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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