California, USA, Constance, oil, 80 x 64"
To me, the purpose of art is to communicate. Through my large-scale portraits, I attempt to communicate hope, to rekindle the human spirit through a celebration of real people. Consequently, I am always watching for potential subjects that demonstrate character and humanness. Constance is the hostess in a restaurant near the Whitney in New York City. My wife and I were having a glass of wine at the bar after seeing the Toyin Ojih Odutola exhibit last November. I saw Constance across the room and was taken by her command, confidence and the wild hair that seemed to accentuate her bold presence. I approached her and asked if I could paint her. She readily agreed and subsequently posed for dozens of photos.
My Design Strategy
My goal is not likeness, but liveliness and character. I want the audience to feel the presence of the subject as well as read their emotions. I design the composition with a nod to Fibonacci while also employing diagonals and pyramids to enable movement and emphasis. Color strategy centers around the mood I am seeking to convey and to enable the use of color temperature and light to bring the painting to life. I strive for economy in mark making, limiting detail to only key features or gestures. Above all, I want the painting to be a visual feast, which does not mean that it is abundant or loaded with details, but that it elicits an emotional response from the viewer.
My Working Process
Starting with reference images from a photo shoot, I select one and load it into Photoshop for cropping and to manipulate light and color to achieve the effect I am looking for. I block in on stretched linen, starting with basic lines and landmarks, then develop a monochromatic underpainting to confirm details, build volume and establish values. I use the underpainting as a value guide for direct alla prima painting rather than a base layer for an indirect painting. Once I move on to color, I paint the background first so when I begin to paint the figure I have immediate visualization of the color relativity. After the entire surface has been repainted in color, I’ll make corrections and add final details.