by Bob Bahr
We photographed Greg Beecham’s demo last year during the Quick Draw at SKB, and here, we present the steps with commentary from the artist. Catch him at tomorrow’s Quick Draw (Thursday, Sept. 21, starting at 9 a.m.) to see him in action.
I tone my canvas so I can go light and dark as I put the initial paint down. A lot of times I will start with the eye, nose, or mouth to get a sense of life going. If you get the life, you’re halfway home. I chose the antler first in this case because it was going to be the lightest light and one of the focal points.
As I lay down color, I’m moving from dark to light, using pure color in light. Too often artists go to chalk when they go to light too quickly. Even if you alter it later, strong color under the highlights gives it a vibrancy that won’t happen if you make the transition too quickly.
I’m laying in the background far sooner than usual this time. I’m paint loading with different colors on the same brushstroke. That mixture of colors makes it harmonious with the rest. It enlivens the background and gives it a richness.
I decided to create a dark background. You have to make the choice–light against dark, or dark against light. On Quick Draws, drama is critical, so I’m laying down a dark background, and the high-key antlers are really going to pop against it. I’m playing with color and shape patterns in the background, utilizing interesting, abstract shapes.
I put the dark areas of the moose’s body in next, using abstract shapes, thinking abstractly. I’m trying to see in my reference the abstract shapes that are interesting and accurate. This will help present the musculature and anatomy of the moose accurately.
To get some cohesion of color, use background colors in the mouse and vice versa. Note that I don’t go all the way to the edge with the painting while working on a vignette. I don’t like hard edges running off the canvas.
Finished Demo by Greg Beecham, oil, 11 x 14 in.
One of the things Richard Schmid has said is that the focal point should have the hardest and softest edges and the lightest and darkest values. When you look at that moose’s face you can see across the outside edge there’s a hard edge, drawing your eye right to it. Not near the edge of the canvas.