Monday, August 22, 2016

Lord of the Manor

Dragon Attack, oil on linen, 24"X36", © 2016 Richard J. Luschek II
My newest painting in the series "Kids at Play" (that title needs work) is finished and hanging in the Cincinnati Art Galleries. I thought I would blog about the process of getting this image from idea to canvas.
Get ready for a sappy discussion about what these paintings mean to me and how they are developing into a series I think will keep me busy for a while.
I may even use the term 'cathartic' as some point, so grab your barf bag and get ready. Amongst the jibber jabber, I will be posting shots of the long process this still life went through on the way to being a final design ready to paint.
The basic idea was obviously a kid, me specifically, building a castle out of cardboard and the battle that would happen after it's construction. Plus I've been wanting to paint a picture with toilet paper tubes for some time.

I am lucky enough to be doing exactly what I want to do for a living. I get to draw, paint and create all day. Not unlike what I was doing in my childhood. Everyday I go to the studio and play. This fact has, I believe, severely slowed the aging process- at least mentally.
After studying painting, I was mostly worried about the visual. How do I make this blank canvas look like the objects in front of me in value, color and form. Now I'm using that information to tell stories.

Interestingly, the toy knights Ive had since I was 4. When I was in Jr High I painted them all with model paint so I could use them in Dungeons and Dragons games. I decided to spray paint them as they looked originally. They came in an amazing play-set with a big castle made in Germany.

And yes, I still have the castle in a box. Look for it to appear in a painting sometime in the future. This time around I wanted a childlike, homemade feel.

I generally have a terrible memory for past events. I tend to live in a small window of time. I have discussed in previous posts about the interesting things that happens to me when I work on these paintings. I get out my toys- that have been retrieved from my parents attic and basically play with them during the set up process- in a very intelligent and manly way.
Once they are set up I stare at them for hours while I paint. It is a bit of a window to the past. It's a look into the brain of 8 year old me. Its about building a story out of stuff. So, a lot of these paintings are about pretending, building, making and playing. During the process hidden memories pour out. Its like dumping an old box of photos into my brain. Yeah, catharsis! I'm also constantly getting new ideas for more pictures.

As you can see the set-up goes through a lot before I settle on a paintable subject. I want it to look carefree and random while being a powerful design. That takes days of play and experimentation.
I liked the idea of paneling, but I felt the cardboard castle- similar value and color-  got lost. 
I have to thank Carl Samson for the extremely appropriate Joan of Arc beans box he found in the attic of the Wessel House.
The label on the glue bottle was too modern so I had to print out an image I found online of one from the 70s.
I turned the background panels around and painted them blue which gave the appearance of a mysterious dark sky. A blue table would be too much, so I tried a table cloth, but it was too busy and the newspaper and white horses got lost.
The news paper was newish, but it had an old photo of Ronald and Nancy Regan on front so I figured that was good enough.
I spent a good three days adjusting and doing sketches to get from the above photo to this one.

This old red card table was perfect. It worked well with the rest of the colors and the black end caps and rivets had a shape and feel which went well with the castle. I had tried to have a chair in the front of another painting but could not get the design to work. We had some old chairs that I was able to take apart and put on stilts to get it to the right height. Using my adjustable still life table, I set up a bit lower than usual- essential from the viewpoint of an 8 year old. As a child I use a lot of toilet paper tubes and Irish Spring soap boxes to build things. The current Irish Spring packaging is very different. I found images of boxes online, built a flat box in photoshop and printed it on cardboard and folded up my own 1979 soap box. The purple dinosaur was the right size but the wrong color, so I painted it blue and added the complimentary orange wings.

Here is the painting and the final set up after two or thee days of painting.
I made some changes to the set up as the painting developed, adding the clock back in to the upper left and a red shield over the door to strengthen the center. I may do a second post about the painting process in my next post.