Sea Daydream: Process Part 2
What's wrong with this picture?
As I wrote in part 1, I was repurposing a rejected sketch and aiming for a dream-like quality. The larger sketch just wasn't "it". Something wasn't sitting right for me. At this point I was stubborn and decided I was going to solve this my self so didn't bother bouncing ideas off people. (I'm glad I stuck it out. I needed the visual problem solving practice)
I thought I had a solution so I started another large sketch (pencil on vellum again).
I liked the new hand placement and the morphing into waves/sky. The fish got more attention. I made sure to overlap the fish with other elements and tried to make an interesting arabesque of their contour. At this point, the idea of scales on her face started to creep in. I had also fallen in LOVE with the goldfish.
But something still seemed off.
I decided there was too much separation between the elements. No real flow throughout the piece. There was a little flow up through her arm/hands/tilt of head, but everything else fought that flow. There were also 3 layers: jellies; goldfish/head & hair and none of them were really interacting with the others. I thought, "I need something to connect those layers. A visual bridge of some kind."
Lion Fish! Of course. Larger bodies and fins that extend up, down, and out. Perfect. Okay. Now I felt like I was on a roll. I still needed to figure out what the hair/sea/sky was doing and get some reference for a face. But I thought I had it. (Poor goldfish.)
I showed this version to some of my trustworthy critique people. They suggested maybe giving her something to hold (shell, starfish, or sand dollar). So I tried a few of those out. Instead of redrawing I made drawings on tracing paper of just hands holding things. No destruction of the sketch plus I could tilt and turn the tracing paper to try out placement of the hand & object. Also, as I did more research I learned that sand dollars are thought of as coins lost by mermaids. Interesting. I liked that idea so now she's holding a sand dollar.
Great! I've got it! I was feeling pretty good. I could finally move on with the piece. But there was so much stuff in the picture. So I let it rest for a bit to get a fresh look.
When I came back, yup too much stuff. Still no flow. The main focus of interest was lost. The fish were competing with the head. The "story" was muddied (there was no clear idea). My eyes felt like they were in a pinball machine bouncing from shape to shape.
So I stripped it down. No jellies. No big fish. Just the figure holding a sand dollar, the dream-like quality, and the sea. I went back to my notes to see what else I could use to set the scene (kelp, little fish). I started making abstract shapes with the lasso tool in Photoshop. I tried to keep flow in mind, and the hierarchy of information: figure 1, sea things 2, hair/waves/sky 3, supporting details (small fish, gulls, wave crest).
That's how we got here and what would soon be a painting.