My artist's mannequin lacks all the qualities of a good dancer. He'd never pass an RAD exam. Nevertheless, he has a staring role in most of my ballet paintings, including my new King of the fairies creation.
^ Adding the finishing touches to Oberon – can you see my foot?
Sometimes, I despair at the mannequin's lack of flexibility (he can't do a decent retiré or developpé to the side). However, it's probably advantageous that he lacks the articulation and extension of a dancer because this means I have to feel the dance. And my dancer paintings are all about feeling rather than seeing. Feeling the music, the movement and the emotion.
They're also about feeling the interplay of paint and brush (or palette knife if that's what I'm using and sometimes even a pin or other gadget). For both Bluebird and Oberon, I used a much more delicate brush than usual, adding all sorts of intricate details to the costumes.
I've painted lots of feathery costumes before, so I was confident with Bluebird's plumage. However, for Oberon, the tactility of the paint needed to be more subtly managed. I wanted the foliage in the costume to have movement and depth. But I also didn't want the wings to lose their gauzy ephemeral quality by over-texturising them. I like working in oil because I enjoy its body and sculptural quality. And the challenge of finding that balance between the heavy paint and the lightness of dance enthrals me.
For the enchanted danseurs I've been working on in the last couple of months, a magical lightness is essential. I'm loving bringing them to life, especially characters like Oberon who I've not attempted to paint before.
Oberon is the third enchanted being added to my danseur collection this year. More coming soon and each one gets more and more imaginative. Join my newsletter subscribers (link below) to find out who'll be next.