Creating Denouement by Michael Newberry
Denouement, 1987, oil on linen, 54×78 inches.
Why this painting?
Painting Denouement was a chance to live inside glowing, colorful light and to express through art what love feels like to me.
Puccini, Polyclitus, Aristophanes, Beethoven, and Michelangelo rock my world. In their time, they were innovators with a love of beauty, humanity, and passion. Their art was a constant source of inspiration.
There were visual influences for Denouement. But most of the epic works were from “brown” painters, classic technique with a limited pallet in which dark things are brown and black hues. The French Impressionists had a fantastic sense of color harmonies in light and shadow. What I had in mind was to take the best of both and integrate them.
But there was no one work from these artists that I could use as a prototype for what I had envisioned, so I had to create a new path.
In 1984, I began studies on a moment of love shared. The first sketches were drawn from my imagination. In the images, you can see the glow from the light between them.
Then I began to develop studies from live models for this composition.
I modeled for the two left drawings, having rigged a couple of mirrors. All the studies for Denouement were from scratch – no photos.
To create glow, it would be important to backlight the guy. In hindsight, backlit objects are a bitch to draw because it is hard to see the dark stuff.
I began color studies in pastel.
I didn’t like the gray colors. So I kept drawing pastel studies, changing the light sources, colored objects, and color of the paper.
With these pastels below, the color harmony clicked.
I began to evaluate my overall composition: should the man be closer in size to the woman? Should they be closer together – more connected?
Changing the guy from standing to reclining solved both the size and connection problems.
What turned out to be cool was that his new pose worked great with hers. The two of them now created a diagonal line through the composition, like the flight line of a jet taking off.
Having solved the imaging of the man and woman, the next problem was arranging all the stuff to fit naturally.
I relied on two-point perspective to get the perspective of the carpet right.
Each object had to be adjusted to fit the perspective and be the right size.
Spatial Depth and Transparency, Integrating it All
Having drawn all of the information I needed, there was still the small matter of how all of this information was going to fit together. I needed to create spatial depth of about 20′, every object had to fit naturally in its space, and the overall lighting had to feel like it was from one source.
I needed to develop a theory of integrating the color, light, and space. I discuss this theory in my articles : Transparency: A Key to Spatial Depth in Painting, Part 1 and Part 2. To give you a sense of the problem here is a pastel study of the lamp, and final in the painting. They are quite different. Just transferring it exactly from study to painting doesn’t mean it will fit.
What do lemon green, green, and cool magenta have in common? Cerulean blue. Her arm rests in a subtle shadow, by using cerulean blue as the common denominator I was able to push the color boundaries and softly place her in the right place. This was the way I saw the colors from life, but understanding the color theory helped bring out those color connections for all the other elements of the painting.
I hope you enjoyed this presentation.
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