Alaskan Artist - Elise Tomlinson
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Home » Archives » July 2005 » Changes to Woman and glacier painting (aka Holly with harmonica/chocolate bar)

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07/12/2005: "Changes to Woman and glacier painting (aka Holly with harmonica/chocolate bar)"

2woman-cat (35k image)

Here are some changes I made to the woman and the glacier painting. I added this big orange cat, I needed something to balance out the color of the woman's hair, which was overpowering, and I remember seeing a similar profile of a cat somewhere (ebay maybe) that stayed with me. But then, the cat was too close in tone to the pink dress so I added some ultramarine violet, a similar shade as the mountains.

Then I added orange to her hair and to the daisies to disperse the color into the canvas more. I don't have any orange in the upper part of the canvas which prevents me from completing my color triangle (which I hate) but I'm not adding orange to fireweed, it wouldn't make sense.

BTW, if her face looks a little muddled it's from saving the image as a smaller file size, it starts to pixilate a bit.

Anyway, now I have to add shadows and In order to make the new composition work I'll have to move the arm that used to hold the chocolate harmonica so it's angled back in towards the cat. I think I'll do that tonight after work. Zoiks...I hate leaving a painting like this!

As far as changing the direction of the arm, this is what I had in mind. Better or worse?

4woman-cat (41k image)

Replies: 9 Comments

on Tuesday, July 12th, Howard said

I really like the way the cat runs off the edge of the painting.

on Tuesday, July 12th, Elise said

Actually, that was hard for me to do because I like for things to circle in on themselves.

I was thinking of bringing the catís hind legs up and inward (trying to get my cat to pose is *not* an easy thing to do) so that itís circling back in towards the woman, and then when I lower her arm it will form kind of a ring. The catís back will still run off the canvas thoughÖor maybe I could just bend the catís legs up a little and still run off the canvas but have the end of his tail wrap around in a spiral to close the composition?

I have this deep sense of how I want my compositions to work (particularly the colors and forms), and even if they donít make the narrative of the piece stronger or whatever, I feel compelled.

on Thursday, July 14th, holly said

I really like the version with her arm down at her side. I wrote my MA thesis on the placement and role of books in 19th century paintings of women, so I become very attuned to how the book functions or what it emphasizes in an image. When I was writing it, I attended a lecture by Garrett Stewart, who was finishing up a book on women readers in the 19th century--he was writing from a literary standpoint rather than an art historical one. But he did go into some analysis of images of women readers and what he found was that the book is often placed on (or near) the female body with the spine of the book acting as an arrow that points to breasts or genitals, or that it in some way acts as an erotic stimulus (where it has been cast aside and the woman is immersed in a sort of erotic revery, often touching herself or having hands placed in the suggestion of touching herself). I found these depictions to be objectifying and a little insulting.

In direct contrast to artistic convention, what I found in my thesis was an artist who portrayed women readers in just the opposite way, and who used the book as a sort of wall between the woman and the viewer. These women were awarded dignity and privacy (not only did the books act a barriers, they were also placed so the viewer can't see the printed page--look at images of women reading and see how many times you can see the pages of their books. It's like being constantly supervised.

Errr, where was I going with this? Oh, yes. The first version of your painting is bordering on making the woman in the throes of eroticism or reverie, at the very least-- like she's about to rip her own bodice (look out, kitty!), especially with the spine of the book pointing at her mtn valley cleft. The eye is drawn to the bust and stays there. The second version, though, has more ability to lead the eye around the painting: the hand points to the daisies, which lead to the cat, which guides the eye to the book, which points to the upper part of the woman, but not solely her cleavage. It's a nice circular composition and doesn't have any sort of (unintentional) erotic implications that detract from the individual's interpretation of the painting.

on Thursday, July 14th, holly said

Ooops. That was really long. WooHoo! Get your art history on!

on Thursday, July 14th, Elise said

Wow Holly, that's facinating! I remember sitting in art history class and wondering if the artists had really intended everything being read into their work.

For example, with this painting the arm/hand was up because she used to be playing a chocolate bar and at that time I hadn't wanted to repaint the arm and hand so I just painted out the harmonica bit. I hadn't seen it as ripping off her bodice, but looking at it again not knowing the whole harmonica thing I could see how one might think that.

One of my art teachers said that we may not be able to control how our veiwers interpret our work but we have to be aware of what our symbols represent.

As for the book pointing to her Mtn val cliff... :blush: I was just positioning the book the way I do when I actually read lying down. It usually makes me sleepy at some point so I'll just rest it face down for a little snooze time.

I am generally very intentional about the placement of things but I'm motivated more by compositional than narrative forces. I did repaint the arm (and the cat) last night and I agree with you 100% that it helps the eye circulate around the painting better.

I've posted it above. Anyway, I always *love* hearing your views on things because it allows me to see things that others might see, that were previously invisible to me.

on Thursday, July 14th, Elise said

oops, mine was really long too!

I probably really do need to get my art history on again...

on Thursday, July 14th, holly said

Re-reading my comment (it was EARLY in the morning, durnnit!), I hope it didn't come across like I was suggesting that you were trying to make the picture naughty-ish. Obviously, there's going to need to be some shifting of focus/posture when the main accessory changes from a harmonica/chocolate bar to a book (unles she was trying to play/eat the book). I think it's really interesting how the function of the book changes with the change in hand position. With the hand up, all focus is on the cleavage/bust (whether intentional or not), with the hand down, the interpretation is more open, as is the composition. I didn't care for this painting much with the harmonica, but it totally works now- her posture is very natural and she doesn't look "forced" at all.

on Thursday, July 14th, Elise said

I didn't think you meant I'd done it intentionally, but it was there none the less. When paintings morph over time it's easy to lose site of the bigger picture.

It is cool to see how changing one thing can have such a big effect on the piece as a whole. I think part of me was uncomfortable with that arm after deciding the harmonica wasn't going to happen, it's easy to get lazy as a painter..."but geeze, then I'll have to repaint her arm, bodice, hair, hand" if time is a factor (i.e. deadlines) then it's so much easier to just leave it be and continue to be annoyed with it.

I'm learning that if something doesn't work for me I should just change it right away rather than trying to "work with what I've got".

I really do value your insights...

on Thursday, July 14th, Elise said

Oh, and what I meant about when paintings morph, is that when she was playing the harmonica, the emphasis would have been on the "instrument" and her mouth, removing the harmonica had an unintentional side-effect.