I’m pleased to announce that my painting “Forbidden Knowledge” was accepted for inclusion in the annual art competition Infected by Art, Volume 5! What is most interesting about this is that Forbidden Knowledge is actually a paint over of a canvas I originally conceived four years ago, titled “Sage.” For a look in the way back machine, you can even see the original post I wrote when I originally completed the piece here.
The first time around, I received a positive reception from people who liked “Sage”. The composition was strong and the storytelling aspect was clear. But, two things in the painting were seriously lacking in overall execution. They happen to be the most challenging elements of a figurative painting: heads and hands.
I chose a pose for this character that had writhing hands, spiderlike and villainous. One of the reasons hands are so hard is that they have a multitude of planes that wrap around the digits and the flesh of the palm, resulting in an incredibly complicated (and beautiful) piece of anatomy. Looking back at my original painting, I can see I clearly struggled with the overlapping nature of this hand pose. It doesn’t feel like there are any bones in those fingers.
The left hand was even trickier. As I repainted it I was able to appreciate just how nuanced a foreshortened hand really is. The first painting looks like a painted drawing: lots of unfinished linework and an overall lack of volume.
Finally, the face got a serious makeover. Unlike the hands, the way in which I handled the features is basically correct on the original version. The main problem lay in the brushwork and values. Too much contrast resulted in a flat looking portrait and the shadows lack depth. Also, faces just require a tighter control of individual strokes. We pay way more attention to faces than almost anything else in a picture so they demand a higher degree of finish.
I touched many other aspects of the original painting as well: the wineglass and the candles especially. Going back to an old piece is actually very rare for me as I have a tendency to be obsessed with my latest idea. In this case, it was extremely enlightening. It showed just how much we artists have our blinders on. Trying to see your own weaknesses is like attempting to peer around the edge of the cascade created by two mirrors reflecting each other. Only time and the valuable opinions of other eyes can reveal the glaring faults that we are too close to see!