The Allegory of Hazel
Hazel up there was based of the song of the same name from Ken Nordine’s ‘Colors” ablum.
It was for a Nordine themed show at the Pink Eye Gallery. The character of Hazel appealed to me because of the way the narrator disapproved of her and yet she continued to celebrate her being anyway. Charming in its own right, and the song seemed to fit in well with the cast of characters that I’ve painted in the past.
For you viewing pleasure, I put a full scale image of it here.
There has been a lot of work-in-progress entries in this blog devoted to customized vinyl toys, and yet none to painting. As I embrace drawing and painting first and foremost, I think now is just the time to remedy that.
I started with a 12″ x 12″ birch panel on which I drew what would become Hazel. I sealed the drawing with a workable fixative and did a series of washes with acrylic paint to get a background color established. I made sure to keep the paint thin enough so the drawing wouldn’t be lost and then I sealed the whole thing with a clear gesso.
Here I had already moved on to oils and painted the skin.
Natural shadows in the skin where one of the things I struggled with a lot in school. I have the mind to make everything dark when that is very rarely the smart thing to do.
The way I approach them now is to establish a light and shadowed skin tone before I start. I also pick a dark color that will be used for all the shadows throughout the painting.
Exceptions can be made, but more often then not you will want to use resident shadow and highlight colors throughout a painting. This makes sure that everything looks like it is being affected by the same atmospheric light.
As you can see in these rather demonic looking eyes, I start by brushing in the dark areas with my resident shadow color. Not only does this maintain color consistency, but it allows you to withhold coloring consideration of the finished surface while you start shading in value.
Just like a good argument uses as few words as possible to make its point, a good drawing will use as few lines as possible to define a shape. While this is all fine and fancy for your drawing, you can get yourself into trouble once you really try to define the roundness of cheeks or the transition from a clavicle to the chest.
I try to get all these shapes finalized in this highly adjustable step before delving into the material colors.
At this point Olive, (AKA: Fuzzy Face) climbs up to critique my progress and add comedic relief.
Speaking of Olive, (AKA: Fuzzy McFuzzdom) she had taken to protesting a lack of scratching and climbing surfaces in my living room by substituting my record collection. After completing “Hazel” I squeezed in time to build her a three foot scratching post to stave off her destructive habits. I seems to have worked. I plan on building her a full climbing tower once the summer gives me a little more project time.
But back to Hazel: There is normally a moment of panic for me when I am painting the face. It always looks like the whole thing is some sort of deformed elf or something. Over time I have learned to trust my instincts and withhold judgement until I complete the hair and everything is properly framed in.
In this case I decided to shorten her hair from what I have drawn. The unfinished drawing will remain visible now, but that doesn’t bother me. I think that when you have a highly finished painting such and mine tend to be, people like to find evidence of an artist’s thought process and foibles.
In school, most of my classes consisted of a majority of posh feminists. Critiques in that light were a series of highly predictable and highly repetitive commentaries on the social implications of the imposed beauty standards on the ever marketed women.
For this minority of men in those classes, our interest levels just went all willy nilly. This did, however provide us with a great deal of paranoia and repercussion whenever it came time to draw a breast.
I have no real point in that story except that painting Hazel’s dress reminded me of it.
In time I just accepted that I draw funny looking people. Some features get big, some get small. Women are pretty and have great lines to draw when they shift the weight through their hips. That just the way the cookie crumbles.
Speaking of crumbling cookies, While I was eating a chocolate chip cookie from the BlackBird Bakery for breakfast this morning, (score one for my inner child) I noticed the little cookie crumbs falling to the floor. I have to imagine that in the course of a lifetime we waste a hundred cookies worth of crumbs to the floor.
This saddens me because, well, I could have eaten those cookies.