June 20, 2013

“That Wizard’s Just a Crazy Old Man” – Acrylic Portrait

Who saw Star Wars Episode iv in May of 1977? Because that May changed my life in ways that I’m sure are familiar to most sci fi fans. I was five years old (don’t do the math!) and hadn’t had much exposure to sci fi prior to that. I remember that my dad first saw the film to ensure its appropriateness and found it depressing. Then he took my older brother who loved it. And then me! Poor guy, had to see the hated movie three times. And once I saw it, that was it. Hooked. Princess Leia at Halloween, Star Wars figures all over the place and my eyes turned up as I dreamed of aliens, space flight and freedom.

Oddly enough, in all my painting years, I have never done a Star Wars painting. I’m not entirely sure how that happened. It’s long overdue. And so we begin with the only Star Wars movie that really matters….

As usual, I start with the box and general layout. I’m finding I work a lot more loosely with every painting. I’m not going to fight it but see where that style takes me. Since I paint so many layers anyway, fixing it up is only natural over time. I like to start with lights and darks. In this case, I started with the darks.


I have mixed feelings about the new yellow I am using as it is very cold. I’m not getting that richness that cadmium yellow provides and I think I’m going to have to go out to Curry’s and get me some. Oh, the pain! Having to go to the art supply store! Woe is… not me. Ha ha ha!


Now I’m trying something slightly different here: getting the face alone to a more finished state. I found this portrait more challenging because of the facial hair. I’m lucky to be married to someone with facial hair so I know how it looks in real life but at the same time, I’ve almost never painted a portrait with a bearded person. I had to make decisions on eyes, nose etc without having the visual presence of the beard to work with. Colours in the background were for composition balance. Plus brush cleaning. Nothing helps change colours faster than using up the extra paint. And this isn’t stupid but actually useful because it ensures that the colours for the portrait are spread throughout the whole painting creating a visual unity and ensuring that the subject actually feels like he belongs in the world he was painted in.


Faces are interesting things to me. Which is funny because I really have no facial memory to go with. I can meet a person and 5 minutes later I don’t remember their name or face. It made me a shit sales person back when I worked at Eaton’s. How annoying can it be to be greeted 3 times by the same sales clerk? Apparently very. Anyway… faces. They are both a source of unique elements (eyes, ears, hair etc) and a collective of those elements. They are like the Borg – part of the collective! And while they must be treated as unique items they cannot be considered islands until themselves. It’s a difficult balance.


At a certain point, I start overlaying the more natural colours of the face. Leaving areas of flat colour lifts the viewer out of the world of the painting and ruins the effect. But this also becomes a critical time because a likeness is made or broken here. I’ve had to rescue paintings before but I’d rather get them right the first time.  crazy_13a


One of the hardest things for me to learn was how to make my paintings into paintings and not copies of photos. You want to see the actual character? Google it! But a painting is something more. Almost like viewing something through someone else’s eyes. And so, allowing different colours to come through ends up enhancing the work. But it’s hard because who the hell has blue on their forehead? Well, except for me after a night of painting, that is! But I think the end result is so worth it. I am not a camera but something different.crazy_14a

There are very subtle differences between the unfinished and finished works. Highlights, touches of shadows. I paint the sides of my canvases so there’s no jarring white showing up. Little things.


And the final piece: “That Wizard’s Just a Crazy Old Man”. Acrylic on canvas, 14″x18″.