This commission is taking me a long time to finish. I make three decisions and then I’m exhausted, and the paint needs to dry. I walk away.
As I work, I think about my client. She has an irreversible and deadly disease. This painting is for her life partner as a parting gift, in memory of their life together. Their best memories are in the water, the mantas are metaphors and symbols.
Thrilling, intimate, scary, flowing, connecting …. fill in the rest here.
We all know life is finite. But it is another thing to know death is looming. It is another thing to be touched intimately by it and be asked to partake in the goodbyes.
I love her (my client). Every decision is a worth a million more than the thought that goes into it. I want to have all the time in the world to finish this painting. I want anything to slow down goodbyes. I never want this painting done so she can never give it to him. So she will never die.
So I slow down. And reflect on color and life.
The Birth story: color and life
Of the images she gave me, there were sea turtles, mantas, sea life, water, underwater corral. Of the words she gave me, mantas, moving together, light and colors, love and the stories she has shared with me about them.
This image burned for me. This is sketched and painted on 9 x 12″.
Which eventually led to a rough idea and agreement.
I changed the mantas as little as I worked on the larger image which is about 26″ x 26″. They are purple; regal and spiritual. They come together in a more fluid shape. They merge so one is undecipherable from the other. The energize each other at the connection point.
And then I add background color. I also altered the color scheme a little, adding deeper blues and simplifying. The challenge is to keep the eye on the mantas while creating motion, energy, support and a story with color. A vivid purple draws the eye in just the right places, there should be color and contrast where meaning occurs.
The aquamarine frames the mantas. Dark colors keep the eye inward. The yellow draws the eyes to it and the mantas. Purple and yellow are complimentary colors, they glow next to each other.
Now I’m happy with the basic composition which is different than the first sketch. I took what worked from it and added and subtracted. Then, I return to the blues and yellows, softening, shading, darkening and adding depth.
This week, I came back to the mantas with more layers of colors and shading. The rewards for patience pay back huge in vibrancy and motion. The mantas are deeper purple now, the result is higher contrast which builds more energy and richness to the painting.
What is left?
I need to keep working the shading in the two mantas, their upper bodies are still a bit ill-defined and the background colors still need a few more layers for richness and just the right frame.
She loves it. Believe me, she would tell me if she didn’t. I’m relieved and joyful. This project aches, but I’m so pleased that this painting is doing what she wants and needs it to do.
I could work on this forever.
She might have to tell me when to stop.