Work in progress part 1

This painting has probably been my most difficult painting yet, not because of the gap of almost two years when I didn’t paint at all, though that undoubtedly didn’t help, but because of my own self-doubts about whether I could do this university thing again. I always place too much pressure on myself and end up stifling my own creativity. But this was the beginning of a new chapter in my life, though at the time, I couldn’t possibly know that it would change to be a new chapter in the whole world’s life!

Before I go on to describe my processes for this painting, I have to give a huge shout out and thank you to Bravissimo for the very kind donation of their bras to me. Bravissimo create beautiful bras for voluptuous women. I only hope that I can do them justice when the paintings are complete. I will add a link to their website at the end of this post. I must point out that not all my work for this module will be completed straight away, as this module is about experimentation rather than completed works.

The bras I choose to paint always speak to me in some way, and set a challenge for me. These were particularly difficult because of the intricate lace patterns on each one. This painting was about colour. The challenge was to create an accurate colour without making the painting look either too dull or too artificial. It was especially challenging because of the two different greens. Would they clash? I wanted to capture how beautifully intricate the lace panels were and to make the bras come alive on the canvas without any human presence.

I create my paintings in a similar way to how bras are created, in layers, each building on top of the previous one and enhancing the layer beneath. I always start my paintings with a background colour, normally a thin glaze which is then painted over. It’s my way of removing the fear of a blank canvas of stark white paper and a way to keep the overall painting balanced. The background of the door was one flat colour so I decided to use that as the background straight away. This proved to be a mistake. Because I want the background to show through the bras lace I always paint them on top of the background, rather than paint the background around them. However, I hadn’t allowed for how colours respond to each other. The orange and green bras are quite bright but slightly muted in colour and I wanted them to stand out. However, when I painted the orange and the green directly on to the olive green, it immediately muted the colours. No matter how many layers or how thick the paint was, I couldn’t get the vibrancy of the colours to pop like I wanted.

The only answer was to brighten the background again. I couldn’t take the paint away now it had dried so the only answer was to add a bright opaque colour base in which to paint onto. For the orange bra this consisted of a pale yellow, with plenty of opaque titanium white in. For the green bra, I just added the phthalo green to the pale yellow mix.

Of course, I cannot know if leaving those areas white would have worked the same way, but these blocks of opaque colour helped to make the colours pop. Phthalo green is a very strong, vivid colour and I didn’t want to lose that because of the interaction of it with the olive green.

Although the background was an olive green door, of course, it’s not a completely flat colour when you take into account the lighting in the room. It wasn’t always possible to work in the studio so it became necessary to work from photographs at home. Photography flattens perspective, however, I have become quite experienced in adapting my style to take this into account, by working with the interplay with the background colours and the bra colours.

At this point the Coronavirus hit and my priorities shifted as I tried to balance extra responsibilities of two jobs with my university work. This painting, like all my paintings, took time to develop. The lace pattern of the green bra is very intricately detailed. In order to depict the bra accurately, I painted the shadows first before adding the lace pattern over the top.

At this point I had spent so long on the painting that I was beginning to lose the motivation to continue and so I decided to take a break from it for a while and start a new piece. I will come back at a later date to finish this as I love what I have created so far and I still have paint mixes to use up!

The Bravissimo Link:

Published by Tracy J Hughes

English artist living and working in Wales. A BA and MA Fine Art graduate from Aberystwyth University. Working in acrylic paint and coloured pencil creating still lifes and beach scenes.

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