Ginger Glower, 12x16 inches oil on canvas panel by Kenney Mencher
I have a kind of fascination with painting gingers. A couple of people in my family have that kind of skin coloring and hair coloring and I've always been taken with it ever since I was a little boy. There's a sort of translucency to redhead's skin and the color of the hair and the sheen of it are really interesting and quite beautiful to see in different kinds of light. I suppose there's even kind of temperament associated with gingers that some people call fiery or passionate and I suppose that's what I was trying to communicate in this portrait of this gentleman's face.
There are some concepts in art that are almost "buzzwords" that artists banter about and use constantly and one of them is the term "negative space." In this portrait I was trying to create a painting that didn't have a predictable or what I think of as boring composition. A lot of portraits that I see and kind of like, often placed ahead in the center of the composition, which is completely predictable. In this portrait I shifted to head to the lower quarter of the composition and let three quarters of the picture be so-called "negative space." I suppose you could define negative space as the area where things aren't in a photograph or a painting. So the background has to be kind of important because it's pressing down on the figure. In this instance I tried to bury the color and color temperature of the background and play with the colors of the shadows on the wall behind the figure. I pulled some of the colors of the shadows also into the flesh tones and into the face and I think this works really well with the translucent kind of skin that a ginger person has.
This painting was done in the "alla prima" method. The alla prima is an Italian phrase that means 'at first attempt'. It refers to a wet-on-wet approach whereby wet paint is applied to previous layers of still-wet paint, often in a single sitting. Over the years, the technique has been adopted and adapted by artists from Van Gogh to Velázquez.
In particular I try to approach painting in several ways, I want the drawing skills, color, and anatomy to be accurate but I also try to make the compositions more interesting by avoiding a “bull’s eye” (symmetrical) composition in favor of a more exciting slightly off center or “asymmetrical” composition. I’m also attempting to work with brush work and thick and thin paint in a more stylized and calligraphic way. I want the paint to be thickest where the light is the brightest and thinner in the darker areas. The direction of the brush strokes is meant to follow and amplify the contours of the forms and make it feel more tangible.
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