Novelist Christy Ann Conlin loves her some Flannery O’Conner! Southern Gothic may not only influence this author’s writing (Heave & Deadtime) but also her photography as evidenced from her shot of a dead robin on a shovel which she so kindly let me paint. It’s the beauty in the ephemeral fleeting nature of life that makes this melancholic image so poignant for me.
Here’s my process of rendering her photo, Sadness of a Gothic Bird, into my oil painting, End of Spring.
First I blocked in the negative space of the shovel.
I sketched in a loose grid with thinned oils allowing me to sketch the outline of the bird more accurately.
I wiped off the grid with a rag damped with mineral spirits so the lines would not show through.
Using loose washes of paint mixed with lots of mineral spirits and linseed oil I let the pigment drip and spread naturally.
I used the damp rag once more to pat and wipe the surface for texture. Great technique for pavement and rust!
More of the same.
Impatient to start working on the bird I started to block in it’s base colors. In retrospect it would have been more efficient to complete the background completely then overlap the shovel then finish the bird but there is something to be said for the integrity of working the whole at once too.
As the base is completed I’m starting to explore some of the details.
I return my attention to the shovel, wanting to achieve a glowing, almost halo effect aganst the dark backdrop.
Time to bring the bird to life, or as close as possible as though it has just stopped breathing. In this case it’s all about the realism, the deep careful observation of detail. This comes from the stillness of death, in life there would be an impression only.
Dotting the (i)s and crossing the (t)s. In this case it was paying attention to the transition of pavement to shovel to make sure the shovel appeared to be hovering over the pavement instead of appearing as though the pavement was painted around the shovel.
Get out the camera again Christy Ann, I’ll paint ’em and fast as you can shoot ’em!
For more on Christy Ann Conlin’s compelling “Rural Goth”, click on her books below. FWI, I took the photo of the crumbling porch on the jacket cover of Heave. It’s so inspiring when friends share an aesthetic!