Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Absinthe Night, new painting - process

So I took on the challenge of creating a painting including four figures.  Not my usual style.  I used an 18X24 canvas and blocked it out with pencil first.  I didn't follow most of my pencil lines but they gave me a sense of where to place my figures.  The painting is based on actual evening I spent with members of they Reedy River Rats Writers Group based here in Greenville, SC Charleston.   One night after our writers meeting at Coffee Underground, we decided to go back to my house.  I had recently received in the mail a bottle of Swiss Absinthe, this was in 2007 and it was still illegal to sell Absinthe in the United States but you could purchase it from other countries and have it shipped.  I had already found four wonderful absinthe glasses at Goodwill that looked just like the ones in paintings by Degas and  Vuillard, and I had been gifted with a silver slotted spoon upon which you place the sugar cube to produce the louche.  It was a fun experience completing the ritual of achieving the louche talking about writers who wrote about absinthe, as well as artists.  I wished I had taken a photo.
And I'd always wanted a turn of the century painting of Absinthe drinkers, having seen a few, and been fascinated by the concept of the Green Fairy since reading about Absinthe in Poppy Z. Brite's book, Lost Souls.  Her husband now owns the restaurant The Green Goddess in New Orleans where every dish has liquor  I'd even found a chapbook by Alestair Crowley on the subject and was fascinated by the culture.
So when I was scrounging around for ideas for larger paintings, the idea just popped into my head one morning in that zone somewhere between asleep and awake.  Thanks time zone change for this short period of confusion and illumination.  
I started out painting the table in my living from which we served our drinks.  It's heavy wood, kind of
Viking looking and round with studs.  But after painting it in, it had no perspective (not my strong suit).  It looked as if it was standing on the side of the tabletop.
So I looked up lots of absinthe paintings from France for the turn of the century and found cafes and tables and after seeing the way Degas painted a white table in "L", I decided to change the table to a rectangle so I could put a leg on it for perspective. I had to use a lot of paint to make the changeover, and reinforce the wood planks on the top.  But it worked! This also gave me more room for my figures to crowd around.  I blocked in the figures, painted their clothes and then started working on heads.  I completed the far one on the left.  But he ended u[ looking like a 12 year old kid.  I can't have a 12 year old kid drinking absinthe. So I dabbled with the background, put in the green door which sits behind my couch where most of us were sitting back in 2007.  And stared at the painting.  It was now about 11:30 last night. I also put in the face on the figure on the right with red hair that's supposed to be me.  But it was all wrong so I scrubbed it out and will let it dry overnight.  I fiddled a little with it some more started putting in the background and the curtains (Which look more like those at Coffee C nderground in the India-influenced room, so the interior may end up being a blend of Coffee Underground and my living room, since the table looks like on of theirs too.  I ended up going to bed at 1:00 pm.
This morning I.  I started at 7 am and scrubbed out the neck and face of the kid and worked until 10:10.  He's finished, I think. I also worked on the background some more painting the walls a mix of grey and yellow trying to come up with the beige that;s in living room.  Those walls have a base coat of beige but then there are dark greens, dark blues and copper dragged down from the ceiling like the screen set at a NIN concert I went to circa 2008.
So far I've used 15 brushes and a palette consisting of zinc white, lamp black, sienna, yellow ochre, lemon yellow, vermillion, viridian, Payne;s grey, violet and English light red. 

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