Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Mr. Epps

I've finished a painting of a woman with a black cat. The colors are an analogous harmony of blues that are enlivened by the warm notes of the woman's face, her hands, and the cat treats on the napkin.

Mr. Epps
16" x 12"     2014     oil on linen

This composition worked out surprisingly quick with only two drawings: the initial quick sketch and then the final.

Mr. Epps, initial sketch
3" x 3"     ink on paper     28  September 2013

Mr. Epps, final drawing
16" x 12"      2 January 2014      pencil on paper

The red, green, and yellow lines visible in the above drawing delineate various sections that I find useful and always put into at least one of the drawings for a particular composition. The red divides the picture into halves with their related diagonals, the green into thirds, and the yellow marks out the "golden sections" and their diagonals. While I don't adhere religiously to any mathematical system, I find the last one especially interesting.

The "golden section" is based on a ratio that was first described ca. 300 BC by Euclid. It has been found in nature and has been used by many artists and architects in a search for harmony and balance. The same ratio exists between successive Fibonacci numbers. Now commonly called PHI (φ), the ratio is 1.618. In the drawing above, the horizontal yellow line just below the woman's lips is placed at .618th of the height and it gave me two diagonals. When I was looking to place the woman's arm, it seemed to work best when its angle followed one of the diagonals. I'm amused by how often lines and placements in a composition feel right when there is a relationship to φ.

Once I began work on this painting, there were only a few changes to the image. The woman's hair was shortened. The cat changed from the grey tabby that I usually paint, to a black cat I knew a very long time ago, named Mr. Epps.  All in all, it's not very often that I go from start to finish with so few drawings and changes along the way. Got lucky this time.

Below are two older cat paintings with the grey tabby, Mookie.


Woman with Grey Cat
6 1/2" x 5"     2013     oil on linen
Private Collection, Massachusetts

Woman with Cat
9" x 7"     2001     oil on linen
Private Collection

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- Mark Rothko

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