Another painting in my Gallery Goers series is done! It’s such a great feeling when you think a painting is finished.
But then I came back a few days later. Something wasn’t quite right. I hadn’t noticed it while working on the piece – too close to it physically, mentally, and emotionally. I needed some time away for the problem to jump out at me.
Before we get to the issue, let’s have a look at the progression through the painting.
It was one I started as a demo at the Peninsula Gallery.
Here’s the reference photo that I took at an exhibition of Gustav Klimt’s work at the Legion of Honor Museum in San Francisco. It’s of Klimt’s “Portrait of Gertrud Loew.” I decided to leave out the man to the left and concentrate on the Klimt painting and its relationship to the woman looking at it.
Then, if you know me, you know what comes next! Thumbnails! You can see that I tried a couple of different variations but in the end, I liked the viewer overlapping the painting.
I drew up the piece in a red pastel pencil and then went over the figure of Gertrud with an HB pencil.
Then come the first layers in dark, middle, and light. You’ll see that I took liberties with colour accuracy regarding Klimt’s painting. I didn’t want to use greys so I created a cooled greyed look instead
A second layer has begun but really, I didn’t get very far while at the gallery – too much chatting and having fun!
At home, I started to add more pastel and fine-tune all the parts especially the Klimt painting of Gertrud.
I knew that Gertrud in my painting looks a lot older than the woman in Klimt’s painting but at this point, I let that go. It’s hard enough trying to reproduce an oil painting in pastels, especially at the size I’m doing (12 x 8 in approx) let alone get the face accurate with big sticks of pastels!
The painting is finished! Yay!
Not so fast Gail…
A few days later I came back and noticed what I hadn’t seen before.
The light part in the painting of Gertrud looked almost like it was the colour of the wall coming through. And it drew too much attention! What I’d done, I realised, was near the end of the painting session, I’d gone in and added the light part with more pressure to make a denser light alongside Gertrud’s dress. Argh!
The tricky thing with figures is that a face will always call attention to itself. My task as an artist is to make sure the eye of the viewer of my painting travels throughout and didn’t get stuck on the face. I do that by value changes, colour accents, and edge hardness or softness. Generally, I think I got that all working but this newly discovered problem needed to be attended to before I could call the painting finished!
So I went about cooling the wall alongside the painting and greying the light areas in the painting alongside the figure. I also softened the edges of the dress.
All very subtle changes but I think (hope!) for the best!
Here’s the final painting.
Here are the two versions side-by-side. Very subtle changes but I think the time spent fixing what I saw as a problem was beneficial in the end.
And here are the nine pastels I used.
And here are two close-ups – one of Gertrud’s face and the other of her gown and hand and a bit of the viewer.
I hope you agree that my painting is finished, finally. It’s a tricky thing knowing when a painting is finished, and when to call it quits. It’s easy to overwork! I’ll leave that conversation for a future blog post.
I’d love to hear your thoughts! Was this helpful? Did you see the problem when I pointed it out? Do leave a comment and let me know!
Until next time,
PS. The painting by Gustav Klimt came to auction in 2015. Sotheby’s put together this short video about it.