Monday, February 7, 2011

A Study in Getting Nowhere

After I posted the photos of the raccoon painting the other night, I set it up next to the TV and spent some time studying it from a distance.  I didn't like what I saw.  Perspective errors jumped out at me and I had to correct them.  The question was whether or not I could correct them without starting over again. 

So the next day I literally went "back to the drawing board" and produced a couple of small size drawings that would show me the changes I would have to make.  I could see from my reference photo that the "horizon line" was right at the raccoon's eye level.  Starting from there, I picked a vanishing point and carefully drew all the lines in the brick wall, concrete step, and wood door.  But it looked so mechanical.  I thought that part of the problem was that the viewer is looking at the scene straight on - that is, all the horizontals are parallel to the bottom edge of the paper - and it's not very interesting.  So I started again, this time placing the horizontals at a slight angle and changing the detail on the door.  But I still didn't like it and it didn't seem like continuing to fiddle with the perspective or the design of the door would do any good.

After more thought, I realized that the background is all wrong.  The raccoon is out of place in this setting.  That wouldn't bad in and of itself, if there were some hints about why he is there - in other words, what's his story?  But there are no such hints, and I couldn't think of any.  So it was time to change the background completely.

I searched for reference photos of a semi-natural setting - perhaps some weathered stone steps in an overgrown garden.  I found several nice ones but there were problems with all of them - problems I didn't think I could overcome.  The main issue was the uneven ground he would have to be sitting on to accomodate the pose in the raccoon reference photo.

Next I thought about the possibility of taking photos on my property.  I thought I could find places with the proper slope and an interesting background.  But the problem with that was that it's February, and this young raccoon wouldn't be around in February. I didn't think I could "ad lib" the necessary foliage since it would be very complicated.

In the end, I decided to put the raccoon aside for now and come back to it when I can get some photos outside later in the spring.  I have never "given up" on a piece before (at least, not that I can remember).  Usually, with any piece, there are discouraging phases, but I keep working and try to pull it out of the fire.  I figure that once I begin the practice of giving up on pieces I will have a hard time ever finishing anything!  But in this case - working on pieces for my application to the Society of Animal Artists - I reminded myself that I need my absolute best work and really didn't think I could accomplish that with this piece.


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