. No need to work it to death. Do what you can and then move on, trying to improve yourself as you go.

There was another time in my art life that I didn't paint for anyone but myself. Not for galleries, not to make sales, just for me. It made a huge jump in improving my work. That was about a decade ago. It feels good to find myself in this frame of mind again. Though it's very hard work, I feel it will harvest great results.

Don't be afraid to allow yourself some growing time. It can be difficult turning off the commitments or reasons to paint from your brain. But if you can, letting go of everything and experimenting will reward you in many ways.


  1. the portraits, especially the smiles have been beautifully captured!

  2. My latest book I am writing deals with an artist who chooses to never paint again since her studio burned down and her brother was injured rescuing her work. So I enjoy reading about your process even more especially because I plan to make her paint again!

  3. i know what you mean, i am painting to improve my work, to feel confident in it. I give myself up to two years to do this as i feel i want to do it for the right reasons.

  4. I love seeing how you are developing this. I think it's going to be lovely! --- Even if it IS only for yourself!! (after all isn't that who it is SUPPOSED to be for?)

  5. Yes, yes, and yes! Great post...

    Love this painting and I think the artist is one of my faves...
    (I'm just saying :-)

  6. Another marvellous blog from an amazing lady thanks again

  7. I just think this is one gorgeous couple!

  8. Fabulous work,i,m enjoying my journey x

  9. What wonderful shadows...magnificent..!


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