Friday, December 30, 2011

Madame Mayple

Dear friends, how are your vacations proceeding? I went back to work a couple of days, but things were pretty slow, as you can imagine and so it was not too bad. Today I am back on holiday and I take advantage of the free time to catch up with you.
Christmas was fun and pleasantly spent celebrating with the Italian friends that have become our family here in the USA. Now we are getting ready for New Year's Eve. This year nobody felt like cooking so we decided to try for the first time to go and eat out...I'll let you know how that works out for us...

Going back to art, I wanted to show you this WIP and final drawing. It's my gift to my friend Mayple (Monika Victoria) of The long lost wood. She is an amazing professional artist I met on the Enchanted doll forum and I greatly admire. This year, she is having the adventure of a lifetime: she left her native Australia to tour Europe. She is now living in Hungary where she is working full time on her art. Her paintings are delicate and daunting, ethereal and full of life. Go have a look if you don't know her already. She is also on flickr.
It has been a particular Christmas for Mayple and I wanted to make her feel she is not alone, although far away from home and her dear ones. I also wanted to thank her for the art she has sent me (still in the mail I am soon as it gets here, I'll show it to you all  ;)...sometime snail mail is maddening...). Anyways, since she loves 18th Century costumes and she is now in Europe, I thought I would make an attempt to portray her as a lady in costume with a backdrop of the land of her ancestors. Therefore, I referenced one of the pictures she has published on her blog and that I like a lot for the beautiful light and for the sweet  and intent expression of her face, which I thought well represents her character, even if we never actually met in person. It must have been a good choice of reference because for once I did not have to struggle to reproduce the feature of my subject. In a matter of a couple of hours, I had the pencils and inking done...I know that's not fast by any means, but for my standards it's like being Speedy Gonzalez!

Then the fun began. I wanted to show her as if she was standing on the balcony of a palace overlooking a Hungarian landscape. Thus the drapery on the back and the flowers on the left. At this point I had not yet researched ideas for the background, but I had very clear ideas about the colors of the dress and the flowers in her hair (the latter being a typical feature of real life Mayple...her up-does are adorable. :)). So I quickly worked on these aspects and on the floral composition. I am not sure that the amount of work I put in that vase was called for, because as you will see in the final product, it becomes kind of lost in the background. Alas, you have probably noticed by now that I cannot resist focusing on tiny (and often irrelevant) details...

As I started working on the drapery in the back I realized that more depth of color-shadows was required by the character skin, so every once in a while I went back and add a new layer of color, although i was always a bit concerned about overdoing it. And in truth, there was a moment when I decided to use a particularly dark blue violet shadow on her cheeks and forehead that made me fear for the worst...Immediately after the sudden defection of the beige I was using to smooth things up put me in a panic. You should have see how terribly scarred by diagonal stripes was poor Mayple's face...My husband heard a desperate scream and wanted to see what I had done but I could not bring myself to show him....and I feel I had to act I looked for alternatives in the palette and fortunately found a couple of earth tones that saved the whole thing (after tons of layers, of course). Too bad I don't recall the details of what copics I actually used (I worked on this piece before Thanksgiving), although I remember that Brick Beige was the one marker that stopped working and created the whole mess.

After fixing the skin issues and having completed the foreground, I started looking for a background. I found a beautiful picture on Google that depicted the Balaton region and I decided to reference it. I tried to figure out who took the picture but could's a very popular image, used in a gazillion sites...if anybody knows the author I'll be happy to give her/him the due acknowledgement.

The background was more relaxing of a job and everything went pretty smoothly. As you can see in the picture above, I first used a light shade of grey to set out the outlines of the landscape and to prevent the colors of the sky and the fields from becoming too bright and dominant. Despite this precaution, the business of the clouds in the sky was a bit distracting, so I used my Derwent pastels pencils (mainly white) to tone down the contrast there....

And here is the final result:

Happy New Year!

1 comment:

  1. Astera you angel, what a beautiful, heartwarming and wonderful post to read! The painting is a pleasure to look at every day, the endless hours of hard work and attention you poured into it is clearly visible, but reading about your experience with it was quite amazing too!!

    Ugh, I can't believe my little watercolour is STILL in the post!! :-{ Hopefully it's just the Christmas season slowing mail down! It is nothing compared to this beautiful portrait, but I hope you like it anyway :-}

    many many hugs xx