Saturday, 4 April 2015

Large Toy Still Life

I had been a professional painter since 2000, but I took a hiatus to stay home and raise our two children. I have now been working full-time in the studio for well over a year. The plan was to get in there and start producing work. I needed to build up a body of work; then seek out gallery representation. I have been selling out of the studio and doing commissions, but I feel it's necessary to be represented by a few quality galleries that are excited about your work. It's a full-time job to try to sell a painting. Once I secure representation I won't sell out of the studio any more. It's a partnership and the art community is a very small world. I don't like to burn bridges just for a few dollars.

So I started the task to finding representation. I had some leads but nothing concrete until I got a call from the Executive Director and Owner of Mountain Galleries, Wendy Wacko. Mountain Galleries is a group of three art galleries situated in the Fairmont Hotels in Banff, Jasper and Whistler. We had a great conversation on an awful connection and I was left super excited and completely confused! I had just picked up my children from school and was in the process of getting snacks ready and getting them to their programs. I was not in the art zone mode of thinking.

At the end of our conversation I was given a request for a 24x36 painting of a toy still life. She really wanted an Easter themed painting to showcase the holiday. It quickly ballooned into a 48x60. I saw this as a great opportunity and also a challenge with the large size and the time constraint of a month.

I thought I would take you through the process:

I started by building the stretcher. Later I put large triangle pieces in the corners to prevent warping.

 Tools of the trade to stretch canvas

 I stretch my canvas in our hot tub room. I live in Alberta and most of the time it's really dry. I find opening up the hot tub and letting things get to 100% humidity helps the stretching process.

Completed canvas. I put the corners in after.

Next, I went shopping. I had an idea of what I wanted. I ended up going to a few stores, then ordering a couple things online.

Now I put on a warm undertone. I haven't finished setting up the still life yet. I do that while the ground sets up to maximize my time.

 Here is the warm tone.

 I draw it all first. This step takes forever but it's the most important. If you get into it and just start painting, then figure out you've got the composition wrong or have something the wrong size or poorly drawn, you end up wasting time and paint. You can also see that I start laying in the darks.

 This is the block in stage. Just laying in the main colours with the correct values. I wanted to illustrate a mistake (or change) I made. The bunny rabbit originally didn't make the cut except for a snippet of the ear. The concern was it was an Easter theme. So I wiped out the back portion of the left side. I took out Pooh and the toy telephone and moved the bunny over. I rearranged the blocks. I also added an basket full of chocolate eggs. We are all fallible. The huge error would be to let it get out there and be upset with the end result.

For this project there were some late nights. I don't drink a lot, but the occasional glass of wine is nice! I found I had to shut out a lot of extraneous distractions and be pretty singularly focused. I like balance so I was a little out of my comfort zone. But on the other side, it was good for me to know I could persevere and get the job done.

Here is a stage about half-way through.

Signing the painting.

 Studio shot of the final painting. I just finished it so I will go back in and look through with a critical eye. It also needs retouch varnish in the darks to bring them back up. 

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