This oil painting ‘Psyche & Amor – 24-05-23’ is finished finally. Long overdue I must say. It took way more time than expected. Doesn’t it always go like that? There’s no venture you can’t handle and then you realize you bit off more than you could chew. I thought I’d quickly convert the original reference drawing into oil paint. For my admiration and the why I advice to click that link and read the story. So, as to executing it in oil I faced challenges right from the start. Not the least from a color point of view and then some.
My list of ambitions was hugh. Above all, I wanted to depict intense sunlight. As far as I know this has rarely or never been done by artists. I mean, looking straight into the sun in broad daylight. You always see those painted sunsets in yellow or orange. As a disciple of the light I was duty-bound to finally make my mark. Do that bright sun for once and see if the result would look plausible, maybe even majestic.
Depicting light forces one to think of color scheme choices. I have used the luministic yellow-purple scheme in the past but felt reluctant this time. First, I was a bit fed up employing it again. Second, my hands were tied to the Mediterranean theme. That means an awful lot of blue. Luckily my regular model’s genes come from India and her skin complexion looks ochreous, almost brown-orange. My fetish for blue velvet also came in handy. That way I could horizontally stack blue and orange structures on top of eachother, creating rhythym and diction. I also used mid-tones in the mid-section. That way I had the body stand out in bright orange hues. Otherwise the scenery would appear too much overexposed. Don’t you agree I took Johannes Itten’s lessons to heart? He recommends building up a painting from colors and their relations rather than forms.
Another ambition was to tell a grand story. In the graphite pencil version I only had Alma Tadema’s guy sitting on a bench and my model combined. Enough for a drawing but I wanted more. So I reread a lot of Greek and Roman stories. Dealing with a man and woman one easily gets to Psyche and Amor (aka Cupid and/or Eros). This would be a true homage to Lawrence, that’s for sure. He was a story teller as well and this one could be an addition to the volume of his tales. Funny, I thought of ‘Sol Invictus’ as a title first. Do you think that’s a better one?
Next wish on my list is to slightly deviate from his approach which I personally find a bit too sweet. He often is accused to have painted the ultimate kitsch: beautiful couples against lush sceneries. Nothing could be more untrue than this. His motifs were higly original but, yes indeed, very sweet and all very darling. Sometimes it makes your gums recede and hurt the glaze on your teeth. So a little pun was needed and hence, the dagger. Everything fell into place from there. By the way, the curfy satin folds only came half way the painting. Their wobbly appearance probably have something to tell about her state of mind.
Another thing I wanted was to correct Octavian’s statue from a perspective point of view. Strangely I didn’t think about the right angle whilst drawing. However, now was the time to get it right. Luckily for me there were lots of pictures of Augustus from each and every angle. I found the right reference picture to do the job. The backlight was something I had to construct myself though.
The oleander at the right also is in honor of Almy. It also presented me with a new problem. The magenta flower and green served as a complementary duo and accent. The bronze at the left I provided with a green patina so it counterbalanced the flowery plant. And the magenta? So I came up with two roman women caressing Octavian’s household god: cupid. The left one in magenta and red as well.
The roman harbour through the balcony came later. I wanted to emulate the way he managed to create depth in ‘A Coin of Vantage’. The sea looked a bit distant, just like you cannot see how far away it is seen from a plane. It proved to be solution I needed. In the final stage I decided to do the mosaic floor parts. Add two additional weeks, also calculating perspectives. The last part was to do sun flairs. Long live modern technology. I could study a couple of suiting png-images of flairs, putting them as layers over my painting in Procreate. The bulbs I executed in Williamsburg’s iridiscent green and pink, not overdoing them. They also cross that bridge to the reds and greens on both sides.
The signature on the low right was done a couple of months back as an integral part of the theme. Without something at the right the dagger on the left would imbalance the painting too much. The satin sheets otherwise would have looked like a big lump of blue. Now it’s finally finished the great uncertainty begins. Is it good enough or will it threaten to collapse under its own gravity?
Oil on linen (100 x 150 cm)
Artist: Corné Akkers
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