Did a little painting today on the new one of Jr Maxwell playing his 5-string. I put flesh on his face and hands, his hair in place, got the hands placed on the banjo, made the circle of the banjo head fairly well. I only make circles and geometric shapes free-hand, including the banjo neck, two long straight lines. I like the bit of waver in a line that is "straight." With gentle wiggles in the line, it has a movement about it, subliminal to be sure. A ruler-edge straight line is dead in my visual perception. I always find at this stage major errors in placement of shoulders, hands, knees, nose, glasses, chin, ears, hair. This second phase after the initial sketch and color placement I find places that are a bit off and correct them in this time. This visit with it I found what I want to do next time, the blue shirt and blue pants, cobalt blue work clothes. The right shoulder and arm I want to have close to the light source, bright to white and dark to deep cobalt. Have the dark and the light dancing in the folds of the cloth in relation to the light. That will bring the shoulder forward. The left shoulder and arm I'll have very low contrast in the folds of the cloth, which will set it back visually. I want the right shoulder forward, sit him at an angle leaning over the banjo head, big white moon.
Wanting to do the Whitetop Mountain Band next, I started this one of Jr Maxwell. I'd been wanting to make another portrait of him, this time a solo portrait. I was looking through some photographs and found one of Jr Maxwell that jumped at me. He was picking his bluegrass banjo. I wanted to make one of Jr to be a match to the one of Willard playing his guitar. I like the dynamic nature of that one of Willard with the red square behind him in blue shirt and yellow guitar. I want this one to have its own power. I've thought about painting a faint pattern of the moon on the banjo head. Wouldn't want to do it too obvious, just a suggestion. Maybe. Not sure yet. Just a thought to toss around. I like the long black line of the neck making a diagonal line in relation to the circle. It suggests a sign by the side of the road. On first glance, the diagonal black line suggests one of those signs with the red circle and the red diagonal line that means DONT. They catch our eye because they have information we need to know with reference to the highway. This one is not red, but just the icon of the circle with a diagonal line draws attention. Once the eye pauses on the image, there sits a man in the icon playing a banjo, more circles.
Attempts to make a chrome ring around the banjo head will be done using black and white lines close together, using those opposites together bring it forward. Like first glance it's a sign, then the eye settles and it's a man sitting in a circle with a banjo. Has the plane of the big circle and the plane of the white circle, and between them a man sitting slightly diagonally. I'm seeing where it's going and liking what I see. He already seems to have dimension about him. What do I mean by dimension? I mean his face had taken on the beginnings of roundness, the posture is starting to take an interesting twist over the banjo. Already it feels like he is in tune with the banjo. They are one. I'm looking at it, seeing the next phase, seeing the advance beyond what is there now. Beginning to see where I want to take it. I want to make the banjo dazzle, the chrome rim that is several circles and the black neck with a thin white line along each side. Those white lines will be interesting. One day I'll feel it, squeeze a glob of white out of the tube and git-er-done in just a few minutes. No point even attempting it when I'm not feeling it. I've found with things like that, like with fiddle bows, there's no point even attempting it when I'm not feeling it. It's just one of those moments, you know it when it's upon you. This is what I like about art forms, how they evolve.
I'm noticing that the right side of the image, the half circle and the black diagonal line suggest flatness, like maybe a clock with the big hand on the 2, then the dark image on the left turns out to be a man sitting down picking a banjo. When the left side becomes interesting to look at, the round banjo head with the hand in the middle of it draws attention. It comes way forward from the dark blue shirt and pants, and they come way forward from the circle behind. In first glance it goes from flat to having depth and back to flat. I like that. A little bit of visual tension in the colors. When I look at those three levels, they go back and forth. The hair is mostly gray with some black outlines and some white. I'll work the hair to bring the head forward and to help round it. I could leave it like it is right now and call it Don Reno. But it's not Don Reno. Reno was Jr's favorite bluegrass banjo picker. He appreciated the Earl Scruggs style of banjo, too, but Reno was da Man. I'm glad that the image suggests Don Reno, because it was his picking Jr would aspire toward. I don't have to do anything to bring out that suggestion; it's already there in the image. Good.
Already the face is looking like him. Won't have much to do on his face beyond rounding curves and accomplishing the illusion of roundness. That's where the fun is. Part of it. The fun is seeing a likeness occur, playing with the likeness with light here, dark there, until the person I know comes through. That's when I stop. When I have the likeness, any additions will take away from likeness. It's the same when the eyes can see. I'll fuss over the eyes until the moment comes they can see. I never touch them again. His right hand appears to have some motion in it. I'll see what can be done to enhance that suggested movement. In the middle of the white orb that is the banjo head, that hand is rather much like the focal point of the painting. Therefore, it must dance. It will dance. It might be fun to give it an Italian Futurist touch, just enough of a blur at the edges to suggest motion. The noting fingers of his left hand can be dealt with similarly. That would be ideal to give them motion. That is the same thing with eyes and face; when it's there, it's there and I mess with it no more. I won't do the blur in such a way to draw attention to itself, just to be there as part of it, like the shoulder strap. And I may decide not to. A consideration.
It's fun to start a new one. And it's fun to paint Jr again. In a wordless way, it's like communicating with him again. I'm seeing that here, again, I have a triangle running from right hand to left hand to eyes and back to right hand. That triangle is inside a circle, which is inside a square. I'm thinking painting the two sides of the canvas the same color as the circle. That could be either interesting or not. There's only one way to find out. If I don't like, black will cover it. Already I can feel his relationship with the banjo, the gaze, the focus, the fingers. If I can keep it in there, that feeling of his focus on his fingers and them dancing, that will be the "spirit" in the image, the spirit of life. That is the life energy in this image, the relationship between the eyes and the hands. It's beginning to find its direction, it's life. The triangle of the eyes and the two hands is where I find the living element to work with and bring forward, out in front of the banjo, adding an invisible plane in front of the banjo and the figure. If I can get that just right, and I can, or at least acceptable.