Intuitive painting with a reference image – can it be possible? Let me show you how!
Here’s a painting from my sketchbook. It’s called “Madama Butterfly.” My reference image was this Renaissance painting called “Flora” by Tiziano Vecellio, 1515-1520. I took the photo last summer when visiting Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy.
There are very little similarities in these two pieces. The pose is fairly similar, the composition and the facial features have some similarities, but that’s it. The style, the theme, and the technique are all different.
The Supplies and the Setting
I like to do fairly quick paintings on my big A3-sized sketchbook. For this sketchbook, I often use Derwent Artbars, a water brush, and Faber-Castell Gelatos because they are easy to layer and I am more relaxed than when working with tube paints. I use acrylic or oil paints for canvas paintings, and working with them is more serious. This time I wanted to demonstrate a concept or a method rather than creating a 30-hour painting.
1) From Intentional to Intuitive Painting
The first idea was to pick the pose and the composition loosely from the reference image and then add geometric shapes to fill the space.
After sketching the foundation of the figure, the triangles, rectangles, and circles were fun to paint without looking at the reference at all. I painted the face roughly, and then I used the reference image as a guide. But because at this early stage, I didn’t know what I want to express and what kind of person the figure could be, I didn’t bother to spend time perfecting the facial features. At this point, my painting resembles cubistic pieces from the early 20th century.
2) Changing the Style
When creating art for the sketchbook, I like my style to be a bit more illustrational than when I make bigger paintings. Even if I love cubism, I wanted my piece to be a bit more current.
Nowadays, illustrations often use geometric shapes but rather than triangles or rectangles, the shapes are often round, and scallop edges seem to be a bit hit. So I started changing the painting by altering the shapes. This routine work gave me plenty of time to connect with my inner world and work intuitively from one association to another. I tend to be both nostalgic and romantic, so I thought how portrait painters often spend time with the clothing even if they are just a shell. Why not use it as a canvas for the memories, the ideas, and the achievements of the person?
3) From Intuitive to Intentional
After rounding hundreds of triangles and rectangles, I realized that I was painting Madama Butterfly, the opera that I just saw last Saturday! I finished the face after this realization and adjusted other elements so that they fit with the theme.
More Intuitive Inspiration from Opera
This is not the first time I have been intuitively inspired by opera!
>> La Traviata
And there’s also a video about
>> Kaija Saariaho’s Emilie
More About Simple Shapes
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