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Nature morte à la rousse

Updated: Jan 20, 2022


26.01.2021: Sometimes, on my forays through the internet in search of motifs along winding paths, I unexpectedly come across an unexpected treasure. The template for this picture was one such case. Last year, while searching for a suitable motif for my painting 200052 'Aedan', I came across, among other things, a portrait shot by the London photographer Bertil Nilsson. It shows the face of a young man with red hair and freckles called Philip Rosenberg. I did some research to find out who this man was and what might have prompted this photograph. Eventually I ended up with the French artistic group 'Cirque Le Roux', which I had never heard of before.

I find what this company does simply overwhelming and truly great art. Not only are they great artists: from my point of view, their productions - from the careful staging to the costumes and dramaturgy to the acting - are a single work of art and create an atmosphere that I cannot escape.

The trailer of their programme 'The Elephant in the Room' gives an impression of their artistic skills.


Not surprisingly, the Cirque Le Roux website is also professionally presented and illustrated with good photos. One of the shots in particular fascinated me and now serves as a template for my next painting. The original photo is kept in warm colours. Together with the staging of the figures, the picture almost looks like a baroque or classicist painting.


Realisation: Format 120/100 cm across, background raw linen, primed with black gesso.

Last Sunday I mounted the stretcher and this week I primed the canvas in five coats in the evening. Normally I need a full day for this, because the individual layers have to dry in between. I really wanted to be able to start painting on Friday. In terms of colour, I am still undecided whether I want to create the impression of an old painting by using warm natural tones but a generous brushstroke, or whether I will use very bright colours to create a contrast to this almost classical-looking motif. Depending on my mood, this question will be clarified almost by itself on Friday morning with the first generous brushstrokes.


29.01.2021: The start of my new project - the first of this year - is not easy for me today and I still could not decide how I want to realise the picture in terms of colour. Finally, I choose a portrait by the American Mark Horst, which I find ingenious in terms of colour and technique, as a guide. As mentioned in my last blog post, I have been studying this artist's work more intensively in recent weeks. I am fascinated by his colour concepts as well as his spontaneous brushstrokes and the skilful combination of line and surface. Although the colour concept cannot be adapted one-to-one to my motif with the dark background, I would like to somehow adopt the muted white, the red and black contour lines, as well as the grey, blue-green and orange areas from his picture into my painting. And yes, I will use black paint for the first time in this painting!


As a first layer, I lighten my black background and add a liquid layer of white with the paint roller, which I steam with umber, yellow and black. I let the liquid colour run a little and then lay the painting flat to dry so that the colour does not flow any further. The result of such wet layers can only be controlled and predicted to a limited extent. This time, however, a beautiful colour structure has emerged, which I definitely want to keep visible in certain places. Next I sketch the contours of the figures in orange-red, taking care that the stroke is not too precise and takes on a sketchy character. Today it is just enough to highlight the brightest parts of the picture - especially the skin of the figures with a broad brush in off-white.

30.01.2021: Thank the bad weather! Once again I was able to spend the whole day in the studio and there was no reason to go outside. I made quite a bit of progress with my painting. But maybe I've finally put my painting in the sand late on Saturday evening. In general, I completely detached myself from Mark Horst's model today and I spontaneously decided to make the light skin parts of the figures stand out clearly in a bright orange. The result rather startled me. Tomorrow, at the beginning, I have just another first challenge with this: to decide what to do with it...


31.01.2021: I'm stuck, I have no spontaneous idea how to save the painting. I guess it needs some time. Yet I'm not giving up on it...

19-21.02.2021: Already on Thursday evening I started to drown the hopeless situation in a liquid layer of light grey. On Friday I then worked out the dark parts of the figures again in a hard blue-black. Spontaneously I decided to balance the somewhat right-heavy motif a little better with a lighter spot on the left of the picture. I did this with the help of a dark curtain that did not cover the entire background of the picture. I slightly adjust the colour concept for this new attempt and imagine differentiated but partly hard contrasts in blue and orange tones. In order to blend the intermediate tones, I will use umber, black and white in addition to blue and orange. With umber and blue I can create the whole palette of grey tones and with orange, umber and white I can mix natural skin tones.

Instead of the bright orange accents on the light skin areas of the figures, I now accentuate them with light blue colour spray. The last accents this weekend are dark umber and a little lighter brown-grey, mainly to give the curtain some shape.


26.02.2021: After a longer break I find the painting harmonious in terms of colour and today I try to find a way in again. In the next work step I want to bring warm and bright colour accents into the painting again and decide to stay with the orange that I had already planned in the first attempt.


27.02.2021: Today I changed the technique and used a broad brush but fine strokes all day to fine-tune the colours of the areas and above all to lighten the skin areas of the figures. As a result, the picture has now become very concrete and rich in detail, actually completely contrary to my long-term goal of abstracting more. Once again I notice that sometimes the development of a picture takes on a life of its own when I am really in the flow. What comes out of it, I can't judge at the moment...


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