Thursday, December 31, 2015

Small Victories

Boromir - The Horn of Gondor    14" x 11"   Oil on Panel     2015
by Donato

There are moments when short windows of unstructured time unexpectedly arise in my schedule.  Rather than initiate the next major commission waiting in my queue,  I prefer to step to the side and experiment with small concepts to free my mind and exorcise the creative demons fluttering about at the edge of my eye.

To step into a major work requires a certain state of mind, emotionally and mindfully committed and focused.  I prefer to work on paintings one at a time, completing the 'thought' motivating the art as I immerse myself in the world, intent, and message I wish to communicate to my audience.  The internal vision I have for particular works tend to be unique and I seek to develop and bring that vision to completion before committing to another project.  Thus when caught by surprise by a change in my schedule due to delays with a client - drying time for glazed works, etc. - I seek to fill the down time creating works which present chances for small, creative victories.

These small works are structured so that they may be executed in a handful (or two) of hours rather than a handful of days or weeks.  They tend to be simple in focus, but not always simple in concept nor technical challenges.  I almost never let my guard down when it comes to my art!

Portraiture and hands are obviously a favorite subject to tackle, even within major commissions.  These were the content I turned to over the past months when the holes appeared within my schedule.  Topical subjects from movies viewed, to art exhibitions inspired by, or books recently read can influence the veneer I place on my content.

Chani - Dune    17" x 11"   Oil on Panel   2015
An example of one of these small victories above is the portrait of Chani ( Chani is the lover of Paul Atreides, Frank Herbert's Dune's main protagonist).  This image came about after reading Dune for the first time about two months ago and feeling moved and thrilled to discover this work (yes, I never did read this book in my youth!)  As I began exploring abstracts in the sketchbook one night I came across the concept of a portrait.  While no one particular character was on my mine to depict, the issues and feeling I wanted to convey with this work, that of a cropped close facial presence contrasting with an ambiguous background, led me intuitively to Chani as Dune was flittering about in my mind.  A recent delay in receiving approval for a commercial commission provided the chance to jump on this concept immediately and bring about closure to the painting within three days.

Part of the challenge with this image was to create a strong silhouette using the hair as a framing device while attempting to unify the color scheme into a fairly homogeneous chroma range - and get it all done before I received the green light from my commercial client!
Of particular fun on this image was tossing around paint on the under painting to create the weathered effects on the still suit.  A wonderful chance to playfully experiment without worrying about the desires of a particular client.

All of these works allowed me to explore technical and artistic challenges while rounding out my growing portfolio.

What will be your next Small Victory as you enter the New Year?

Gandalf - The Doors of Moria   20" x 16"  Oil on Panel  2015


  1. My small victory will be to sketch 1 person a day for a year. It provides a break from "work" art, similar to your "free your mind" process.

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