William Kosman - Artiste Peintre

Monday, January 02, 2017

# 74 - Taking on the Challenge

                                         "Hope at K and A" (Original Sketch)

                                          "Hope at K and A- II" (Blocking it out)



Fellow Art Lovers:

Every once in a while, someone asks me to post blogs to show how a painting develops over time. This past summer, I did show the beginning of a work – Rue Bellevue – saying that it had a lot of potential, and then I posted the finished product, which – frankly – I was proud of. But I have never shown the major steps as a painting progresses to completion.  

Well now, because of some a twist of fate, I will show how a painting develops over time. The twist: Right after I posted “Hope at K and A,” one of my most important followers, who also happens to be a very talented artist, told me she wanted to purchase the painting. But when I told her the size, 30 inches by 40 inches, she hesitated. The upshot is that I’ve just started a smaller version – 20 inches by 24 inches - of the same subject for her.

And, depending on how my muses treat me, and how the painting develops, I’m taking on the challenge. I will show her and you the painting at important intervals as I work on it.  

The painting – both the original “Hope at K and A” and the smaller commissioned version – start with a sketch (the first image in this post.) As I’m sure I’ve told you in the past, almost all of my paintings start out with a pencil or pen-and-ink sketch. This lets me place the different elements in a composition and see how they fit together, how much importance to give each element, and to think about the distribution of color. This sketch helped me reach one important decision: The adolescent in the foreground had to be the main center of interest. I told myself that, if I could capture his expression, the painting would have strength and emotional impact.

Next, on the smaller canvas, I started by laying out the basic outlines of the work, making sure they all fit well on the space without feeling crowded or desolate, if there was too much free space (as you can see in the second image). You can see that I started working on the face of the person in the foreground. I couldn’t stop myself, because I realized the entire painting depends on his face.

At this point, I’m fairly pleased with what I’ve done so far, except for one element.  And just to share a bit of something surprising for me with you: I often take numerous photos of a work while I’m painting, because sometimes a photo reveals a work’s weaknesses more clearly than merely viewing the work itself.

The weakness I found is that the head of the adolescent is too small. For me, and I believe this point is basic for most artists, every painting needs a center of interest, a strong focal point. In the larger version of “Hope at K and A,” the adolescent’s face is the center of interest, and also his expression is clearly the element that shows hope. But if his face is almost the same size as that of the father with his two sons also in the foreground, the two faces will fight for your attention, and you will be unsettled by the conflict.

So, I’m going to have to make some adjustments and make that person’s face larger and make sure that his face expresses hope and warmth.

Now, talking about the future, as the painting progresses, I’m gong to be blocking in the larger spaces, and then, at some point, my work will become more and more detailed. And then, and here I have no control, I hope something thrilling happens: The painting takes on a life of its own. I don’t have to refer to my original sketch of the scene, or the first version of the painting, or any photos I used to guide me. The painting itself tells me what I need to do. If I’m lucky, my brush hand will take over and skip from my palette to the canvas, adding details here and there, mixing other colors into the surface to add meaning and subtlety or important emphasis at critical points.

At some point, I will face the critical moment every artist fears but usually survives: When is the painting completed? When have I expressed as much as I can? When can I say “stop” to myself and then really call a halt to the painting? Because every painter has lived moments when he or she said, “No, just one more touch here,” and lived to regret it.

But, that will come later, and I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

Coming back to Earth, I also thought I’d like to show all of you a few sketches I made recently. I’m sure I’ve said at several points that I also love sketching, which has been a pleasure and a refuge since I was a kid.  

My wife and I took a short trip to Europe, and that was the occasion for some of these sketches. “Milan” is the view from an apartment in – you guessed it – Milan, the home of a person who’s important to us and whom we visited there. And “Köln” is the view from the deck of a cruise ship that took us up the Rhein to visit several cities along the way.

Now, and this is important, I want to wish all of you all of the best in the coming year. May all of us enjoy the love, the good health and the accomplishment we deserve during 2017.

And I promise to show you the critical moments in the completion of “Hope at K and A II,” as it develops.

Thanks for listening.