There were eighteen versions of this painting, which is typical for one these larger canvases. In the first session, the mood was subdued & contained in spite of the gestural approach. I don’t usually start from white. I like to under-paint first with a dark or mid-tone to make the open areas easier to work through. Here I skipped that stage and white remained the dominant color for quite some time as the dress.
|Wade In The Water-1|
Making the leap to yellow was a nod to local color, but it also helped generate some basic structures that form the ground. By version 4 most of the composition is in place and the figure loses its demur quality, taking on a more assertive stance.
|Wade In The Water-4|
In version 6, I cut down the trees and also some of the value contrasts. The composition was diffuse at this point and the figure had lost its punch, which forced me to spend many days retracing my steps.
|Wade In The Water-6|
Eventually, I was able to steer the painting back in a interesting direction.(Reinstating the trees helped). Even so, the figure remained awkward and the cartoon color- combinations were driving me crazy. I like to think of version 11 as “Attack Of The 50-Foot Hairdo.”
|Wade In The Water-11|
I include version 15 to illustrate how many things you need to change in order to move a painting from “close” to completed. I’d felt all along that the key to the figure was to let the dress be the skin and the skin the dress, without making them entirely interchangeable. As a guiding principle, this is about as confused as you can get.
|Wade In The Water-15|
In the final painting, the majority of energy is in the “drapery” of the flesh and fabric, while the preponderance of mystery-- the necessary stillness--remains in the posture and face.
|"Wade In The Water"-oil on canvas, 48" x 36"|