This is the second in a pair of male bathers, both of which began from photographs and drawings. It shows an older man, seen from above, with fragments of secondary figures extending off the canvas. The cropping and aerial view came from a photograph, but after the initial session, drawings became the central source for the painting. ( If you scroll down, the drawings can be seen in last month’s post).
|Older Bathers #2-1|
In version 5, the paint-handling remains fairly loose, but the structure of the painting is beginning to tighten-up.
|Older Bathers #2-5|
By version 10, some interesting sections of the painting had been built up, but it still felt like a collection of fragments. What little connection there was between the parts was achieved by alternating color in the contour lines.
|Older Bathers #2-10|
In spite of some pleasing flourishes, version 13 pushed the mechanistic feeling of the painting to the limit. It had become stylized to the point of losing any human connection.
|Older Bathers #2-13|
The alternatives seemed pretty clear. I could abandon it and start over from scratch, or scrape it back and lose a lot of “good-looking” painting. After I decided these good-looking areas were mostly flash, I opted to scrape it back.
|Older Bathers #2-17|
Painters tell themselves to be ready to sacrifice any part of the image in order to make the painting stronger as a whole. It isn't an easy guideline to follow, but through the rest of the process, that was my policy.
A return to a more humanized form was clear by version 22. I had pared down the painting and at the same time gained back some emotional content. Still, the balance of color and value wasn’t what I wanted, so the search went on.
|Older Bathers #2-22|
After more than two dozen variations, this one felt right. Though it wasn't an easy painting (they almost never are), I was finally rewarded by something in the work.
|"Older Bathers #2"-oil on canvas, 54" x 48"|