Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Joseph Smith - The Final Take

Joseph Smith - $800.00
Oil on Canvas - 12 x 16
Copyright 2011 Dena McMurdie Studios

If you have been following my blog for the past several months (or years) you will remember that I have been working on a portrait of Joseph Smith. Actually, my plan was to do a series of three portraits, but we'll cross that bridge later.

This was a terribly difficult project to work on, because I had no living Joseph to sit in front of me and model. So I had to make do with his death mask, other artist's portraits of him, a clay bust I fashioned myself, and photographs of both my husband and the husband of a friend of mine. It was quite the trip. Once I had all my reference material collected, I set to work on getting a drawing done. Getting the drawing just right took much longer than I had anticipated. But once it was completed to a point where I felt that it resembled my subject accurately, I transferred it to canvas and got started painting. My first try at this painting was interesting. I was really happy as it started out, then as the painting progressed, I could tell that it wasn't going in the direction that I wanted it to. I continued to work on it for several days to see if I could still make it work. I couldn't.

I finally scraped off the excess paint on my canvas and primed it with gesso. I now have a blank white canvas that represents attempt #1.

And so I began attempt #2. In between attempts at Joseph, I painted this portrait of my husband in a traditional golfing outfit. During that experience, I realized that I had been using the wrong color of yellow to get the proper flesh tones that I wanted. So I started over on my Joseph project with a new canvas. I transferred the drawing, toned the canvas, and started painting. Once again, it started off well, and I was excited that the flesh tones seemed to be working out much better with my new yellow. Once again, as the painting progressed, I became less and less happy with it. This time, I didn't let the paint get completely dry. As soon as I knew that I wouldn't be keeping this painting, I once again scraped off all my hard work and gessoed over the evidence.

I now have a second white canvas that represents attempt #2.

I was so frustrated after my second attempt that I didn't touch my brushes for a week or two. During that time, I spent some time reading the Joseph Smith History and pondering over his personality. I came to realize that the Joseph was a simple man, and the gospel that he restored is a simple one. Why was I trying to include a bunch of unnecessary information (color and flesh tones for example) when a simpler, monochromatic color scheme would serve my purpose and suit the subject better? The vision in my mind suddenly became quite clear. In my mind's eye the color was eliminated from the painting, and I could see precisely how it should look.

With my new found vision for the painting, and the excitement that comes with it, I had to wait patiently until I could seize an opportunity to try the third attempt. My three year old decided to take a nap (hallelujah!). As soon as it was quiet, I raced to get started. I painted it, wiped it off, and painted it again. I kept painting and wiping until the image on the canvas matched the image in my head. I LOVE it when that happens! You can see the finished painting at the top of this post. (Insert sigh of relief here.) Now that image will stop haunting me and I can move on to the next one that is festering in that little noggin of mine.


ambyr said...

wow. beautiful. great work!

Christina Brunk said...

Glad it finally came together! It looks great! I actually love the direction you took with the color. The monochromatic strips it down to the simplicity you described and it even has a sepia tone quality that makes it nastalgic. =)

Well done!

Dena said...

Thanks for your comments! I am really happy that I stuck it out and kept working on it. The third time is the charm I guess!