Tropical Eve


Well-known member
My last painting, Ivy & Harley (Flora & Fauna) was a big breakthrough for me in terms of the increased complexity of the halo designs and the floral elements... although I didn't realize it at the time. The next painting, Tropical Eve, was one of those works you immediately realize is a quantum step forward... even before it is finished.



As usual, I spend the down-time between completing the last painting and starting the new one by cleaning up the studio, moving the last painting to the side, and cutting the paper for the new work. At this time... which often takes days... I'm looking around the studio space at my previous work as well as browsing through books and on the internet for ideas. I decided to limit myself to a single figure. Initially, I was toying with the idea of Salome. There are many paintings on the theme... especially Klimt's... that I admire and I love Strauss' opera on the theme. I began with a figure holding something (a vase?) that I thought I might turn into a head... or perhaps a Jack 0' Lantern (it was Autumn when I began this painting):


One of the artists I was looking at a good dead at the time was Alphonse Mucha... especially his painting Dance from the series of the Four Muses.


I was intrigued with the color harmonies... the warm Autumn-like reddish-browns, the motion of the figure, and the large halo. I began laying out the halo in my painting using the old method of a string on a pin with a pencil:


As I began working on the halo I thought of intentionally employing a subtle variation in the gold leaf by alternating between rays that were a single layer and those that were 2 layers deep. As the painting evolved, the hand poses shifted from holding a head ala Salome, to a praying position ala Mary Magdalena to holding an apple ala Eve... to something of a dance-like pose ala Indian dancers.



This slight variation is not visible at all in the photographs.


As I began to think of the figure as Eve, I began working on a background that suggested the Garden of Eden with apples and the serpent. The complexity of this halo was immediately obvious as being a big step in terms of complexity.



I focused on the gold leaf designs almost before anything else:



Once I began working on color, I headed out to pick up a bunch of colored-pencils, and pastel pencils which I used extensively in the surrounding floral elements and the serpent. As I developed the background elements I found myself feeling that the head was being lost... and so I wreathed her head in flowers in a golden reddish-orange that matched her halo and stood out against the blues and greens of the rest of the background elements.



I "bounced" oranges and blues into the leaves, the serpent, the apples, and the tessellations.


AS I moved from left to right I added thorns that echo the Biblical thems and form a visual rhyme with the curves of the haloes.


I was already spending more time on the background of this painting than I had spent on most paintings before this in terms of total time involved.



As I reached this point I began thinking of Eve... with the flowers in her hair and her hand gestures as almost something of a tropical dancer... perhaps an old Hawaiian pin-up.


I was also looking at the various beach beauties by painter, Danny Galieote.


Galieote's work is often fueled by classic Americana: American paintings by artists such as Reginald Marsh, Grant Wood, Thomas Hart Benton, Raphael Soyer, and George Tooker as well as TV, films, and illustrations of the period. One painting particularly struck me:


Saturday Double Feature with the Lone Ranger and The Creature from the Black Lagoon reminded me of all the sort of Friday night and Saturday afternoon TV I devoured as a kid. The Creature from the Black Lagoon was one of my favorite of B-Monster movies... and at this time it popped up on one of my streaming channels... and so I watched it once again... and it wasn't bad at all... a classic variation on the Beauty and the Beast theme.


I began looking at various "Creature" images... including this cover from Rolling Stone with Gillian Anderson at the peak of The X-Files:


All of these images swirled about in my head and reinforced my notion of painting my Eve as something of a tropical pin-up.


Initially I carried the teal down below... but the checkerboard grids were black & white. This proved far too overwhelming and so I shifted to browns and a warm dull white like the Autumn colors of Mucha's Dance muse (above). I also bounced the teal blues into grids as the outlining elements rendered in pastel pencil.



As I moved to the figure I felt that I would need to match the more delicate handling of the leaves and apples and flowers which had been rendered in pastel pencil and colored-pencil in an equally sensitive manner. I began slowly rendering the entire figure with pastel-pencil and colored-pencil with a few areas of stick pastel to pump things up.



Eve turned out to be one of the more beautiful women that I had "painted".



I recently came upon this anecdote by Paul McCartney, speaking of the recording of Hey Jude:

"There is an amusing story about recording it. We were at Trident Studios in Soho, and Ringo walked out to go to the toilet and I hadn’t noticed. The toilet was only a few yards from his drum booth, but he’d gone past my back and I still thought he was in his drum booth.
I started what was the actual take, and Hey Jude goes on for hours before the drums come in and while I was doing it I suddenly felt Ringo tiptoeing past my back rather quickly, trying to get to his drums. And just as he got to his drums, boom boom boom, his timing was absolutely impeccable.
So I think when those things happen, you have a little laugh and a light bulb goes off in your head and you think, This is the take! And you put a little more into it. You think, oh, fuck! This has got to be the take, what just happened was so magic! So we did that and we made a pretty good record.

I felt something similar during the process of this painting. As I began work on the figure of Eve herself I recognized how different this painting was for me... and how much of a big step it was. I also suspected that it was pretty damn good. And as such, I remember feeling somewhat nervous when I sat down and looked at the progress during breaks. I would think, "Oh please don't fuck this up!"




When the painting was complete I got feedback from a number of other artists suggesting I employ the same technique again. I have yet to do so... but undoubtedly, I will. I'm going to need to amass a big stockpile of pastel pencils and colored-pencils before doing so... especially during this virus that has made shopping in art supply stores impossible... as well as thanks to my favorite art supply store (that was just 5 minutes or less from my home) being bought out by Michaels and mothballed before being sold and turned into a storage fascility.
This is fantastic SLG. Really great work! ❤️

Can you order your supplies online? I've been doing that since I moved to the middle of nowhere. The only thing that sucks about it is waiting for everything to arrive. Takes forever these days, but I can at least shop for the best deals at various stores.
Thanks Arty! :)

Yes, I've been ordering a lot of things online during this pandemic: dinner, groceries, gifts for the grandkids, coats for the dogs with winter approaching, a new iPad, and art supplies. As you suggested, however, it often takes forever. Many of the suppliers don't have some of the more popular items/colors or have to wait for months themselves. As the pandemic kicks into high gear... and likely gets worse with the impact of the crowds during the election and election rallies, and the coming holidays with many insisting on traveling and family gatherings truckers, UPS, USPS, and other methods of shipping will likely focus on essentials and I doubt they will count art supplies among these... however much we may disagree. 😄