New Painting, Step One: Research

I'm in the rare position of having a couple days to dedicate to a painting for my wife, Sarah. She often uses the "cobbler's children have no shoes" line in reference to how little art she has from me. It's been a couple years now, and I'm overdue to put on the good-husband-artist hat and whip something up. I purchased my masonite board this morning, and have a second coat of gesso drying as we speak. I'd show you, but it's just white.

Instead, let's take a look at possible subject matter/reference/points of inspiration.

mucha drawing detailSarah wants something in the vein of a Mucha woman with long, flowing hair. That's (I think) all the direction I have so far. I like Mucha. Who doesn't? You may see him everywhere, but he's got a lot of appeal. I have to say, I do gravitate towards his drawings more than his highly decorative finished illustrations. I'd like to keep some part of my painting gestural and loose, so I'll be looking further afield for some of my cues, but Mucha's a starting point.

I thought of asking Sarah to model for the piece, but what's weirder? Having your wife's exact likeness, multiple feet across, hanging around your living room and all done up in a sensuous, Art Nouveau sump'n-sump'n, OR, pasting some other lady's face over all that? I'll have to do some research on that point. See what the patron wants to do.

I do know that I want to do something in a landscape format, in an asymmetrical composition. Something along the lines of this Ava Gardner shot. In fact, Ava Gardner wouldn't be a bad choice for this piece (or anything, really).

ava gardner


John William Waterhouse is another example of an artist I could reference in the same spiritual vein, but I'd like to bring in some element of pop art, or just something to loosen it up a little bit. Just a dash so it doesn't get precious.

The other thought I have is to not make it a finished painting at all, but to leave a lot of it in the sketchy construction phase, with deep sepia tones, reds, and chocolatey browns making up the major palette. Like this unfinished piece from you know who. Maybe a little more color, a little more finish in select areas.

Tomorrow I'll have some of the questions nailed down, but this is a start. I'll keep you posted as I head into the mockup and actual drawing.