Sunday, March 30, 2008
Monday, March 24, 2008
"Gypsy by the Water" was about 2 years in the making. It's inception was simply an image of a young woman with wavy hair that popped into my head one afternoon - sort of a pastoral image, vaguely 19th century in essence, somewhat romantic, but timeless too.
So I endeavored to put this image to paper, but with no real person to reference, it wasn't working to my satisfaction. I decided to embark on a mission to find the perfect model that would make this image in my head come to life. Months and months passed as I tried to "cast" for my masterpiece (insert tongue in cheek here), but to no avail. I began to wonder if this thing would ever get painted.
At the time I had a little shop smack in the middle of Savannah's historic district, where many an interesting character passed, several of whom ended up in other paintings of mine. But the illusive gypsy woman refused to show her face. I got angels, Lilith, wood nymphs, heroic figures of Greek mythology, but no gypsy woman.
Then one day, while eating at my favorite establishment, I happened to look over at the hostess, a person who I had seen almost every day for over a year - and it hit me. There was my gypsy woman. Now, in my defense, her hair was usually cut fashionably short, highlighted and sometimes streaked with neon colors, like pink - so it wasn't as though she was always walking about looking like a Mediterranean goddess. But her dark hair had grown out to her shoulders and the highlights were toned down, and in the dimness of the restaurant, with only the outside light filtering in - she was a vision!
So I said conversationally, "Hey, Heather - you wanna model for a painting for me?" She looked at me and said, "Sure."
We set a date where we could meet so I could shoot some pictures. We borrowed some clothes and jewelry from a bohemian friend of mine and with a combination of what Heather brought, managed to come up with an ensemble that worked without being stereotypical or insulting. I have gotten confirmation by real Gypsies who have seen it and who have told me they thought it was very tastefully done and they thanked me! Wow - how's that for a compliment?
I actually did go to some lengths to insure that the portrayal of my Gypsy woman was accurate for the time I chose. I used a lot of Gustav Dore's drawings for references. He was said to be very enamored of the Gypsy culture in a positive way, and documented their way of life very accurately.
The photo shoot took place in one of Savannah's oldest cemeteries - Laurel Grove. There is a little area between the North and South plots if you will (not as in the Civil War North and South) where a little water trickles through and it's kind of overgrown with vegetation and really quite beautiful and serene. It was the perfect stage for our photo shoot. She was quite the sport, went barefoot in the underbrush and stuck her foot near the mud, and I got some great shots of her lying down in the ground cover. All in all, probably the most productive shoot in terms of usable imagery.
At that point, I decided this painting was not going to be small.
With my subject matter all preserved in a series of photographs I had to splice together in order to make a complete image, I set about making the supports for the canvas, stretching it, and then covering it with thick layers of gesso to obscure the weft of the canvas. This painting is over 6 feet tall and looks like it is painted on a piece of plastered wall.
It is painted in acrylic, and before snobbery about what mediums bear infinite praises and which ones should be shunned at all cost sets in, I felt that in this case, where I used such a thick coating of primer on the canvas, the elasticity of the acrylic would wear better than oil. And actually, in this case, you can't tell the difference. I did use professional grade, light fast pigmented paint.