Measure once, cut twice
The bumbling path to painting "Too early for breakfast".
I recently completed (or stopped fiddling with) a new painting “Too early for breakfast”.
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This painting is another exercise in combining digitally painted portrait studies, referenced from Uniqlo ads mostly, combined with painted geometric patterns and textures. While I’m happy with the result, the path to get there was bumpy.
The portrait study, the man looking up from under his toque hat, was never finished. The important parts were done, but I never fleshed it out.
My work life has been busy this year and I felt like I was falling behind in my art making. How can I have a another show if I don’t have any inventory? I decided unfinished is fine, actually. I should just make something. I rushed. In Sketch, I combined the incomplete portrait with a big blue square and some other bits to create a background.
I printed the image at 2 by 3 feet, as wide as my printer can go. I originally planned to mount the print on the birch painting panels I like so much, but at that size they get very expensive. I wasn’t feeling confident enough to throw $80 at a loosely baked idea, so I went with a pre-stretched canvas instead.
Now, I should know that most pre-stretched canvases are about an ⅛” shorter in length and height than the package claims. This allows for the canvas to fit into a standard frame without binding. This is not my first rodeo. The birch panels are precisely cut, dimensions are exact. They don’t have bulging folded canvas corners to worry about.
My printer requires a ⅛” border printing at full width when printing to canvas on a roll. I like the look, it creates a clean edge on a painting. When I glued my print to the canvas, I discovered my mistake. Two edges lined up perfectly. Two edges were mismatched, the canvas poking over the sides. I debated. Should I try to rip this all apart and start again?
I tried trimming the canvas to fit, using a handy little pizza-cutter style wheel-knife. But the print wasn’t centered, so now I had two edges of white border, and two edges without. Amateurish.
I considered priming over the whole thing and starting over. I considered chucking the whole assembly into the trash. However I just rethought the painting I was going to make. I decided on a large dot-pattern laid over the canvas in such a way that on the two troublesome edges, half a dot would cover the white border.
I laid all of this out with a ruler and the cardboard ring from an old spool of painter’s tape. These have exactly a 3” interior diameter. With a lot of painter’s tape and patience I had a nice grid of big 3” dots.
But I rushed.
Typically when I’m painting on printed canvas, I prepare the surface by troweling a thin layer of matte acrylic medium over the entire surface. This protects from abrasions and water damage. It also ensures that painter’s tape releases cleanly. I failed to do this.
I filled in the dots with layers of dark navy blue-grey and then layers of broken white on top. When the paint was dry and it was a time to remove the tape, in many places the ink film lifted off the canvas and came off with the tape - but only within the circles.
I carefully cut the paint / ink film free where I could and then glued it back together with acrylic medium. Luckily for me, the distressed surfaces worked really well with the paint texture I was layering on top. Serendipity.
I turned my attention to the big blue square. I taped it off and applied a textured application of blue paint, reminiscent of clouds, but not quite clouds.
I had recently snapped a photo of a so-called “fried egg” poppy.
These are great flowers. Huge and ridiculous. I loved the idea of this flower contrasted with my portrait. I decided to paint this flower into the big blue square. But I rushed.
When choosing a reference photo to paint, it’s really important that the image have a clear silhouette. If it’s not clear in the photograph, it can’t be clear in your drawing. In life you can just move your head a little bit.
I struggled with trying to capture the shape, structure of this flower and just couldn’t make it land. It just…never came together.
I couldn't quite nail down the odd shape. The flowers in the background felt muddy. Without the visual context of leaves and greenery, the odd shape didn’t “read” like a flower. So I scrapped it. I covered the failed flower in more blue, having that texture spill out of its bounds and then layered more circles on top.
I was inspired by the color combo of white and yellow, so two of the dots became shades of ochre. And of course “fried egg poppy” inspired the title.