In 2009 we went to visit Nona at the Italian Club in Cape Town. Ethan was very focussed on perfecting his Ollie at the time. I could hear him clattering outside the studio often. Sinead took a brilliant photo of Ethan and his shadow, from which I painted this quick sketch:
Light is Sweet
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At the time I was working hard to implement the approach taught by Charles Reid. Here is what I wrote about my approach: I am so keen to develop a looser approach to watercolours. Here is a picture of my son Ethan. I started with a contour drawing and then began with the darks. I also tried to go out of the body as soon as possible to the dark tree in the background. I did the road and the green grass last, after the shadow, which was a problem perhaps – but it feels great to just do it with out trying to be perfect – mmm very good.
Then I did a more careful painting of the same scene : Here is a picture, below, I did of Ethan doing an Ollie on his skateboard:
I liked the dark background as it gave definition to his upper body and arms, which were light. But I found the tree trunk off-putting.
Notes from 2009: I am pleased with the shadow which has more life, and I like the way the shadow and the tree shadow repeat the motion of the arms. The tree is overworked though – this is a lot of dark and I want to learn how to apply this amount of colour with sparkle. This will be my bed-time reading. Oh yes – Ethan tells me that the move is called an ‘Ollie’ but as his brother Calvin explained, “We are South African – therefore Arlie” (I am not sure I understood but anyway).
Here are the stages in the development of the first picture:
At the time I wanted to do the painting without the tree in the background. I had a feeling the painting went downhill from the first one and wanted to preserve some of the freshness.
So I did the picture again:
With the lighter background I thought the figure was more prominnent. However with the benefit of all of these years of other work I prefer the second version. I have an idea of how I would do it today but that can be for another posting.
What do you think?
I really like this painting. First, you’ve caught an almost figure in motion in an almost impossible pose.Then your light works beautifully. And then, the drawing itself is elegant and loose. I love that highly defined shadow with varying colours in it; and I like the tree trunk. It echos the shape of Ethan’s back and the space between Ethan and the tree trunk serves to highlight the shape of the torso.
Without the tonally dark tree, you would not have achieved the effect of brilliant sunshine on Ethan’s shirt and his arms.
The composition works. It has the body going vertically and the arms going horizontally so the eye is kept comfortably occupied in the middle of the overall image.
There’s good tonal balance and good texture.
I sure hope you did this on good, acid free paper. What size is it?
I often find that if I put away a painting for a few days, maybe even longer, that the frustrations from painting it have disappeared and I can look at it with fresh eyes.
Often I will come up with the surprised reaction, “I painted that? I didn’t know I was that good!”
Sounds a bit self congratulatory, but what I mean by that is, my feelings of frustration are no longer there and I can see it for what it is. Maybe it will need a tweak or two. Maybe just a mat or frame will make all the difference.
Submitted on: Dec 27, 2008 at 08:02
K’s comment on the first Ollie sketch:
This is so dynamic. A lot of artists would gladly give up their eye teeth to be able to draw/paint with such facility. The shadow really gives the leap to it.