A few weeks back I couldn’t see where to go next with this one, and I thought it might be finished. I put it away for a while and looked at it again – always a good thing to do when undecided about a piece. Coming back to it I felt that some changes were needed, but still couldn’t identify them. After looking at it closely each day for a week or so, two thoughts emerged: I Needed to change the balance of the light, and I needed to get a little more mischief into the expression. The first step was to strengthen the highlights, putting more light into the piece overall, concentrating on the flesh tones. With this accomplished, I had to deal with some unintended consequences: somehow, I had drained some of the mischief out of the expression, not at all the effect I had been looking for. Not quite back to the drawing board, but I needed to slow down again and analyse what was happening.
Paul #7 sat on an easel in a corner of the studio while I progressed some other pieces, not quite mocking me, but definitely offering up a new challenge… OK, a confession: I wasn’t quite sure how to address this one, so I went for a series of little displacement activities, working my way around the canvas correcting a series of minor faults. I think a lot of artists do this now and then, but they don’t like to admit it. It’s a safe way of treading water while I get my bearings. Some work on the eyebrows seems to pull the expression in the right direction and improve things further by going back into the hair, beard and moustache with some stronger highlights. It’s not a big change, but the expression is moving in the right direction with Paul #8.
After another couple of days I come back to it and start to feel quite excited about the painting again. I’m closer to a resolution than I had thought. The last few changes are principally really minor adjustments around the eyes and mouth, together with some more attention to the highlights to get them more balanced. The main change is a deepening of the strongest shadows in the hair and beard – this seems necessary from the point of view of definition.
With this I really do think I’m finished. I’m happy that I’ve got a sense of Paul’s happy-go-lucky nature into the piece, and retrieved that sense of mischief in his expression.