I took what I had learnt from the test painting to complete this painting.
Two shades of white – blue tone and ochre tone
Adds subtle dimension and light to the piece.
I applied white without any Liquin so it was a much thick application than my tester or previous paintings. I did this because I thought there was something missing from the tester – it looks too flat and washy. Making the highlighting paint thicker has solved this issue.
The thickness of the paint in contrast to the underpainting and shadows gives the highlights a luminosity that makes the painting striking.
The way I painted the sheets in the bottom right of the painting – letting the shadows be the underpainting, instead of a dark brown I applied. Painting the sheets like this works well because it helps to differentiate between where the duvet stops and the sheets start. The shadows are softer on the sheets than they are on the duvet so it makes sense to not use the dark brown shadow in areas such as this. I want to use this technique on all of the sheets for future paintings.
The size and frequency of the flower pattern. I followed the photograph roughly, and then added more flowers on top. I looked at what the painting needed more than following the photograph and this worked in the paintings favour.
I decided not to add a mid-tone grey. I thought with the tester it complicated things, and add more tonal variation where it wasn’t needed. It makes this painting starker. The two different shades of white make up for not having the mid-tone grey.
I was unsure about how to paint the top part where, in the photograph, the wall is. I liked the idea of leaving the underpainting there, the texture and colour worked well. But I didn’t want that part of the painting to look ignored and unfinished. So I add a wash of warm off-white, thinned with turpentine. Leaving the canvas bare where the shadows of the pillows are.
This works well because it is subtle and doesn’t draw attention from the rest of the piece. I didn’t want to apply thick paint which would create a high contrast area, because that would have drawn the eye too much.
Hiding the face of the figure and just having her hair and wrist showing works really well. The focus is very much on the materiality of the duvet, and the shape the fabric is creasing in that follows the position of the body underneath it.
As a viewer of the finished piece, with the pattern on the duvet being so bold and colourful, I try to find some meaning in it that reflect the person under the covers. The blooming flowers seem a reflection of the character of the person – whether that is how the artist perceives the person, or something else. I know this is a self portrait, and the flowers are just what I had on my bed that day. But it’s interesting that even knowing that, my mind tries to find narrative in the pattern. <<This is something I could work with moving forward!
What doesn’t work
Areas of the sheets where I added this dark brown as the shadow. The contrast is too high considering the sheets have a softer shadows than the duvet. It makes it tricky to see where the duvet ends and the sheet begins.
I think generally, the sheets need more experimentation. I am unsure what would look best with them – but I think the direction is to use more of the underpainting and remove the shadows.
Conclusion and moving forward
Overall I’m happy with the outcome of this piece. It felt like quite a stylistic experiment, but the painting does have conceptual implications.
I think the pattern on the fabric has so much potential. I could be painting portraits of people under duvets and using the pattern on the fabric to reflect them, or get them to choose a pattern? There is a lot to be explored! This painting is a good start.