The Making Of “Black Hats” – From Concept To IAPS Exhibition

The 42nd IAPS Open Division Online Exhibition is now open for viewing. And I’m happy to say that my painting, Black Hats, was accepted into the show. Oh what a feeling!!!

I’m even more delighted to share that this acceptance gives me the fifth point necessary to add IAPS/MC after my name. Whoo hoo! So that’s Gail Sibley, PSA, MPAC, IAPS/MC if you please lol!

For this post, I thought I’d take you through the creation of Black Hats.

A subject that I’ve become enamoured with painting over the past few years is people looking at paintings. What specifically intrigues me is the possible relationships between art and viewer, be it through colour, pose, accessories, or something else. Black Hats is one in this series of Gallery Goers and here, the connection is pretty obvious right?

The inspiration for my painting came from a photograph I took in October 2017 at an exhibition of work by Gustav Klimt at the De Young/Legion of Honor Museum in San Francisco. The scene was of a visitor reading the label for Klimt’s 1910 painting, The Black Feather Hat.

Reference photo showing Gustav Klimt's painting and a viewer
Reference photo

I was struck and enchanted by the similarity of the hats worn by the painting’s subject and by the viewer. (Well, the sort-of viewer.) I decided to move the man over and actually have him look at the painting. I made a couple of thumbnails to figure out the composition and the value pattern.

Exploring Black Hats possibilities in thumbnails
Thumbnails in pencil

Deciding I only needed the man’s head and shoulders, I changed the format to square. You can see in the thumbnail below that I still felt I needed to move the man further down (do you see the arrow?) and you see the result in the final painting. 

Thumbnail for Black Hats
Thumbnail in preparation for “Black Hats.”

I drew up the piece in vine charcoal on a 10 x 10 in piece of UART 500 paper. I began blocking in my three main value areas. I chose the dark blue as I wanted a cool dark to go below the upper layer of black. The ochre forms a lovely warm base and the light blue creates a cool underlayer both for the wall and much of the Klimt painting.

The first layer for Black Hats in darks, middle, and light values
The first layer in darks, middle, and light values

As always in my Gallery Goer series, I’m interested in the connection between viewer and viewed. Here, the hats are an obvious connection and you can see I exaggerate that by making them the same colour. I also use similar colours across the piece, eg the ochre and a pinky/orange colour, joining the figures in colour unity. 

Black Hats - The second layers begun
The second layers begun

Slowly, I build up the layers.

Black colour added to the hats!
Black colour added to the hats!

I like the idea of the viewer almost becoming part of the painting (that’s in my painting!).

Black Hats - Working up the piece.
Working up the piece.

It’s always a thrill and a challenge to paint a well-known painting, often one that’s created in a medium other than soft pastel (here, oil on canvas), and try to get a close likeness without being too worried about perfect accuracy.

Black Hats - Adding more colour!
Adding more colour!

Adding the features to this woman’s face was pretty tricky! I used the black pastel stick and, in places, vine charcoal. But the charcoal often isn’t dark enough.

Finally, it was done! You can see that I use the Klimt painting as inspiration and I try to replicate it as closely as possible. But, I’m also adding my own voice. You can see that my interpretation is much more colourful than Klimt’s although I have somewhat “greyed” my colours through layering.

Gail Sibley, "Black Hats (Gallery Goers series)," Unison Colour pastels on UART 500, 10 x 10 in. Available. $625
Gail Sibley, “Black Hats (Gallery Goers series),” Unison Colour pastels on UART 500, 10 x 10 in. Available. $625

Here is Black Hats in black and white to compare with the thumbnail.

And finally, the Unison Colour pastels I used (from my Gail Sibley set).

The Unison Colours used. (The are from my Gail Sibley set.)
The eleven Unison Colour pastels I used. (They are from my Gail Sibley set.)

And that’s it for this time! Do let me know your thoughts about Black Hats. Have questions? Then pop them below.

Until next time,

~ Gail

PS. You can view the 2023 IAPS online show here. There are two exhibitions to choose from.

PPS. If you’ve recently entered a juried show, IAPS or otherwise, and you’ve heard the news that your work hasn’t been accepted, I know that sting!! Having a piece rejected from a show damn well hurts!! So I wrote a blog post to address this experience. It may help…

PPPS. Interestingly, I recently read that cosmetic billionaire Ronald S. Lauder has reached an agreement with the original owner’s descendants to restitute Klimt’s painting The Black Feather Hat to them and then repurchase it. You can read more here.

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10 thoughts on “The Making Of “Black Hats” – From Concept To IAPS Exhibition”

      1. Congratulations Gail on getting almost the entire alphabet behind your name. Well deserved and what a lovely painting, this Black Hats.

  1. Congratulations Gail on achieving your IAPS/MC status. Be prepared….the medallion you’ll receive at the convention is VERY heavy.
    I’ll be anxious to see more of your series…people viewing paintings.

  2. Congratulations, Gail! What an accomplishment! Regarding the painting you just posted, I have recently become so interested in including figures in my paintings. Usually primarily a landscape painter, I’ve found that the addition of a figure or figures really enhances the story. I enjoy all of your posts and often share them with my pastel class.
    Lorraine Potocki

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Gail Sibley

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My love of pastel and the enjoyment I receive from teaching about pastel inspired the creation of this blog. It has tips, reviews, some opinions:), and all manner of information regarding their use through the years – old and new. Please enjoy!

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