Friday, May 1, 2015

Taking a Big Bite Part 2

-By Howard Lyon

The toned canvas ready to begin
Back in January I posted part 1 of this post.  I had started a large painting inspired by Norman Rockwell's painting The Golden Rule and it was intimidating, but exciting.  I have since finished the painting (and 5 other paintings as well as moved into my new home).  Hectic times, but I find I learn the most when I just have to put my head down and work.

If you have been following me over on Instagram you might have seen many of the images along the way.

I started in the upper left corner and worked in rows, from left to right, top to bottom.  Each row was about the vertical area that I could easily paint with my easel set at that height.

At first, I approached the faces by blocking in rough colors, usually the day before so that they would be dry for me to do a more refined pass over them.  By the time I was working on the bottom of the painting, I adjusted this approach.


The figures in the back of the painting had a little less contrast and were rendered a little flatter than the foreground figures.


More painting with a rough color lay-in.


The boy below was one of my favorite figures to paint in this piece.  He was from Liberia and had a great contagious smile.


By the time I was getting to the lower figures in the painting, I was relying less on the color lay-in and apply the paint a little more deliberately.  In the case of the girl below from Korea, I did more of a wash of color and painted into it still wet.


The girl below is from Mexico, but of Spanish and French descent.  I felt like she was a breakthrough for me in this piece.


This girl is from Ethiopia and was amazing to paint.  Here I am starting to get a little more confident in my approach to painting these faces.  I started with the darkest darks, and started to 'tile' in the paint.  I ended up washing in color for the mass tone and painting into it.


Here is a 4 shot image of the next face I painted.  Here I really felt like I was able to be more exact and deliberate in my brushwork.  I didn't rework much or noodle, but paint each area and move on.  This has been a goal of mine to work this way, not as and end, but as a way to be more disciplined in my paint application  The result felt fresher than the previous faces.


You can see the range in values on this face is much more limited than the others.  The figures towards the middle of the piece have less contrast than those on the outside.  This was challenging to maintain and I see lots of area for improvement, but I helped myself by mixing strings of paint that I knew were within my needed value range to paint with for the day.



This is the second to last figure that I painted and I finally felt like I was really cruising (only took 27 faces to get there!).  Dark to light, general to specific, big brushes to small, focus and discipline.


A better shot.  This girl is from Fiji.  Her costume is completely made of tree bark.  It was a time consuming to paint, but it added a lot of interest to the foreground of the painting.


The last figure that I painted and I feel it was the best.  It made me want to start the painting over and apply what I had learned over the whole process.  Cooler heads prevailed and I called it finished.

This boy is the brother to the girl from Fiji above.  His costume is also made of pounded tree bark.  Around his neck is a tooth from a killer whale, passed down from father to son for enough generations that the family wasn't sure how old it was.  Cool.


And finally a shot of the whole painting.

I Am a Child of God 60" x 60" oil on linen
I learned a lot painting this piece.  It makes me want to tackle another large painting and apply the knowledge.  It also makes me respect Rockwell that much more.  Comparing my work to his... well there is not really a comparison, but I had enough small victories to propel me forward.  

Here is a shot of me standing by the final painting in its frame from a show yesterday.



Thanks for reading though my post and riding along on this painting with me.  Looking forward to the next painting!

Howard Lyon
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32 comments:

  1. Proud of you, Howard. This painting is a serious achievement. Congrats.

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  2. That's simply astounding. What I envy the most is not the skill, but the patience and courage to keep your vision during so many days until the goal is achieved. I have learnt a lot from this post of yours, Howard, thanks a lot!

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    1. No small undertaking! An amazing piece. You captured the subtle difference in the Lord's white linen robe and the little girl's white satin dress and so many other wonderful aspects. The children are precious. Such a beautiful painting - congratulations!

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    2. Tayete - Thank you for the response and I am glad that it was helpful. It was a good project to work on, I found I learned a lot about different skin tones and composition. There was a bit of stamina involved at times. Mostly in the middle of the schedule, where I was anxious to see the end. Once I was there though, I just saw lots that I wanted to improve and it was hard to put the brushes down. :)

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    3. Pat - Thank you, I really enjoyed painting all the different smiling faces. The kids were a lot of fun to work with. I had a great response for models and ended only using about 2/3rds of those who I photographed. Maybe I need to do another painting...

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    4. Yes! I'm impressed by how well painted the faces are, but more impressed by you being able to stick with it so much, and make it look so consistent. Thank you for giving us a look into how you did it.

