Sometimes creating an interesting composition requires a little off-center placement of the subject I wish to paint. Sometimes it is balancing heavy or bright colours. In my new series, Among Shadows and Light, I am considering both these elements and simply omitting all the background noise.
Here I used a photo I took at the beach in Pickering, Ontario of my sister-in-law and her friend with their daughters on the toddler swing. The photo shows their postures and the moment so perfectly, while the shadows beautifully represent the sun and time of day and ground the scene. Even though I can't see their faces, I can 'see' and 'hear' their expressions when I look at this photo.
When flipping through my stacks of photographs, I came upon this one and knew instantly that I wanted to paint this scene. Just looking at it brought back lazy sun-kissed memories that brought a smile to my face. There is so much going on in the background that the only way for me to make it feel the way I meant it to would be to simply ignore everything except the figures, swing, and shadows. My paintings, I've been told, tend to be very soft and free. My main obstacle here was to carry through this effect, paint small, while not focusing on details. I'm used to using big brushes and painting fast. This painting was the opposite; small brushes, deliberate strokes.
I love the end result, and am happy to say that after sending an image of this finished painting to my sister-in-law (who forwarded it to her friend in the painting), they both replied that they each wanted one! Her friend even cried when she saw it and shared with me how it held so much emotional value for her- this is also where she and her husband spent their first date. Wow, two commissions in just a few minutes!! I felt ecstatic!!
I think what I really like about urging myself to slow down and paint this way, is that this experience is paralleling with another life change I am beginning to practice - yoga. Painting is a form of meditation for me, and always has been; my mind is clear and quiet. Yoga presents a challenge I can appreciate with similar results. I focus on each posture and hold it, then move into the next, all the while trying to be "in the moment". Initially, part of my mind feels very impatient and wants to give up because each pose uses muscles in unfamiliar and uncomfortable ways. Fortunately, most of the time my rational mind wins and I grit through it, gradually feeling better with myself. In the end I am always rewarded with immense relaxation in a meditative state. The difference is that the entire painting process is pleasurable, albeit a little frustrating at times; yoga is purely a physical and mental challenge that ends in pleasure!