Monday, May 3, 2010


"Clara", 16x20", oil on canvas panel
Copyright, 2010 by Sharon Griffes Tarr

Balancing artistic integrity and a clients vision in a commission can be a daunting task for an artist. In "Clara", as compelling and endearing as the subject was, the painting of it offered numerous unique problems that had to be dealt with prior to and during the painting process. I'd like to share these with you.

First, the photograph provided by the client did not include the entire figure of the child or in her reflection. Secondly, she had already grown past this age and was no longer available to me as a model. To resolve the lack of legs and feet in the photograph, I simply hired another child as a model to replicate her extremeties. While not perfect these references were sufficient to at least create a believable reflected image.

The second issue to be dealt with was which to emphasize, the child or the reflection? I chose to down play the main figure except for the face around the nose and eye and to increase the color and light contrasts in the reflection, thus directing the viewers eye to the mirrored image. Keeping edges appropriately soft between the two was also a delicate balancing act. Consequently, there was, in my mind and in my brush, an ongoing yin yang between the two images. Throughout, I had to constantly consider and reevaluate relationships so as not to lose the original intent.

On the choice of pigments, I chose to modify what has come to be known as the "Zorn Palette". In reality, it is a Victorian palette of Ivory black, Titanium white, yellow ochre and red (Zorn used Vermilion). To this I added Cobalt blue, chose Permanent Red Medium for my red, and changed to yellow ochre pale. I used thinned down Transparent Red Oxide to establish shapes and suggest features during the initial block in. This slightly expanded palette allowed me to execute the warm and cool contrasts of Zorn and Sargent while effectively capturing the child's warm flesh tones. Overall, I am well pleased with the outcome of this painting feeling it captured all that was intended. The plus side of this is that my clients were delighted and that validates my creative efforts.
Footnote: This from the client who commissioned "Clara". "Your 'Clara" still takes our breath away." So lovely!"

1 comment:

Beth Niquette said...

Ooooh....this wonderful piece just took my breath away and filled my eyes--which is the greatest compliment I can give.