Still-life with figure

This painting is my product of a three day masterclass with renowned artist, Ellen Altfest, at the RHA school in Dublin. 


Over the first day and a half Ellen challenged us to consider our composition from different perspectives. Sketching multiple versions. Introducing new objects. New crops. New framing devices. Meaning, narrative, relationships ... 

I was instinctively drawn to our model's ear and the framed view of a somewhat traditional still-life set up in the background. For this I chose a jug, a rose, and soft green cloth to vibrate against the red tones in the model's skin. 

The intention of my piece was to create a disturbance in the observer. I wanted to make compositional choices that would result in the observers eye darting from one area to the next and not flowing gently. To achieve this I purposely drew lines into the corners of the composition, I created tangents where one object would run into another uncomfortably. To further add to the tension I included a strong diagonal and rendered all elements in sharp focus with minimal blending and softness  

All of these decisions were made before the painting began as a result of the multiple sketches and ideas I hashed out before getting out the 'good' paper. 

I then proceeded to paint in our limited time frame as best as my observational skills could facilitate using a medium I hadn't used before ... goache  

The goache and I had a number of arguments as I learned the hard way about its tendency to dry opaque and casually reject my attempts at glazing but after about half a day we started to speak and I learned that the best way for me to work with it was to apply it in almost a pointilist way allowing some colours to blend optically as opposed to mixing final colours on my palette. It reminded me of a workshop I had taken earlier in the year in egg tempera. It was unexpectedly hypnotic and meditative. At this point I gave the composition no more of my attention. I let myself slip into the world of pure observation.