We met in Paris

Life got in the way of painting for a week or so, but in that time I was re-arranging my Pinterest boards into a new format that makes sense to me. I also spent hours and hours collecting images that inspire me (now) and getting rid of stuff that I no longer have any desire to look at (or paint). If you look at the boards, the “Inspiration:” boards in particular, I think you’ll see pretty clearly how they align with my current painting style. Pinterest is a wonderful resource!

Along the way, I happened across a photograph that really inspired me. Now, I’m not going to share the photo, or who it was, because it was the pose and the attitude that inspired me. I asked myself, can I be inspired by steal this without just copying the photo? (Yes, I’ve read “Steal like an artist”).

I’d also decided to break out of the A4 sketchbook and try a canvas again, as it’s been quite a while. I had a new 16×20″ canvas so that’s what I went with.

I sketched out the figure in paint, but then had to ask, what’s the story here? Because along the way, I’ve come to understand that while I like painting portraits, I love telling stories, or even just suggesting one. Does this make my work illustration, not fine art? I don’t know. Does it matter? Nope.

The flash of inspiration was this: We met in Paris. That’s it. Those four words both set the scene for the story and it makes a nice title too. As to what we met for, well, I have my ideas and maybe you have a different one. I love that the viewer can bring their own interpretation to it.

So I added a beret and just enough suggestion of Parisian apartments to set the scene, and then moved on to colour. I decided to go with a complementary red/green palette, using both yellow greens and blue greens, with the idea of saving the stronger colours for the figure (especially the red beret).

From there on, it was just a matter of painting the thing. It took me two sessions over two days, and I’ll admit that in the second session I had more than one moment of shit, this has gotten away from me but I pushed on anyway because, thanks to using opaque acrylics, nothing is final until it is.

And here’s the end result. I’m not shy to admit that I’m really proud of this one. It captures the mood, the story, I like the palette, and that look on her face … exactly the expression I was trying for.

Quite by accident – my wife pointed this out to me after it was finished – I have painted her outfit (blue dress, red beret, white gloves) in the colours of the French flag! I could fib and say I meant to do it, but I want this blog to be an honest account of my journey in the hope it helps someone else struggling with all the same doubts I do. That said, it’s a design choice that I will be conscious of in future.

Finally, it’s only natural that my mind turns to making this a series (I’m going to call it the Where we met series). There are so many places “we” could meet. Obviously, any number of geographical places in the world, but why stop there? Why not fictional places, or historical places, or even events? One title I suggested in jest but now think would actually be really fun to do is; We met in the zombie apocalypse. Stay tuned for that one! Where would you like to see people meet? Answers in the comments!

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