Given we are in the season of white bearded, old men toting large burdens on their backs this recently completed oil painting finds an appropriate showcase on MuddyColors this week!

Although begun at the IMC event this June and finished over the summer, this particular concept had roots reaching back nearly 6 years when it’s first iteration appeared in one of my sketchbooks. Although only a thumbnail back then, the concept of a figure struggling as they bore a heavy burden was one which fascinated me.

Over the years the concept has evolved as I attempted to discover what exactly was the best way to interpret this relationship.  What I perceived was being carried, likely by an older person, was not just a large physical weight but a representation of past wrongs- errors made and/or resources misallocated which negatively impacted the future where we now find this figure.

A wall of inspirational concept abstracts (thumbnails) hangs next to my drafting table waiting for the right chance and commission for one of these ideas, copied from my sketchbooks and posted here, to be brought to life.  I do this so I do not forget the best of my concepts, saving them from the stratification of page after page of sketchbook idea generation.

When preparing for this year’s week long seminar and demonstration at the IMC, I turned to this wall – and this image spoke to me.

Part of the factors involved in my choice in composition engaged with the needs of the IMC, providing other artists a chance to see how I manage painting figures, textures, and utilizing imaginative design in narration.  One of the other bonuses to arise out of this demonstration was the willingness to explore a color palette fairly outside my safety zone.  I wanted to environment to feel harsh not ‘natural’ – acidic or radioactive.  The yellowish green/orange felt like the right ‘wrong’ palette to use.

A close look at the skin color of the figure’s legs and you can see how those colors mixed independently on a palette are not a typical ‘go to’ color mix for flesh!  It was quite challenging and shocking to see just how yellow and green the skin became as the painting evolved and dictated where it ‘needed’ to go.  There is actually very little difference between what colors were used in the ground around the figure, and those which describe his flesh.

The strength of this piece comes fully from the convincing nature of the human figure, and for that I have the model Robert to thank.  His willingness to pose and wonderful acting help make this painting come to life.

During the course of the demonstration, which spanned 5 days at the IMC, I was able to portray various layerings and building up of form through techniques of opaque paint application and thin glazes, both with brushes and palette knifes.  It is a chaos managed not from direct intent, but rather from repeated experimentation and chances which are then reined in for effect.  For even after so many years working with paint, I am never sure where a painting will take me, and it is a pleasure to still experience moments of discovery, exploration, and surprises.

May your New Year be filled with success and adventurous play!