Monday, January 17, 2011

Stripes are so slimming - Step by step

Because someone asked, here's another step by step guide to how I created one of my recent paintings. The origins of this one are interesting: I inherited a pile of second hand canvasses from someone who'd had a brief flirtation with painting but hadn't really taken to it. So what I've done over the past six months is re-prime and re-use them; I am nothing if not a committed recycler. However, among the mostly abstract canvassses was one that simply had vertical pastel stripes painted on it. It looked like a deck-chair ... and that reminded me of something I saw in the Summer of last year.

I was in London between meetings and decided to eat my lunch in Regents Park. There's a lovely lake there that you can sit beside and deck-chairs you can help yourself to. Above you'll see a couple of photos I snapped on the day in question. Anyway, I grabbed a chair and settled down to enjoy my M&S three bean wrap when I spotted the arrival of a fellow diner. He was dressed in a rugby-style top with horizontal green and white stripes, blue jeans and black shoes. He was carrying two Tesco carrier bags in one hand and a third plain white bag and a milkshake in the other. He eased himself into a creaking deck-chair and started to eat.

He ate for some time. And he ate more in that one lunch break than I would normally eat in a day. I wanted to get a photo of him but it would have been too obvious as his chair was angled towards me. So I made this simple doodle to remind me. It shows the point where he struggled to his feet, waved at someone nearby and shouted 'Roj!' - short for 'Roger' I assume.
'Roj' waved back but went on his way. Our man then returned to his food. As the pile of discarded packaging started to grow beside his chair, something struck me; all of the packaging was striped. There was a box of fried chicken and chips that was striped red and white. It wasn't a KFC, but one of those copycats that have purloined the name of a different state: Tennessee Fried Chicken or Texas Fried Chicken etc. He then ate two packs of Tesco Value sausage rolls - also in stripes but blue and white. His milkshake was in a striped paper cup and I bet the straw was striped too. He then tucked into a striped box of Tesco Value apple pies. And as I watched in a mix of horror and surprise, an old cliche jumped into my head: Stripes are slimming. I noted the title on my doodle.

Some months later, I happened upon the 'deck-chair' canvas and was reminded of that day. I found the doodle in my notebook and transferred it as a drawing to the canvas. I then primed the area with white gesso. The stripes had been done with oil paint and I planned to put acrylic paint on top. Once that had dried, I started on the picture in earnest.

First of all, I did a kind of sepia and flesh-tone underpainting to set where the features of the face would be. I also toyed with striped brown trousers but decided that the original blue jeans would be a nicer contrast to the pastel background. I also decided at this point to make his stripey top red rather than the original green. I felt it would help pop the figure out from the canvas and make him look even rounder.

Main colour blocking done, I started work on the trousers and shirt and then the face. I spent an afternoon looking through lots of paintings by the late great Beryl Cook as I wanted a similar style and humour in this painting. The face owes much to her and doesn't look that much like the guy in Regents Park to be honest.

Use of shade and tone soon rounded the figure out and I started to drop in the background items; the chicken box and carrier bag and his drumstick and glass. Originally Iwas going to paint a striped cup but I fancied having a go at painting glass as I hadn't done it before.

Voila! A couple of days later, I finished it. Here's the finished picture.

I hope you like it.
Damn, I really fancy a sausage roll now ...


Winifred said...

This could be your Striped Seaside period Steve. Definitely a'la Beryl!

Julie said...

Geez you're clever - my boy had similar talent, and the art has really helped his rehab - in fact it's been one of the driving motivations