"The Court Dancer" Oil on Panel ~ 16 x 20 inches
This painting has kept me pretty busy for a while and I am loving the way it has turned out. In hindsight I am happy that I decided to pull it out again and give it another go. My little court dancer is now captured in an old court, twirling around for eternity.
When the scale is small, there is very little room to maneuver the paint. I was a bit bothered by the heavy outline around her eye and worked on the eye using a dentist tool that comes to a very sharp needle like point. This image is magnified but now you can actually see her pupil.
Her belt was lost before and I decided to work on it to break up the darkness of her jacket. The tassels were added to add to the sense of her movement.
My favorite part is the carpet. I love the jewel tones and this is a magnified section of the foreground where details are still rather clear. Since the fibers of a carpet catch light differently, the carpet has a slightly speckled treatment. Keeping a sense of a detailed carpet pattern, yet make it look believable was a challenge for me. I have come to the conclusion that carpet painting is very difficult.
The tile work got reworked several times. When light hits tile, there is a certain amount of reflection that obscures the pattern. Through trial and error, I finally managed to get just the right amount of light to bounce, show the wear and tear that happens in old structures and make it fit to add visual interest, but not be overpowering.
I have reworked the floor tiles in the background and worked on the details in the carpet. There has to be a certain push and pull in details to make the room look believable, therefore some areas have to be more in focus than others, in other words show more detail in the foreground and less in the back.
How the color is applied makes a world of difference as well. The background had to be more muted and the foreground more vivid. By using thinned color washes the background areas were muted enough to cover a lot of the initial detail work. The next step therefore was to go back in and decide how much of the detail and at what chroma to bring some of it back again. Now the figure seems to move in the room rather than be like a pastiche. The yellow ochre does a nice job as a contrast to the cool blues and greens in the dancers outfit and I am happy with the progress so far.
It's always nice to see an early stage to compare with the final result. This is how the painting started out.
As a life long student of art I now know that every painting creates a new challenge and a set of hurdles that can only be overcome if the artists has the knowledge and proper skills to know what course of action to take.
In 2005, yup that long ago, after seeing a Persian dance performance, my friend and I were so thrilled about the show that we could not stop talking about it. Still very green behind the ears, artistically speaking, I convinced my friend who studied dance when she was young to pose for me. As she twirled around in my foyer to Persian music, I took really bad reference photos and promptly set to work to paint her in a fictional Persian court. All I knew was that I wanted it to look as exotic as Jean Leone Gerome's paintings. HA!
What I never even considered was how difficult it was to execute a painting in that style. The tiled wall in the background was a training in patience and costs me my eyesight. After that I could not paint or see well for that matter without reading glasses! The carpet kept floating in the picture plane, so it looked as if my dancer was about to take off on a journey through the skies.
Somehow my friend who is even shorter than me ended up rather tall and the list of mishaps continues on and on. I had no idea what to do and often was ready to throw the painting out into the trash. That wall that I labored so much over stopped me and instead I threw the painting into a corner of my closet. I had to admit to myself I lacked the skills and know how to pull this one of. Eventually it came together and it now hangs in my home as a reminder that with patience everything is possible.