Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Solving It

I think my biggest problem as an artist is, I'm impatient.  I can't wait to get out my paints, spritz them down and see them sparkle, smell the wet paper and the gum tape, and lay down that first saturated wash of color.  Sometimes being able to work fast has been an advantage and earned me a good reputation, but I have learned, especially as a watercolorist, that thorough planning saves me a load of anguish.  I have to be disciplined and solve all my composition, value, color and shape problems while still in sketching mode.  That means a lot of experimenting.

My son's name means "armed defender."  I did my first sketch for his name painting several years ago.  I started with the most obvious idea.  Armed defender.  Check.  But it felt very stagnant.  I added something in the background for him to defend, something cathedral-ish to represent faith and church.  I let it rest.

By the time I picked it up again, my son was old enough to offer his opinion.  He wanted a dragon.  That was no problem.  I've always enjoyed drawing dragons, so I thought, why not?  But it seemed a little crowded having the dragon and the defender sharing the space equally, and all the poses I was coming up with were too melodramatic.  Again, I put it down for a while.

As I started thinking about this image again, I had a clearer idea of how I wanted to do the dragon.  I wanted more of a silhouette against a large red-orange sun, with minimum rendering of the form.  That meant the silhouette had to be really interesting.  I tried a few different neck & head positions, looking for just the right suggestion of motion and ferocity.  Even sketched in my Franklin Planner... (gotta love the quote about cookies and a nap at the top of the page)

I wanted the dragon to look fierce, like it was striking, not coiling back.  I finally felt good about having a more downward thrust to his pose.  Then I drew this little sketch with more of an S curve. 

The last thing to solve was my guard dude.  I had always tried to show him from the front or the side because I thought it would be more fun to design his helmet and his breastplate, but with the dragon in the background, I couldn't very well have his back turned to the enemy.  This is the kind of guy that would face the threat head-on.  So I had to get over the need to show his front.  (Some things are hard to let go, but that's what makes for bad paintings and bad movies, too!)  I also had to figure out the type of weapon he would have.  Guards often have big spears, so I chose to go with a spear-like axe (what is that, a halberd?).  In previous versions, the weapons were at various angles, kind of a poised-to-strike position,  but in the end I decided a solid vertical line would better portray strength.  That coupled with the stable triangle of his legs would give a sense of solidarity.  I threw in just a hint of a crenelated wall to give the idea that he is defending a building instead of just meeting his foe on the open battlefield.  And who doesn't love a nice, billowy cape?  
I don't know when I'll have time to paint this one, but it warmed my heart that my son couldn't suppress his grin when I showed it to him.  Mommy done good.

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