Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Painting from reference and studies

I used my previous tracing/drawing and the photo reference (in yesterday's post) to do tonight's painting. Half way through it I forgot why I was doing this exercise..oh, that's right, I just wanted to link big shapes together and also see if good planning helps get the idea down quickly. A better experiment would have employed more shapes and color----(Next time)! It was interesting to approach painting in a new was like stepping back in time and working alongside Neil. I'll watch the other Boyle DVD in the near future and I may paint this yet again more seriously.

Painting, Celeste Bergin, Long wait, 2010, oil on 8 x 10 canvas panel


AutumnLeaves said...

You've so captured a mystique here, Celeste. I am reminded of old b&w movies of the 40's...She is lovely!

Art with Liz said...

Love this work Celeste!

Dean H. said...

Some very worthwhile things here. Nice feel to this.

Anonymous said...

Oh, Celeste! It's fabulous!

r garriott said...

Simply lovely... a very retro, time-long-passed feel.

r garriott said...

...a bit Käthe Kollwitz, even.
Very nice.

SKIZO said...


nouvelles couleurs - vienna atelier said...

Celeste this one is great, I love it, remaind me on 1890 er... shik and bohemien, really love it

Harry Kent said...

What an arresting painting, Celeste. Sorry if i’m about to write too much (you needn’t publish this comment) and seeming loading a simple exercise with too much meaning but i’m really trying to explore the difference between illustration and fine art, because i believe there might be one.

For me, this painting punches above its weight and underscores my interest in the quality of mark-making. The image started life as an exercise based on tracing a glam photo. But the speed of painting and the intention to just get down essentials led to a series of small but cumulatively telling decisions that have not only illustrative implications but also artistic ones.

The table setting of plates was eliminated and only the bottle remains. But most importantly, the figure was moved lower into the frame, enabling a diagonal composition to be created running up into the top left corner. This creates a dynamic that reinforces and underscores the line of the outstretched hand and direction and power of the figure’s gaze.

A viewer not knowing the image’s origins (stripping away its narrative context) does not know the line behind the eye once marked the fall of hat netting from a 1950’s fashion shoot. So now how is a viewer left to read it? Cat woman? Mascara running with tears?

The gesture of the hand holding the cigarette in what the age at the time considered to be an ‘elegant’ manner (a scene from Mad Men) is now stripped of narrative, so the viewer supplies his or her own. It doesn’t even necessarily register that it is a cigarette, though clearly painted in, smoke included. It equally well looks like just a hand making an appeal or flourished during a heated conversation, intense. Just as the upward fixed gaze is intense.

Her hat is not just suave haute couture but a dark form encapsulating the skull, like a weighty stahlhelm, simultaneously protecting and entrapping. The solid black coat lends her solidity and presence but the pallor of face says ‘fragility’ and ‘vulnerability’.

The background busy-ness was eliminated and quickly blocked in with deft dancing brushwork. But the consequence is now a tumultuous darkness into which the woman gazes, out of which she is expecting something, receiving something. What? Instructions? Reproach? A farewell? The truth?

The gaze, the hand, the jaw line - all point into that tumult of darkness. A confrontation? A last appeal? A sad parting? A wish?

Yes, the painting happily reads as Joanna Lumley impeccably made up, lunching in a Hollywood Boulevard cafe. But it also reads as woman confronting a dark adversary. Or as a woman isolated and appealing for understanding. Or as a woman whose life is falling apart.

I believe it is these ambiguities that prevents this image being an illustration and instead moves into the realm of fine art. Whether intended or not, the image now interrogates the human condition instead of selling cigarettes.

Celeste Bergin said...

thanks Sherry, Liz, Dean, PAM), r garriott, skizo, nouvelle and Harry! I appreciate your comments. Harry, I love (of course) that you analyzed my painting..I thought it felt illustrative in the Neil Boyle style--and yet I thought there was something else there too...I am glad you think that it hints at more because I was surprised when I was done with her that she seemed to say more than I had intended. Art is endlessly interesting. Thanks again.

hwfarber said...

Yes, I like this. I see a couple dancing in the upper left--a memory?