I have no photograph with which to illustrate today’s work on the Annunciation. My dealer Martin Tinney came for a studio visit this afternoon, which while a pleasure meant that I started late at the easel and the light had gone by the time I’d laid down my brushes. But here in preparation for tomorrow’s Annunciation Diary is the Virgin as she originally appeared in the under-drawing.
With Gabriel now painted in, I found that the placing of the Virgin Mary within the composition had become unsatisfactory. I decided that I’d cramped her unnecessarily, resulting in a pointlessly empty space along the bottom of the picture plane that I probably would have filled with plants. I’ve now re-worked the whole figure and the above drawing has vanished under the new image. I’ve radically altered the angle of the figure, curving her spine and settling her hips back as though she’s putting more weight into her resistance. The leg closer to the viewer has been both turned into profile and lowered so that her knee comes further down. The drapery that she clutches now fans across to the bottom left of the composition, filling it more snugly. Her head and neck have been moved slightly to the left and her face has been re-worked. The angle of the arm against her breast has been changed, the elbow lifted higher and her hand turned so that the palm holding the wrap is facing her.
The overall effect is to give the Virgin more weight within the composition. While Gabriel may have the upper hand, in the new version the two figures share the space more equally. Looking at the drawing as it was in the light of what’s been achieved today, I feel that I’ve eliminated my increasing unease about how Gabriel had dominated the composition. While Mary is no larger in the re-working, by re-distributing her weight and adding bulk to her draperies, she holds her own against the annunciating angel.
It can be worrying when such a significant re-working takes place once a good third of the painting has reached completion. I didn’t want to unpick any of the work on Gabriel… though I would have done so had it proved unavoidable… and yet I wasn’t sure whether I could make the changes to the Virgin without having to start again on him. Right now I think all is well and I shall sleep soundly tonight. Tomorrow first thing I’ll take a snapshot to illustrate how things have changed. Then I can get busy painting, binding the composition with colour, tone and pattern.
I think I should probably face up to the fact that these falling oak leaves have well and truly become an obsession. A few more have floated down since yesterday. The angel’s face has been completed, and I must apologise to Zoe who wrote today to say how much she liked the red side of it as posted yesterday. Sorry Zoe. It had to go!
I bet you though I’d forgotten all about this one. Well, not so. It’s just that it’s been staring at me, propped up against a wall in the studio. I’m afraid I missed photographing the second day of work on it, but here’s how things are looking at the end of day three. A very long way to go with this one yet, and there’s no saying whether what I show you today will survive into tomorrow. But for whatever it’s worth at this early stage, here’s my blue angel.
As I did with the recent Saint Francis, I plan on recording the stages of this Annunciation as I work on it. The plan is that the Virgin be kneeling in a field of sunflowers. Here it is at the start of the process, with my usual red oxide ground and the figures lined in ready for me to start with brushes and palette. (This black and red stage helps me better construct the negative shapes that underlie my compositions.) I’ll have to get my skates on as the exhibition opens March 25th and there are three paintings still on the go. Like Beatrix Potter’s Tailor of Gloucester, I need the mice to come in and help out at the easel while I’m sleeping!
I realise blogs function more satisfactorily when updates are regularly made. However work on Saint Francis has been curtailed as I’m required elsewhere for project managing our house restoration. Today I offer by way of a consolation to those champing at the bit to see another Saint Francis Diary entry, wings of another variety.
I plan to get time in the studio tomorrow and so hope to post an update then.