Blades, egg tempera on calfskin parchment, 6 x 7 inches.
This painting went through more changes, more uncertainty, than is usual in my painting process, and I'm still not completely sure if it works. I usually follow the composition of my originating photograph fairly closely, but in this case I discovered that I had to leave out a couple of elements, and change the value structure of the image. When I came close to finishing the painting, I thought to myself that it would have been a good idea to take photographs at each stage so that I could illustrate my thinking, but: when I make a change it's often impulsive and I don't stop to think, "gee, I should get my camera and shoot this before I wipe it out". Zoom, it's gone, and I'm on to the next thought. So because I don't have step-by-step photos, I thought I'd show you my reference photo, something I usually hate to do because the photograph is at home on the screen, while a painting is not; a photo of a painting seen onscreen is dimished, while a photo is as fresh as the day it was shot. Also, I am not trying to reproduce a photograph; I am not a photorealist.
Here is my source material. I think you'll notice at once that I left out the sweep of rust moving down the blue-green blade; I left out the fitting on the red one. Here's something of a timeline of my decisions:
- When I began the painting, the value of red and blue-green were much lighter. I put in the rust sweep, took it out, put it back in. The composition felt pretty uncomfortable to me.
- I then had the thought to darken the red to the color you see now. Which meant I had to darken the blue-green for balance. That immediately gave the light area at the top left more presence and the whole composition felt more dynamic.
- I worked for a long time on the curved area of orange rust but never felt quite comfortable with it. There was also a light band of shiny metal that I had painted along the bottom of the upper blade. When I began to work more carefully on it I started to have that oh-no feeling, that it just wasn't right.
- I had one of my impulses and painted out the light band by painting the orange to the the edge of the blade. I breathed a sigh of relief; it looked much better.
- But then, it looked like I didn't need the orange curve in the middle of that blue-green, so I painted it out.
- Okay, it looks like that works. (maybe)