Monday, December 7, 2015

Joan of Arc: Part 1

By William O'Connor

Once again I have begun a large scale personal painting project, and once again I thought that I would share my process with the public.  The advantage of a personal piece is that I am free to share the process in "real time" without the constraints of an NDA.

Recently I wrote a blog about Joan of Arc at Muddy Colors.  The research that I did included a great deal of work to understand this historical, religious figure and her context to art and history.  This extensive study made me want to try to do an image of St. Joan myself.

"Joan ofArc" 10"x20" graphite on paper

"Joan of Arc" 10"x20" graphite and digital

I did a variety of sketch comps until I came up with one that I was happy with.  This sketch included the elements that I was trying to explore.  A Gothic sense of grandeur including all the heraldry and pomp of the 100 years war, as well as the austerity of an altarpiece from the 15th century (ala: Van Eyck).

I developed a color comp using the computer over the sketch and decided that this was a piece that could be a successful painting.  I wanted the piece to have the size to accommodate all the intricate details I envisioned, and the gravitas to do homage to the subject.

I settled on a 24"x 48" format using birch panel.  This was both a creative and practical decision.  24"x48" is a little more than double the size of the sketch, and conveniently is the size of panel that comes pre-cut from the local home supply store.  My experience with wood panel in the past has been that any cutting with a circular or table saw produces a shivered edge, so this eliminated that problem.  I have never used wood panel before (preferring hardboard) but I thought I would use this support for its light, rigid and economical benefits.  The hard surface should prevent any chips and corner damage, and many of my colleagues have recommended it.  I gave the panel three coats of gesso, sanded smooth, the last lightly tinted with Yellow Ochre to eliminate the glaring white.

This painting will be approached very differently than my last online painting "The Gandalf Triptych".  With this image I have already settled on a composition, color design and general detailing, which in the last painting was not decided until the final phase of the work.

Joan of Arc drawing with gessoed panel

With an overlay of acetate gridded-off with two inch squares over the drawing I'm preparing to transfer the drawing to the sized panel.  This sketching stage will be very labor-intensive because of the amount of detail that I've designed, but I hope will save me work in the long run.  At over 1000 square inches this will be the largest painting I've embarked on in over 15 years.  I have no deadline, so I have no estimate of when it will be completed.  Now comes the hard part. Wish me luck!

PS.  I'm still toying with the title: "Joan of Arc"; "St. Joan of Arc"; "Joan d'Arc"; "Jeanne d'Arc"; and "The Maid of Heaven".  Please leave any questions or suggestions in the comments section.

Keep watching and follow to see the next stage when its complete.



1 comment:

  1. Fantastic design! I'm really looking forward to following this journey. Because of the shiny flourishes I'm leaning more towards "The Maid of Heaven" or maybe her nickname "The Maid of Orléans" (French: La Pucelle d'Orléans).