Oil painter Jerry Weiss takes us in the studio in our November 2016 issue for a session on figure painting, and how the creative mind is constantly in flux.
Late this spring I returned to paint in my studio after an absence of some months. My subject was a talented student artist who agreed to sit late in the day, once or twice a week, after finishing up at her regular summer job. We typically worked from 4:30 to 7:30.
McKenzie brought a batch of dresses, and I chose a red one, short at the hemline and long in the sleeves. After settling on a pose, I drew in the figure and most prominent surrounding shapes with a brush. During the second session, I decided to drop her right arm; the initial gesture looked too contrived.
Greater changes followed. I had to leave the painting for a few weeks, and in the interim developed a profound dislike for the color of the dress. Much as I prefer to work on a painting while the iron is hot, sometimes distance lends great objectivity. When we resumed at the third session, McKenzie brought a muted green dress, and that was that. For me, this sort of midstream change is not uncommon and is typical of a personal spontaneity that fuels the work.
We’re now working on a second painting.
At the first session, I drew in the contours of the figure, chair and several canvases stacked against a wall. Then, painting thinly, I blocked in some base colors for the dress, head and hands, and part of the chair.
During the second afternoon we altered the pose of McKenzie’s right arm. Several family members criticized the upraised leg. It just needed more time to develop, to refine drawing and color. Besides, I liked that it was a bit odd, and offered an unusual angle on the foot.
While away from the studio for a few weeks, I decided the leg wasn’t what bugged me. It was the bright red of the dress that had to go. Its appeal had faded in favor of something more subtle. The newly bared arms were a fringe benefit.
Pulling the hair back was a late decision, allowing more of the face to be seen.