At Their Mother’s Feet- Unveiled

At Their Mother’s Feet- mixed media on panel 24″ x 30″ by Greg Newbold

A few posts back I gave a sneak peek of this painting. Now that Christmas has passed, I can reflect upon the whole process without fear of the recipient’s surprise being spoiled. This was one of those rare projects in which the client gave me permission to create something beautiful seemingly without any input or concern as to how it would turn out. I was initially a bit nervous since I had no guidelines beyond the concept of having a mother and six daughters being taught. This was to represent my client Jack’s own wife and kids without being a literal portrait. In order to make it work and have a certain family resemblance, I enlisted the help of one of his grown daughters and three of his granddaughters as well an infant cousin to get the photo reference I needed.

Preliminary Sketch

I started with a sketch concept and an idea. i knew I wanted to incorporate a lot of texture and collage elements into the piece as well as metal leafing and I wanted to be free to respond to the painting as it progressed, so I kept the sketch purposefully vague. Using the drawing as a guide, I took dozens of photos, trying to get the angles and poses suggested in the sketch. Working directly on the 24″ x 30″ birch cradled panel, I then used a composite of many of the resulting photos to make  the final drawing. I had previously applied several coats of acrylic gesso, sanding between coats, so I had a nice surface on which to draw. After I was satisfied with the drawing, I began the painting process by applying the collage elements using matte medium as a glue.

The geometric shapes at the bottom were a heavy cotton rag printmaking paper. The other flowers and leaves were created by tearing, crushing and otherwise molding various weights of paper to create the the shapes I wanted. The shapes were then applied with the matte medium and allowed to dry

Some of the elements were stubborn and required and extra coat of medium to adhere tot he surface. Once everything was applied and dry, I covered the entire surface with a wash of burnt sienna acrylic and began to block in the shapes, colors and values with acrylic paint. I was not satisfied with the tooth of the surface in some areas, so I used a heavy gel acrylic medium in some areas such as the suggestion of the sun at the top in order to get the surface ridges evident there.

Other areas just needed a little more acrylic matte medium stomped on with my trusty beat up 2″ house painting brush. From there, I pushed and pulled the different areas, alternating between dry brush and wash, sometimes wiping back the washes to leave the residue in the low areas to achieve the effect I wanted. I envisioned a profusion of pattern and texture but I also wanted the patterns to compliment each other, so I carefully created different patterns for each of the dress fabrics and the sofa. The pastel colors of the girl’s dresses contrast well with the more saturated colors of the background. The foil areas were applied with a readily available leafing kit and then they were glazed back to add depth and cut back on the reflective quality which was distracting.

Once all the background and fabric areas were complete, I painted all the faces and skin areas with oil. If you want to try this mixed media approach, just remember that oil will adhere to acrylic, but not vice-versa. Oil is the final layer and there is no going back to acrylic once the oil paint goes on. After the painting was finished, I had it photographed and a 16″ x 20″ giclee print was created for each of the six daughters while the original was presented to Nancy, Jack’s wife. If you remember from the previous post, Jack himself had yet to see the artwork at any point in the process. I was very nervous, but felt confident that it would be well received by all. My suspicions were confirmed when Jack and Nancy made a special trip by the studio to thank me and tell me how much they loved it. Mission accomplished. I hope to do more of these figurative type works in the future.

Previous post on using metal leaf

See full post here: LIFE NEEDS ART2013-12-28.