I can finally show you what I've been working on since my painting has arrived at its new home. It was a wrench to give it away when it's been so long since I've actually painted anything this ambitious, if ever, but the painting wouldn't exist if I hadn't intended to give it away in the first place. Giving is golden sometimes.
I wanted to paint a brick wall using a yucky pink and cover the bricks with May flies. "Fish flies" make my friend smile, and I just wanted to cheer him up during a difficult time. After a couple hundred fish flies, I decided the whole thing was too buggy, even for a guy, and changed direction. I bricked over bugs and added other things to make him happy.
I didn't have a plan or design from the beginning, which meant I had to think up more things to paint and find a way to make the design work. That ended up being a whole lot of head scratching and memory searching and online research.
In between all the mind work of figuring out what to paint and how, I had a practical problem because I painted this on primed, unstretched canvas. Since the original plan was a big bug joke, I wasn't fussed about technicalities or archival qualities. I intended to roll it up and stick it in the mail. The better the painting got, the more I worried about delivery, especially since it could sit in the hot sun in a hot state once delivered.
A framer told me it had to be put on stretcher bars. I didn't have any extra canvas on the bottom, and only 5/16" on the left side, but I got it on the stretcher bars -- which made this 2' x 4' painting big and bulky and expensive to send. I've been telling myself "never again!" but I liked painting on the unstretched canvas. I'm almost absolutely sure that I will do it again, and soon.
I actually took some WIP shots along the way for once. First, I painted mortar colors with the ultimate light source in mind. I did this with a house brush and a lot of raw sienna. Then I cut out a template for bricks out of corrugated cardboard. I slopped and dabbed pukey pink in the template, then without the template slopped and dabbed other brick colors until the bricks looked like bricks.
Tips -- don't make bricks too nice or they don't look real enough. The mortar is curved, so the bottom part is lighter than the top (which is shaded by the brick). I did all the initial painting of the bricks with a house brush.
Then I painted a bunch of bugs. Then I bricked over bugs. Actual May flies aren't this white, but I took creative liberties. The fish skeleton is an idea I borrowed from something I saw in a restaurant, the portrait is the Titian I saw in the Detroit art museum, Joan of Arc is from a church... in other words, most of the parts are things that already existed before I decided to copy them. I just put them together in my own way to create a different meaning, and each part is kind of its own painting. I figured I must be doing pretty well in realism because I kept trying to pick up papers that were painted on the canvas to get them out of my way.
I loved making this. I want to make something else now. I did an in-between thing of another fish skeleton, but I want to do something more. Maybe something for my own wall :)