I have just finished this oil sketch (18 by 24) of Philoctetes, post snake bite, post festering wound and most pitifully, post abandonment by his brothers in arms. There a several variations on how the snake came to bite the master archer, but what seems consistent is the fact that the stench from the wound proved too great an ordeal for his comrades to endure. In a startling act of betrayal, they abandon our hero on the island of Lemnos. Alone with a painful wound, Philoctetes’ rage festers.
It is this moment I chose to paint, one of impotent anger and resentment.
I painted this image on cardboard, a material I really enjoy painting on. The lushness of oil color on pedestrian cardboard really satisfies some aesthetic instinct. I love how the oil glides upon the surface, canvas no matter how fine, snags my brush. I love panels, but they are costly , with cardboard I can screw up with very little anxiety. I’m eager to try copper panels, as was the tradition during the Renaissance , but I know nothing about their preparation. Until that time, cardboard is readily available.
I was keen to keep this painting a simple sketch, I did not labor over a drawing in order to prepare. I am trying to be more free ( more brave?) and just lightly pencil my idea and begin the sketch. There are of course flaws, most particularly concerning anatomy, I do not have a model, save my own reflection. It is quite difficult to twist and turn and sketch away. I have tried snapping an image of myself, but all I come up with is some sort of sordid image in front of the mirror.
Hopeless really, I need a model, must work on that.
I love to put together extensive preparatory renderings but at time that becomes burdensome. I decided Philoctetes could survive the experiment, he has been through a great deal already, one more trial could hardly cause much harm.
4 thoughts on “Screaming Into The Wind”
Leonard, do not strive so hard toward the rendering of anatomy. That will lead you astray. Work instead toward expressiveness. With a model in front of you you will be seduced into reaching out more and more toward perfect representation. (I’ve done this myself in the past.) The trick is to have a model for some general sessions, but thereafter to work without one. I know this sounds counterintuitive, but I think you’ll find for you it works.
This is the order of endeavour:
Make a maquette or maquettes
Make many brief studies from the maquettes using lots of different positions
Start your search for composition
HAZARD WARNING! The perfect representation of anatomy is paved with traps. What you should be seeking is to create alternative worlds (and bodies) that are plausible rather than academic. Which is what you had begun with your maquette series of work. You were right in the flow there, because you’d stopped worrying about the damned anatomy.
I love your phrase”Hazard Warning”, and yes academic anatomy is a trap to be approached with great caution. The fact is I love anatomy, but yes I have been caught in the quicksand of its seduction more than once. I begin with great pleasure only to end with a headache, quite literally a headache. I am trying to avoid that. The recent sketch I posted did not cause a headache, I just painted. My stab at the Venetian method perhaps, but truth be told I prefer the Florentine.The use of moquettes and multiple sketches suits that tradition. If I remember correctly Tintoretto created little wax figures to compose his paintings, an intriguing alternative.
All that said I take a great deal from your suggesting “plausible ” anatomy. I’m very concerned with misrepresenting the figure with inaccuracy that I cripple myself at times. Truth be told, the artists I admire the most, El Greco, Blake, Clive Hicks-Jenkins, the Symbolists, have taken liberties with the figure. I am trying to develop the wherewithall to create my own plausible aesthetic.My great love of Poussin complicates matters a bit, a synthesis of aesthetic values is what I seek, one that must be singularly my own.
I did make use of maquettes, albeit recycled Maize God maquettes, but I will go about preparing new ones . David had asked if I was going to prepare some for Philoctetes, I will now. Thankfully they are a joy to make. The truth is I do not enjoy life study, having the model in front of me is as you mention is a slippery trap. I very easily slip into obsession, producing at somewhat sound representation which is dry as dust. Some are gifted with a natural vitality, I am a slow methodical painter, happily cooped up with sketches, source material and now an ever increasing cast of character-maquettes.
As usual your generous suggestions are appreciated. Stay posted(-:
PS. Your might try masonite as a ground. Available from builder’s merchants everywhere. Very smooth and rigid and yet won’t warp. Prime well.
Yes, i will do that, it had been on my mind. Many of the paintings I admired in the recent show I attended, Remedios Varo, Leonora Carrington etc., made great use of Masonite. I will indeed prime and gesso but I have heard the back should also be primed. I need to research that some more. Thanks for the tip.