From the backlog, this was completed in October 2019. The basic concept was simple enough. If you get the chance, go and visit the Regent bookshop in Wantage, and you will see the main inspiration for this painting. The basics were: a young kid, wrapped up in a book, towering bookshelves giving seclusion, amidst a labyrinthine library or shop. The original image was meant to be portrait with a high aspect ratio. My first-stab very-rough-cut came out as:
I did say I'd include my failures as well... well that's one of them. It did not inspire. In fairness, a lot of my initial scrawls look like childhood paintings, thus the unwelcome comment from my wife about What You May Find being a bit Blue Peter. I like these roughest of rough cuts. I think if you are going to use acrylics then do these blobby space-fills as they allow whatever is to come to be in context. That allows you to get the shades right and end up with a joined-up painting. In contrast, I do not rate the idea of killing the white with a bright colour, you know the type: first fill the canvas with bright orange then paint over with tertiaries. I mean, that has got to distort the first colours you put down, and the result will be disjointed and so flattened. I like depth.
So what went wrong with it? I lost the high aspect ratio somewhere. I'm not sure where. I think I had an unresolvable battle between a high vertical aspect ratio to emphasise the looming bookshelves and the portrait orientation. One of them had to give. I think they both did. May be I should have tried some line drawings out with this one. The result was that the rough cut did not say anything whatever to me. I think this took a whole Tuesday evening before I committed it to being painted over, lost forever, except for the photo.
So what follows was going to be a compromise. I wanted two separate light sources: the yellow of a secluded lamp and the blue of daylight from an impinging outside world. I also wanted a staircase, because I like staircases. You can't have enough of a good staircase. I wanted the gloom and a pool of light.
So here's my new rough-cut:
Isn't that much better? Doesn't it just grab you? No? I choose to put the stairs in the foreground, using their detail to give lots of structure. Peer closely and you can see impressionistic lines saying what I want to do with the steps. This is not a definitive location at this point, I'm just trying to make sense of the image. I intentionally splodged out a very yellow patch of light and a very blue patch of light to say where my light is coming from. This colour is intentionally over the top to stretch the composition, with full knowledge that I would unavoidably lose some of it.
I decided to attack the main figure and the bookcase behind her. To my surprise (particularly after the trouble the week before) this went well. The girl was done quickly with only suggestive brush strokes and a minimum amount of fuss. Having got her right, I then spotted that she was floating in the middle of the air. At this point I wasn't about to repaint the only bit that looked about right so instead I put a big red bean bag under her to make contact with the floor. Yes, red, of course it's red. I kept a minimum amount of effort in those books and that paid off with simple and clean abstract rows of books. Having thus got lucky, I started on the books on the floor below, and it just did not work.
What followed was several attempts to redo those bookcases below. This included wiping the books out and and recolouring everything to bring some blue back in. I wanted the simplicity of the top floor painting, but could not get it.
Lastly I put the handrails in. This was fun to do using bisection, a steady hand and an intentional roughness about the spindles. The bisection gave the regular spacing of the spindles without having to try hard. The regular spacing helps to keep the image clean. However, if I overworked the spindles they would detract from other places.
This painting really needed some planning. I don't like to plan paintings with any detail. I much prefer that the detail comes out as a happy accident. Accident detail tends to give a more natural feel. Perhaps I went wrong with the scale of the floor below. I might have got a better result if I only crammed one or two bookcases in. This is a painting that I will probably revisit at some point.