It is surprisingly difficult to take a decent photograph of an oil painting. There is just too much reflected light created by the textured brushstrokes for the camera’s sensor to adequately adjust exposure in a balanced and pleasing way. Furthermore, I don’t have the set-up to do a painting justice. The proper lighting is required, and ample space for all the equipment. I have neither.
If you’ve been following my painting progress over the past year since I decided to become a bona fide painter of oils, you may have seen the odd post where elements of the above painting made an appearance. Namely, little Rositta (so named by Bill, my husband) on her little trike.
I’ve been working on this particular piece since April this year. Almost exactly five months later I have finished what I consider to be an epic work. It’s the largest canvas I have worked on yet at 24 x 30 inches, and as a painting format I like it a lot. It’s possible to put in huge amounts of detail at this size, without necessarily losing compositional aspects. Although, granted, working at this size involves a lot of work.
This painting is based on a concept sketch that Bill did last year. We are both big fans of basketball and contemporary art, and so there was an element of Ernie Barnes’ style in Bill’s original sketches.
I’ve followed Bill’s original sketch pretty faithfully in terms of style and colour, while also adding many of my own elements that I thought would help embellish the visual narrative further. I’ve taken a very intuitive approach to this piece, flying by the seat of my pants for the most of it, so the whole thing has been a really important project in terms of my own painterly development. There’s been a lot of making stuff up, hence why it’s taken me so long to get this done. Originally, I envisaged that this would be a relatively quick piece, but those are often the famous last words of an artist – this particular artist, anyway. I’ve learned a heck of a lot about painting throughout this process. Not to mention that I’ve also produced five other paintings in between, which I’ve borrowed techniques from in producing elements of this piece.
Compositionally, this painting follows a very strict geometric structure with each element purposely placed and designed to draw the eye’s focus. In fact, I probably spent an equal amount of time on the structural design as I did on the painting itself, and encompasses a lot of the theories of semiotics that I was taught when I did my degree in linguistics, married with the years of compositional and painting theory that I’ve been taught throughout my life. The whole thing is meant to tell a story and to make the viewer feel included and a part of the unfolding scene. It is purposely a fusion of near realism with fun, cartoon-like elements. The proportions of the buildings are distorted on purpose, but with enough of a sense of perspective to give a feel of 3-dimensionality throughout the scene.
The cat up on the wall is based on my own my cat, Guinevere who has always been at home in high places. The markings are pretty much spot on. I think Gwynnie approves too. I found her sat on my painting stool the other day staring at the painting. Upon asking her if she liked my rendition of her up on the wall, she looked up at the right spot then looked back at me and blinked. I think that was a, “yes”. I’ve always been convinced my cat understands perfect English.
There are elements within this painting that are autobiographical for both me and Bill, with us both having spent time growing up in inner city environments. As Bill explains, the mural on the wall is meant to depict a more idealistic environment as designed by the kids in the rundown looking neighbourhood (the colourful buildings are styled on those of Burano in the Venetian lagoon). The basketball court is the children’s safe haven and the walls of the surrounding buildings a stage for expressing themselves beyond their confines. The girl up on the wall sits defiantly with her back towards her aunt as she chides her from the window of the building opposite. Next to her is the silhouette of a can of spray paint hidden from her aunt’s view, but suggesting that perhaps she is responsible for redecorating the neighbourhood – at least some of it…
This is meant to be a fun painting. I want people to look at it and smile, maybe even laugh as it makes me laugh every time I look at the graffiti on the back wall. There are also plenty of ‘Easter Eggs’ in this piece that either have or will appear in future paintings – kind of a running gag, if you will.
Down below is a gallery of detailed elements of the painting.
In an odd way I’m going to miss working on this piece, even though I’m more than happy to be finished. Although, my easel is looking uncomfortably bare at the moment, even though I have two other paintings I’m still working on and a queue of paintings I’d like to do.
And now for something completely different….
Another one of those little Easter Eggs. 🙂