As I continue to work on this newest portrait of Sam (I call her that in my head...hope you don't object, Samanda!) I have been thinking more about painting from life rather than my photo references. She has offered now to pose during her break from classes at U Vic in April and is willing to sit for a couple of days. A great opportunity I can't selfishly keep to myself so I have invited a few of my artist friends to come up and paint also. So far two have accepted the invitation and are excited about it. When we get together for our drawing group the sessions are only a couple of hours and the model changes pose frequently. This is a chance to concentrate on one pose for many hours over two days. But being a model is no easy job - I posed for portrait classes to earn money as a student a couple of times and felt it was almost torture! The trick is to find an interesting pose that won't tire out the model too much and make sure there are breaks every half hour or so. I think the breaks are good for the painter too because it brings one out of concentrated revery which may or may not be pulling the work in a direction that isn't what one wants. I like to reconsider what I've done so far and decide if that is the way to continue or if something new is required. I don't make preliminary sketches usually when working from life. I take a moment to visualize the subject on the canvas and then begin to draw, blocking in dark and light values as I go, seeking the relationship of shapes rather than the details. I may use a thinned acrylic earth tone like Raw Umber to do this so I don't have to wait to start painting over it...a good idea when time is limited.
The dress I have chosen for Samanda to wear for the portrait session is a skirt and top that I bought when I was a young bride in 1974, made in India. The material is a hand dyed cotton gauze (lined skirt), has a gold (real!) stamped pattern all over it and red binding between the seams in the skirt. I was a size two (yes really!) in those days (size 8 now, so not too terrible for a post menopausal lady). I think Samanda will fit into it as she is petite and slender. Now is when I wish I had one of those "fainting" style couches to pose her on, but I'll figure something out. See I'm getting excited about this already! I am picturing something great to wrap around her hair - keep the background very simple or lots of pattern? I can see so many possibilities.
Probably a simple backdrop this time to emphasize the pattern of her dress, (plus we will only have two days to work). Bare feet I think. The beauty of the plain, nature-made human body draped in a man-made beautiful dress...neither outshining the other, except for the face of the model which, to me, is always the height of interest. I frequently paint my models with bare feet - I think feet are beautiful.
This painting party is going to great...good friends, good food, good music, great model, and time to think of nothing but the painting. Two days will be wonderful but a week would be better. Better not push my luck.