This painting has two stories. The first story tells how I was inspired to paint this picture, and the second one tells about how I decided to finally finish it. I wasn’t sure whether to share the second story or not, but I decided it’s a part of the painting, so perhaps that means it’s worth sharing.
Over six months ago, in June, I was researching Art Deco for Chapter 3 of The Otherwalls. My awesome Art Deco reference book (which keeps me company even now) had this small unassuming copy of “Miss Nancy Beaton as a shooting Star” by Cecil Beaton. Even though it was a black and white photograph, I felt like through the depth of tone that I could feel the colour radiating out from it. It made me feel this strange prick of joy from seeing all this colour where there obviously was none. I decided I wanted to do my own version, to share the colours I glimpsed the first time I saw the image.
I sketched it immediately and laid down base colours, but I couldn’t get the feeling the original image had conjured up in me. I left it to sit for a while, and every so often I would wade back into it and muck around with the colours again. It quickly became a quagmire of soupy mess and I restarted it about three times before I settled on a colour palette I was comfortable with. Even then I didn’t have the attention span to stay bogged down in dress folds.
So I saved it into its own little folder and let it sit, promising myself that I would come back and finish it when the time grabbed me. Usually if this happens to a painting of mine (especially a digital painting), it never gets picked up again. It joins the graveyard of unfinished work and gathers digital pixel dust as it grows old and finally corrupts.
And so we come to the second story, set in this weekend just past. After a very intense couple of weeks with broken sleep, nightmares, and a whole lot of stress, this painting was exactly what I needed. I had already finished all the important structural thinking, I just had to finish it. I was able to let myself really get lost in amongst the depth of colour in the folds like I was wanting to do for months. The discovery of a few new photoshop brushes helped too, giving me the right tools to get the shape in the dress that I really wanted.
Few things are quite as delicious as how painting feels to me. I love lines, I love faces and shapes, but it’s colours that really make my soul sing. Working on this reminds me that I am an artist, that painting hundreds of colours into strange fabric folds is me in my element.
There are a lot of things I need to sort out and fix in my life. A job, an illustration career, a comic. How to be a grown-up (whatever that is). All these things that have weighed on me and made me feel broken now feel possible because I’ve finished this painting. It’s been so unfinished for so many months, but I got there. If I can finish this, I can finish anything. I can fix anything. I might need to shelve things away until I am ready to face them, but when I do I can make them more beautiful than before. I can make them shine.
And on that note I hope you like her. I’m so happy she is finally ready to be shared.