It is interesting to see the stages that a painting goes through, where changes are made and ideas come up. I took a series of photos of this one, which shows something of the process.
This was the initial charcoal drawing from a life class, done about a year ago. I’ve always liked it, but it was just an exercise. I like the closed pose.
I bought a cheap square canvas and then wondered what to do with it. First stage was to give it an interesting, non-white base, which is easier to paint on. I used burnt sienna acrylic paint. I dug out the old drawing and thought I would work out up into a painting. I had no idea of the context of the finished painting at all at this stage. I sketched the pose in charcoal, rubbing it out several times, until it was a good copy of the original. Then I started painting the negative space around the image. This often works much better than starting with the subject itself. I just used a dark, purplish colour to give me a background.
Before I completed the background I added the towel the model had be sitting on. I liked the look, so thought a waterside/swimming setting might work.
As the canvas was square, not a conventional rectangular one, I decided to formally split it in half with a waters edge. I was thinking of a beach at first.
I quickly decided it was a boarded pontoon edge, rather than a beach. That meant that the boards’ edges would clearly show the perspective, and it avoided painting the change from sea to sand, which is really difficult.
Having given her a basic location, I worked up the surface of her body. Only some light and shade needed adding to the basic burnt sienna base coat to give her some modelling. This was the first point at which I actually painted her body. It was all background up until now.
I thought she looked a bit forlorn, so gave her something to read. Initially is was a newspaper, stretching both sides of her head. That looked ridiculous, so I overpainted the right hand page and turned the left had page into the corner of a book. I also added a mug of coffee. I worked the towel up to look like one of the Turkish hamam towels I use. I also wanted it to seem that things were going on outside the boundaries of the picture, so I added the mooring rope, going up to a boat which is outside the right hand edge. I blocked in her shadow, so she didn’t seem to be floating over the boards.
The final image, just about. I do tend to keep fiddling with paintings for weeks after they should have been finished. I painted out the white bookmark in her book, as I kept seeing it as a cigarette! I made the edge of the red cover catch the light, as you must have some red somewhere. I’ve added some reflected light on her shaded side, a pair of sandals and someone’s wet footprint. I have also put in some vague reflections of boats, masts, whatever, which are just across the water from her. Again, indicating that things are happening all around.
I thought of adding a pile of clothes on the left, but firstly, that is really hard to paint, and secondly, it is such a lovely sunny day, who would want to wear anything anyway?