Saturday, November 7, 2009

Hell for Leather

Hell for Leather, 40X30, oil/linen

Hey there everybody,
since I've been unable to stand in front of my easel as of late, I decided to post a painting I did earlier this year, but never posted. I know there are lots of you who visit my blogspot, but have not made the jump over to visit my website. What??? Why the heck not? I don't post everything I do on my blog. Hey, I have to give you some reason to visit my website.

So, here's a larger studio painting I did of a wrangler I met in Colorado. We had come back from a trail ride and I asked if he would mind me taking some reference photos for a painting I had an idea for. Most of the paintings I had been doing were pretty static and I wanted to do something that showed a lot of action. So I had him make several passes at me with me shooting pictures just as fast as my camera would go This is where investing in a good digital camera really pays off. It only takes one rider photo, but it has to be the right photo for it to work. I did get a photo that worked for the horse and most of the rider. But there were some things that I had to change. First, he was wearing a short sleeve shirt ( and it was a washed out flesh type color). OK, yeah, technically I guess they do wear short sleeves.... but as a friend of mine says, 'no one wants to buy a painting of swayback horses or bow legged women. You can paint it that way, but that don't make it right'. So I took some extra photos of myself with my arms and hands in the position that looked best. When you do this, you've got to replicate the position of the sun. I'm gonna repeat that cause it's soooo important. Look at the location of the sun in the original photo you're looking to modify. Orient the sun to the same position as in the photo. You can take the best reference in the world to change something in an original photo, but if you don't make the lighting the same, it won't look right. And it doesn't matter how well you paint it. The eye knows. Damn the evil eye....

The second thing I didn't like about the original photo was the face of the wrangler. Oh, he was a good looking fella, but he had a habit of scrunching up his mouth, you know, curling it in. It just looked funny and I knew it would be a problem. So I went outside and set up my remote wireless shutter button and snapped pics of myself till I got the one that I felt would work (yes, that ugly mug is mine). Then I just put them all together. Simple, see?

I guess my whole point is that no matter how good your reference is, it can almost always be improved upon. I never paint something the way it is just because it's that way in my reference photos. If you do, you might as well just sign the photo. I'm always asking myself if I can improve on the scene. Is there something that's not right, how do I fix it. I take things an move them around. Edit. Add. Whatever I can do to tell the story I want to tell. If you care enough to do these things, it shows in your final work.

The whole point of this painting, beyond the action part of it, was to make him as large and in your face as I could. I played with the idea of actually cropping off part of his head, just to push the idea of meyhem and speed. But luckily, cooler heads prevailed. But I did exaggerate the tilt a bit. Not enough to look like he was going to fall off, but enough to help the composition. For the setting, I kept it pretty simple with minimal distractions. I put the rider on a dirt path going away from a small bunk house in the distance. I added the branches to help push him of the painting and give the impression of motion. You can see I also blurred the edges of the sunlit areas to really light him up as well as the horses legs and hooves. The flying dust was the finishing touch to make this rider go, "Hell for Leather".

Thanks for looking, Steve