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How easy is it to abstract a human figure?

Following on from "Lock on the Wey", I wanted to se if I could transfer the same degree of abstraction to a figure piece. To get the massing I needed to make this a contre jour picture, so that most of th features that you would expect to be lit would be in shadow, The following paragraphs explain some of the choices I made to try to get the level of abstraction I was looking for. This has proven more difficult than I expected because of the amount of information one expects the rendering of a human figure as compared with a landscape or still life.

I started by sketching an earlier painting, " In Permeke's studio", below, and then began to recompose the elements in that picture.

I moved the figure so that the window to the garden was now behind her right shoulder rather than the left. I added a pattern of glaring bars and window panes similar to that in my studio, where the glazing is leaded rather than timber framed. It is no longer Flanders.

I got rid of the handbag and glasses and brought in the cat. The carved head that had been behind her left shoulder has disappeared but an easel has been brought in to remind myself this is supposed to be a someone seated in a studio.

There were challenges with detail given my aim of simplifying the overall composition. The hands had to have the individual fingers suppressed and the face had its modelling simplified. The line of unpainted canvas that runs along the side of the nose cleaves the face into to zones. It has become a mask rather than a face.

There were a lot of tables in the real studio so I decided to "use" one to rest an elbow on.

The contre jour idea made me decide to make the predominant colour of the figure a bluey grey. This suggested modifying the blue grey with magenta and adding some white for the round necked jumper under the top. I liked the curve of the neckline so I introduced a necklace to follow the same line.I added some ochre to a bit of the blue grey to make the base colour of the hair. I used the same blue grey as the base colour for the stockinged legs, so the figure is unified.

The cat is a Van Dyke brown because that the colour he is and it would hurt his pride if I gave him any other coat. His face is turned away so you are not distracted by the details of his facial features. I built the colour up in layers to put shadows and modelling into his back view I now had a blue and green composition, which suggested to me the wall over the figure's left shoulder should be yellowish. I wanted to break this area of colour up, so I painted in the easel in silhouette and I used indigo, unmixed but allowing the yellow tones to read through. All the colours had to be muted to be in harmony with the seated figure.

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