September 25, 2015

Sportsmanlike – Day 24 Challenge Painting

Who doesn’t love The Princess Bride? It’s a classic sleeper hit movie from the 1980s. I remember seeing it in theatres and loving it.

The story was fun. The actors were clearly enjoying themselves. The cheese was completely present and lovingly dished out. It was unforgettable.

My kids grew up on this movie. A safe and fun watch for the little ones. Okay, who am I kidding? My kids also grew up on Hellboy and Doctor Who. The Princess Bride was introduced to them because it’s a cult classic.

The princess. The pirate, The evil prince. The swordsman seeking revenge. The arrogant nerd. The sidekick. All fantastic characters. But the one who touched me the most was Fezzik. A gentle giant (“I am the brute squad”) who was good in a fight. This is the first time I’ve painted anything from this film and I started with Fezzik offering to kill the man in black “sportsmanlike.”


One of the nice things about characters like this is how unique their faces are. It’s a pleasure to draw and paint them because there’s no same old same old.

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I didn’t want to do an under painting in the way I’ve done before. But I know that on black canvas, the only way I seem to paint is with many layers. Browns don’t show up well so I opted for greens and pinks as the base colours. Amazingly, Fezzik’s shirt is mossy, so I had no issues bringing the green from his face to his shirt.

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Very quickly, this painting became a story of balance. I’ve written before about working the whole canvas and not just parts. Colours play off of each other, so working as a whole is incredibly important. You can see above how everything looks so wrong. I think most people would miss why the painting is failing at this point, but I knew. It was the lips.


The moment I lightened up Fezzik’s lips, the painting started to come together.

There’s always a point in every painting where I panic inside. Sometimes the panic is a small event, sometimes it feels like I am holding my breath for an hour. And the panic happens as I transition from under painting to top layers. Not because I am afraid of painting top layers but because the painting doesn’t feel like it’s going to come together. And sometimes a painting just doesn’t. It happens.

I always say an artist has to murder many canvases on the way to success. It’s true.

But then something happens. The moment passes and the painting pulls together.


And then it’s the details that finish it up. Smoothing colours. Reducing lines. Painting in the hair better. And my favourite: adding in black.

In art school, we were always told never to use black. Black was a failure. Our work should stand without it. That’s a load of crap. All colours are fantastic and if black is needed to pull a painting together, then black is used. There are no hard and fast rules to painting other than to find the joy in it.

If you’ve read my “about” page, you’ll know that I find a lot of talk around art to be bullshit. And art teachers, art professionals, are the biggest shovellers of that shit. How about we all just enjoy art that makes us feel and stop trying to sound intellectual about it?




Acrylic on canvas. 

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I’m currently in the midst of a 30 Paintings, 30 Days challenge! Follow along on Facebook,Twitter, and Tumblr to see the action as it happens. Want more info? You can check out the challenge here.