Monday, March 12, 2012

Sherlock At The Seaside

Not all paintings start out the same way, certain ideas change as I hit obstacles whilst others change direction completely, none more so that Edisons Sherlock Sidewinder. Originally, after looking through my notes, I wanted to capture childhood seaside memories and tie the sidewinder back to a gentler time when visiting the seaside was in it's infancy. Bathing booths, stripy swimwear that covered everything and walks along the prom featured heavily during the Victorian era so my 'Twistory' idea was a slippery sidewinder found on a beach and admired greatly for it's elegance and poise but also cause controversy with it's incessant wriggling, a wriggling caused it to be eventually accused of being immoral and ultimately featured in the trial of the rector of Stiffkey in 1932 as part of his defence.
 So, it was sketched out complete with accompanying shells, starfish and lighthouse, all essential to a seaside scene.
 I even went as far as producing a quick oil sketch in muted tones to get a feel for it before I committed to painting.
 It felt right so off I went, roughly painting in the beach and sky, even the glass bowl started to look right as I painted in the curvature. Obviously it still needed an immense amount of work when I suddenly blanked. I mean really blanked. I knew what I wanted but that little image in my head had disappeared, no longer could I see the seaside, no longer could I see the sidewinder. Painting stopped for two weeks whilst I thought about it a little longer but it never returned.
 After those two weeks I went back to my list of memories I had written down a year earlier, seaside was still there but underneath it was the 'Sherlock Holmes', my favourite books from my childhood. The 'Twistory' started to build in my mind and the image of the sidewinder popped back into my head, this time though there was no beach, no starfish and no lighthouses, instead was a thinking sidewinder, a thinking sidewinder with a deerstalker hat and a pipe, deep in thought on a library shelf. The vision was back so I set too and produced this rough sepia field sketch.
 With the setting being indoors it made it easier to imagine so out came the props, in this case several old painting books, a glass flower bowl, some stiff wire, marbles, water and a plasticine magnifying glass complete with cling film lens.
 The next bit was a little easier, modelling the Sherlock Sidewinder, balancing it on an old brush held between two books and using the stiff wire as a counterweight to keep it upright. The whole scene was lit from the left to get maximum effect from the light through the water filled bowl and onto the books.
 That done it was sketched onto a prepared black coated board ready for it's first coat.
 Because I knew the light was going to be tricky I painted in the sidewinder first, the smoke needed to be done wet on wet so that was added too ready for the pipe to be painted in a little later.
 Using the black background I painted out from the deep dark tones and built up the glow gradually, you can see from this shot the tones through the glass are quite intense in areas and muted in others depending on the amount of colour I added on to of the black. If you look closely you can see especially in the glass bowl that the whole board was also heavily textured, this extra bit of detail allowed me to pool shellac in the areas to help with the ageing process at the end.
Many, many layers of glazing later the whole piece rose out of the black into full colour, all the lights had been captured to the best of my ability and the plasticine, sellotape roll and cling film magnifying glass didn't look too bad either. One final trick was to grind away some of the paint on the table to simulate wood grain and fill it back up using french polish, shellac coats the surface and then wiped off quickly leaving little feint pools in the texture. From seaside to shelf, from sidewinder to Sherlock, Edison's Sherlock Sidewinder was finished.

No comments: