Thursday, 9 March 2017

Skye, walking

This painting of a foxhound was one I first tried last year. There have been three versions, all consigned to the Galerie Flambeau (...bonfire). This one was all that was left of those attempts: it began life as a sepia and white study on a 14"x6" piece of canvas off-cut.
I tidied up the off-cut edge and mounted the whole piece on to a primed 16" x 8" board, hoping that the layering would add depth. And then I painted over the initial sepia study, using a limited palette of black, transparent oxide red, cobalt blue and white with a touch of cad yellow.
The composition is an imaginative construct. I took the photograph of my friend's foxhound and a photograph of my kitchen doorway and superimposed the two. To achieve the correct scale and proportion, I asked my friend to measure the dog's height in inches from the tip of her paw to the top of her head whilst standing in this upright position (I used a separate measurement for the tail).
Happily, the height of my kitchen chair + its back was the same as the dog's height so I used that to scale the proportions of the dog in the doorway. 
Unfortunately the kitchen floor tiling is also imagined and getting the perspective distortion of the floor tiles correct was the single biggest challenge in drawing out the composition. 
I always admired Salvador Dali's chequered floors and those of other surrealists - it is a common motif in surrealism - and wanted to do it myself. It is ever so difficult.
In the end, I positioned a black and white chequered table cloth on a board to create a scaled down construct of the floor and then drew it out and scaled it up in the tedious, old-fashioned way with ruler, protractor etc. 
I am not doing another chequerboard floor in a hurry.

Most of these ideas for building a painting from imaginary or partly imaginary subjects and settings I got from James Gurney's book Imaginative Realism: How to Paint What Doesn't Exist which is absolutely fabulous and I recommend it totally. Full of good ideas, even if you don't want to paint dinosaurs or fantasy creatures like he does.

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