First Laurens Painting: Boy in the Dunes

Posted: February 19, 2003 in 2003, All Posts 2002-2006, Paintings
Tags: , , , , ,
This is the photograph of Laurens I've just begun working with.

This is the photograph of Laurens I've just begun working with.

February 19-20, 2003, at the San Vicente Inn, LA (stopover on the way to Brazil): Spent some time sketching by the pool, from photos of Laurens. This is the first I’ve worked from these—just got them back a few days ago and haven’t had any spare time to sit down and draw.

One of the first rough sketches I did of Laurens lying in the dunes.

One of the first rough sketches I did of Laurens lying in the dunes.

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When I started to feel better in Rio, I started sketching some more visual ideas for the painting.

There’s one in particular I think might be interesting. It’s a shot of Laurens lying down in the dunes, in the shadow of some greenery. I like the way his body stretches diagonally across the picture frame. I see it as a stylized painting, very colorful. So I did a couple of preliminary sketches just to get things started—but it’s got a long way to go.

February 21, sitting in the airport at LAX waiting for Rio flight: I’m starting to ‘see’ a somewhat stylized painting of the image of Laurens in the sand dunes, lying back in the greenery, mostly in shadow. The composition is already good, and I’m beginning to see the color scheme too. I’m seeing purple shadows and a really hot orangeish-red body, I think. This is all just in my mind, I haven’t yet put any of the colors down on paper, but it’s getting clearer…

February 22: The Varig flight from LAX to Rio was hellish. I’m usually able to do some sketching while flying, but not this time! I felt like I was in a sardine can. For 13 hours! The cabin was hot, stuffy, overcrowded, I ran out of water, and the slight cough I’d had before I left turned into a much uglier thing. By the time we got to the hotel in Ipanema I felt terrible. For the next 4 days I was pretty much out of commission, sleeping 20 hours a day, fever, chills, all that. Yuch!

Starting to get clearer on how I want to stylize things.

Starting to get clearer on how I want to stylize things.

February 26: Feeling somewhat better today. Not great, but with enough energy to go to the beach for a little while—and to continue sketching on the Laurens picture. My intention is to stylize it quite a bit, and that always takes lots of sketches, to work out all the new shapes and make them fit together.

I’m trying different visual ideas on this, but all built around that strong diagonal of Laurens’ body stretching from upper left to lower right. Having a bit of trouble with the greenery/leaves—not quite sure what I want to do with that yet. But it’ll work itself out. I find that if I just keep sketching, sketching, sketching, trying different things, sooner or later everything falls into place.

With this sketch, I've worked things out sufficiently to try a color sketch.

With this sketch, I've worked things out sufficiently to try a color sketch.

February 27: I’ve continued to stylize the image, reducing/simplifying the forms, until I have a black-and-white sketch that seems to have the look and feel I want. The shapes are working together nicely to create a a kind of contained energy. I didn’t know it until I got it, but this is the kind of visual rhythm I’ve been going for with this piece. Now I’m ready to add color and see what that does! (I’m still kind of sick, but able to do a couple of hours of work on this every morning.)

I only needed to do one color sketch to feel good about the color scheme (that's lucky! sometimes i have to do several).

I only needed to do one color sketch to feel good about the color scheme (that's lucky! sometimes i have to do several).

I copied the rough onto another piece of paper in preparation for doing a color study. In the process I decided I really don’t like the bandanna on Laurens’ head and I took it off and instead gave him a kind of spiky blond head of hair. I like it. It’s not only cuter and more lively, it also works well with the shapes I’ve decided on for the greenery he’s lying in.

Color-wise I couldn’t be happier. The colors I’ve come up with for this color study are very close to what I was picturing. I think I’m ready to turn this into a painting!

I only needed to do one color sketch to feel good about the color scheme (that's lucky! sometimes i have to do several).

March 1: So far I'm sticking pretty closely to the colors in the color study.

February 28: Today I began the painting. Today was all about re-drawing the image several times larger on a sheet of smooth Bristol board, getting it as exact as I could, because the proportions of the shapes and the way they work together in the rough acrylic sketch is just right, and I don’t want to lose that.

March 1: The pencil drawing is finally right, so today I painted over every line of the pencil drawing with black paint. When that had dried, I covered the entire thing with a purple wash, my usual procedure. I took advantage of the time it took for things to dry by starting to mix my colors.

Then I started to lay in some of the colors. Working from the left side because I’m most concerned about how the colors and shapes of the head and shoulders and the greenery are going to work together. Also laid in some of the left leg and the background around it.

The upper image is from March 2, the lower one from March 3.

The upper image is from March 2, the lower one from March 3.

March 2: Continuing on the shoulders/leaves/upper body area. I love the way the shapes and colors of the greenery and the head and shoulder work together. I got lucky there. I also got lucky with the choice of colors for the chest and upper torso. The purple and red really work well there.

March 3: Did more of the background and the lower half of the body. I got playful with the penis and made it purple with a bright-red head. A bit of artistic license there. Like I haven’t been taking extreme artistic license with this thing from the very start! Anyway, everything is working well with the exception of the lower left-hand corner (there’s always at least one area that ends up being difficult, you know. Of course you can never predict where it will be). Not sure why it’s not working. I need to go in and screw around with it some, see what happens.

The final product. This acrylic-on-paper painting is called Boy in the Dunes.

The final product. This acrylic-on-paper painting is called Boy in the Dunes.

March 4: Getting some of my energy back—I’m able to work for longer stretches now. Today I did finishing touches all over the painting, and I attacked that troublesome lower-left-hand corner. The cute little fold I had put in the towel wound up being too busy and distracting, so I just straightened it out. That helped a lot. (Amazing how often simpler is better.) Then I worked some of the blue-grey into the towel, and added a little diagonal band of green, and things started to work a whole lot better. In fact, I finished the piece and signed it today. I’m really pleased with it, and my whole mood has been elevated. I’m feeling better and starting to enjoy being in Rio.

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