Monday, November 3, 2008


Well in between last week's exciting weather, family stuff and my own laziness and lethargy, I have managed to finally get some work done on those figurative underpaintings that I did forever ago.

At every stage of these paintings I have stressed and worried and procrastinated. Mostly because I was afraid of the challenge. Not only about making a bad painting I think (I do crappy paintings all the time!) but because I feel really attached to this project of interpreting the people in these old photos I have been collecting. I want to do those people justice, yet express myself as well. Not to mention dealing with all the technical issues of painting different imagery on different supports with a different palette (sort of, I admit to using a similar palette as I do with the landscapes). Anyway, kind of a tall order and I think it is understandable that I went a bit off the deep end during this process.

I struggled a bit with the first one (above) that I added color to. Mostly with the color of the background and the texture of it (it has kind of a wallpaper-y pattern in it, not visible until one is right up close to it), first it was a lighter green, then I darkened it (it doesn't look quite so dark in person) and while it looks better, I am still not so sure about it. I might go back into it. It is also a tighter image, mostly due to the underpainting that I cleaned up maybe more than I should have, which kind of bugs me now. But I learned a lot with this one and there are parts of it that I am very happy about; her face, the sweater and her odd pose (the photo gets partial credit for that), so it was an important piece to get through. Also the beauty of working on paper is that I can crop the image if I want. And I just might do that, I like this crop quite a bit:

Then yesterday, at the end of the afternoon, I just walked right up to the easel and knocked out this painting:

As I mentioned in a previous post, I loved the underpainting and felt pretty sure that I would ruin it with color. Then it sat for a long time in my studio while I convinced myself that I was definitively going to mess it up. However, I am actually thrilled with how it turned out (it was so hard to photograph-must I add that it looks WAY better in real life?) and it is just what I had hoped to do with this imagery. I was particularly worried about the polka dots on the dress, because I left it very loose in the underpainting, knowing that it would give me trouble at the color stage. And it did when I tried to make it a multi colored pattern. After I scrubbed that off though and made it a solid red dress, the energy of the pattern is still quite visible:

Through the whole thing, I had to remind myself not to overwork and to let the underpainting do most of the work and it helped too that I had to stop and go have dinner with the kids. Stopped me from my own obsessive compulsive behavior. Heh.

Here are a few more close ups:

So I am back to being pretty enthusiastic about starting some more of these and have been spending the day choosing photos to use as reference and preparing more paper. I will start a whole new batch of underpaintings tomorrow.

PS. No official titles on these two yet, but they are 22x30, in case you were wondering about scale.


Melody said...

So, so great!

Angela Wales Rockett said...

These are awesome. I so admire the ability to capture the human figure and personality of the portrait and yet retain whatever it is that makes your art yours, and these definitely do that. Well done.

Tracy said...

Thanks Melody!

Thanks Angela, I think these do those things too, however, now I must stress about whether I will be able to KEEP doing it:)

sus said...

Nice. Very Nice

Gary Rith Pottery Blog said...

yay! That's pretty cool, T.

Lisa said...

Really really like the second one a lot and I'm not a big fan of people.

Har - okay - make that paintings of people.

Katherine Tyrrell said...

What I like about these people is that they look like the people who inhabit the country with the barns in your other paintings!

They'll look terrific in the exhibitions if you put them together.

It sounds like you've gone through the same process of stripping back top the essentials and then letting rip with the Helgeson colours

Natalya said...

i love them! love the simplicity of them especially!

Sheila Vaughan said...

These portraits are amongst the best I've seen in a long time Tracy. They are so exciting.

Deborah Ross said...

Please don't crop that figure....she is so interesting because of her placement and her stance. I love both of them and knew you would only make them better. Can't wait to see more.

Stacey Peterson said...

These are great Tracy!! PLEASE don't crop the first one - I love the composition and her pose exactly as you painted it.

Tracy said...

Thanks Sus and Gary.

Lisa, I am also not a huge fan of portraits (or some people either:)) but I have this overwhelming urge to paint them. Go figure.

Thanks Katherine, I wanted to get the same feel and I think that the piece with the two ladies is the first time that I even got close to doing that. Now I need to do a hundred more:)

Thanks Natalya, and I am definitely all about simple:)

Thanks Sheila, nice to hear that!

Ok, ok, Deborah and Stacey, I won't crop it. However, watch for a new piece focusing on just the head and shoulders, k?:) I can do that, right?

Martha Marshall said...

I'm with Katherine on all that she said. Plus another vote for not cropping the first one. She has great presence.

And yes! Do a hundred more!!

Katherine Tyrrell said...

Tracy - the second painting of the two in this post has been nominated for my new competition for the Making A Mark Award for the best portrait by a female artist on a blog in 2008.

Shortlist for voting to be published 24th December and then people get to vote!

Is it OK for me to publish this image in either the shortlist or the list of paintings which got nominated?

You need to go here to see who nominated you!