As I mentioned a few days ago, I’ve been painting some slightly larger pieces, so I thought I’d give a glimpse of what’s in the works.
This is actually a piece that I very nearly threw out. I started it about 6 months ago, completed the underpainting, and then decided I didn’t like it. It’s rare for me to not finish paintings, but this one wound up on the shelf, and after a while I almost put it in the trash. I looked at it with fresh eyes this week, decided it had potential, and continued with it. Now that I’m into it, I think this could turn out to be a painting I’m quite proud of.
Although it looks like it’s just begun, in reality much of the heavy lifting has already been finished. Obviously there was a lot of intricacy in the knife, but the real challenge has been the cloth backdrop. Accurately capturing both the floral design and in particular the downward flow of the light took a lot of concentration, and in fact some repainting. This was definitely a case where the background was as important as foreground.
The word background itself is problematic. It can easily lead to an attitude that it represents a less-important part of the painting: “Oh that’s just background, I don’t have to be as careful here as with the foreground”. I have been guilty of this many times. However, the more I grow as a painter, the more I realize what an incorrect viewpoint that is, at least for me.
In fact, I’ve even tried to stop thinking of it as background, and instead try to think of it as context. Inasmuch as the labels we put on things matter, that at least gives it a more dignified standing than “merely the backdrop”. As with anything, the context has to be right, or the objects within it will be misunderstood.
The reality is, in order to paint well, I have to challenge myself to be meticulous with everything.