Anatomy of a painting- Pretty Polly

Wednesday, July 8, 2009 12:15:06 PM


I thought I'd show you the process of how I do my bluegrass paintings. First let me say there is nothing more difficult than painting for me- it is not easy. This painful process starts with the lyrics and an idea and slowly progresses to a finished work.

I've been working on Pretty Polly for a week now and it seems like a year. I deliberate over every tree, every plant, every blade of grass. Here's the main scene:

Pretty Polly is murder ballad. The scene takes place in a valley after Willie has "led her over mountains to the valley below." Polly is begging in vain for her life. Willie is standing over her with a knife. The spade (shovel) is pointing toward her. The far background is roughed in- it took forever. The open grave is behind them. As you can see the figures aren't complete nor is the foreground where grass and forest plants grow in the shade of a giant oak tree.

What is interesting is the shovel. It looks real and I haven't even painted it- I just painted around it!

In the foreground is grass and leafy ground cover that grows in the shade. I got some plants from under a tree and set them in cup of water. This is going to take a loooong time. There's a large foreground area, whew! I've made the plants larger near the viewer to add prespective, it's hard to make it look real- I'm struggling.

The banjo player is playing and singing Pretty Polly. The singer actually is based on B.F. Shelton. He's a ghostly figure emerging from the tree trunk. Crazy I know! The main difficulty was drawing the tree bark- it was hard. I've got to finish the background trees (sketched in) on the left behind the giant tree. Nothing is easy...


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