Sunday, March 11, 2007
J. W. Waterhouse, Continued
Well, you're probably wondering if I've forgotten that March was Waterhouse month. I have not forgotten. Nor have I been neglecting my favorite of artists. I have been diligently hitting ye olde internet for information, since he left so little written evidence of how or why he worked the way he did.
At left you'll see two of my quick sketches of my concept. Ignore the fascinating anatomy. I'll find models/ references for the poses later. At this stage I was just trying to put the ideas in my head on paper. I wanted to do a wounded knight - that much I knew. My initial sketches put it in a horizontal format with the Waterhousian chick kneeling to grab the reins. I think her standing and grasping for them is far more dynamic. I initially had Sir Knight slumped over but as you can see in the 20 second sketch on the right, I liked the idea of having him a bit more lively. You know, the girl is worried but not worried enough to not flirt, and the knight is holding his hand in stoic fashion over a tinkertoy-sized-wound. He'll survive. So I think on my huge 30 x 40" canvas I'm going to go with some variation of sketch #1 with the knight from sketch #2.
So the next question is how do I begin?
Well, sources suggest that he worked with numerous light glazes of color - sometimes ten or more - to get the effect he wanted. When I was digging through his unfinished works and studies, I found subjects with dark inked outlines that got covered with glazes of color. The outlines still show through faintly in the finished painting, which is where his illustration look comes through. You can see in the unfinished study on the right - the two nymphs finding the head of John the Baptist, that the brushstrokes on all of the glazes were directional - notice that they curve around the one nymph's thigh. Also note the previously mentioned ink/ charcoal outlines on the dresses, never completely covered by color.
And take a look at this unfinished study. Look in particular at the figures on the right. See how they are still outlined with toned washes over them. I still would love to know if these dark outlines are merely the remains of a charcoal drawing on the canvas or if they really are some sort of paint or ink. If anyone out there knows - tell me.
But of course this isn't really how I'm going to start my journey. Before my paint brush ever touches that huge canvas, I'm doing a better sketch. Waterhouse's sketches were beautiful themselves: monotone studies in values, shapes, relationships. He worked out nearly everything before he ever added color. Color studies for some of his pieces exist as well; I'll see how that works out after I finish the sketch.
Wendy Prior is also studying Waterhouse, as is Katherine Tyrrell, so please check out their blogs for more information and to see what they're up to. Wendy, in particular, pointed out that Waterhouse most likely used the Venetian Method for painting and provides a link with a very detailed description.