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  3. Beautiful.

    So often contemporary artists seem to focus on the macabre or the dark sides of life. It is more popular today to produce nihilistic imagery that seems to glorify in the warping of the beautiful or what could be seen as traditional.

    This piece of yours if proof that positive and uplifting imagery can also be impactful and moving. (A view that I have seen questioned even on this site.)

    Anyway… a great work. Love it.

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    1. I appreciate your response. I have always been drawn to the beautiful in art (though I love large range of subjects and styles). Thank you for giving the post a read and for your reply!

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  4. When you guys draw the faces of people, do you tend to 'beautify' them? On one hand the inclusion of natural imperfections can add to the character of the person, but sometimes it can seem as a mistake on the artist's part.

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    1. Personally I find I tend to walk somewhere in between. I like a bit of idealization in my work (though sometimes that isn't right for a painting), but the little quirks can make a face so much more interesting. In this piece, for the most part, I tried to be true to the kids, who don't need any "beautifying".

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  5. This is one of the most incredible paintings I've ever seen. Thank you so much for sharing your process on this!

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  6. This is magnificent. The subtlety and balance of the image as a whole... exciting. Congratulations on your "small victories".

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  7. Wow! that was a huge challenge, and the result is spectacular. Well done.

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    1. thank you scomac for giving the post a read and for the kind response!

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  8. One of the best things you've ever done, Howard!

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    1. Thank you Doug, I appreciate it! I hope your projects are going well!

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  9. Thank you for sharing your painting and process, Howard, this is beautiful! So many textural differences; skin, hair textures, clothing, etc, it's amazing to see how unique everything is. It's a wonderful work, and witnessing the process and hearing your thoughts on it just makes it that much richer.

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    1. Thank you Kitsune! I think painting all the different skin and textures in this piece made each day working on it a new challenge and bonus. It made me want to get out there more and find new subjects to paint. Thanks for following me through the process!

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  10. An amazing achievement Howard! Thankyou so much for taking the time to produce the gifs. I particularly like the face of Christ (tricky subject there!) and the clothing of the foreground figures. Well done on producing a painting that could hold it's head up alongside Rockwell's.

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    1. Tom - Thank you for the great reply! Looking at Rockwell's piece is humbling. I love how Rockwell created strong geometry in his composition. He strengthened some of the verticals and horizontals and created interesting shapes. If anything, when I look at mine next to his and see the contrast in quality, it exposes many ideas that I think will help me grow. On to the next piece! We still need to come up with a markup language for painting structure. :)

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    2. I remember the first post, looked forward to seeing the finish and spent a lot of time looking at this.
      A great finish to such a formidable project especially considering you doing so during a hectic time. Being able to tap-into the work each time without losing its focus is a skill in itself.

      I actually appreciate the differences in yours from Rockwell's since you stay true to your own work and did not just do a Rockwell re-hash.
      Later improvement or not I think you accomplished this one with great skill.
      The more complicated something is the greater the need to have an underlying simplicity or plan to hold it together.
      While Rockwell's has the strong pyramid geometry yours has a subtle underlying radial geometry to it in design,value and color saturation emanating outward from Christ. A halo of slightly darker value, color and costume intricacies reserved to the outer edge of the canvas.
      That would be enough but still there is the subtle pillar that passes vertically through the center and of course Christ, the more muted color tones and those negative spaces (air) between the figures at top and bottom.
      Yeah, a great marriage of design, skill and concept.

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    3. David - It means a lot that you not only took the time to take in my painting, but that you noticed all of the elements that I worked hard to develop and put into the painting. Thank you for taking the time to really look at the painting and share your thoughts.

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  11. This came together really well, it was fun to follow along on instagram, thanks for sharing it. Seeing the work as a whole is inspiring, love the value control you achieved, very hard to do. Actually I have just been reading Rockwell on Rockwell How I make a Picture, this last week, as well as his biography, fantastic books, I'm sure you've already read them.

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    1. Thank you Patrick! I really want to get hold of that book. Each time I have gone to buy it, it seems to be riding a high for price (and then I see others snag one for $15!). I am still hoping I can find one for less than $100. :)

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  12. Howard, I had the same problem in finding a copy but found a perfect solution, I looked it up on a whim at our local library and they have the book there! So I checked it out for free and saved $100 ;) Check your local library system!

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    1. Great idea! I have to admit, I sometimes overlook the local library as a resource. That is kind of sad. As a kid, I spent hours and hours there. My mom would take me each week. Time to get reacquainted with the local branch. :)

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