White Haired Man Dipping Finger in Water


170522 White Haired Man Dipping Finger in Water (2017) oil on canvas 110 x 100cm

There were a lot of thick outlines in 170520 Flowers in Cup, so with this painting I tried to define edges by tonal difference instead. Altogether, I find it an odd picture, especially how the top part doesn’t look like it comes from the same painting as the bottom part, in colour, paint handling, depth, etc.

Also unexpected was the way that a bright synthetic yellow glow seems to shine through the upper two-thirds of the picture, giving the whole thing a shrill citrus-y luminosity. With so much green and red, I didn’t expect the yellows to dominate in this way. Maybe it’s due to yellow being the colour common to the jacket, flesh, and trees, and maybe also because there are no blues or violets to balance the yellows.

I thought about going back in to “improve” parts of this, but I’ve decided to leave it as it is for now. I can’t place how I feel about it, so I’m keeping it as a record of my development.


170522 White Haired Man Dipping Finger in Water [detail] (2017) oil on canvas


4 thoughts on “White Haired Man Dipping Finger in Water

  1. Liam, did you have your special glasses on when you painted this? My reception of the colours is different to yours. You are implicitly critical of yourself – or, maybe I mean, you are overstating some of the colour effects OR you are seeing them differently to me.

    But first, I appreciated your pointing out your intent to achieve borders and edges without outlines. It’s not a feature I would expect to notice. You achieve well in this objective at any rate and it was pleasing to see at close hand

    I don’t see such a disjunct between the two halves of this painting. There are obvious contrasts but not so I felt they were different painting. I perceive it with a landscape background where the appearance of the sandy coloured ground underneath is not surprising. The green splashes in the water tie in with the tropical backdrop. And the extremely rendered finger, so definitely being dipped into the water is not only a particular focal point in the compostion – it also links the figure with the water bath.

    As to your second paragraph about colour – this is where I don’t share your experience. I see nothing shrill, the yellows do not glow or dominate for me – rather, they serve to integrate in both the trees and on the figure. There is sufficient contrast in the colours for me not to have really felt the absence of blues or violets. There is balance here.

    I’m glad you showed the closeup. It really displays confidence in your brushwork. The yellow highlights on the figure are not amplified at all in the closeup – but their effectiveness is more noticeable. The whiteness of the hair and nose – with contrast in the latter provided by the yellow – are inescapable focus points as well. And this serves the composition because we are already specifically drawn to this figure, engaged as it is in a peculiar act.

    If one described the composition it might perhaps sound banal. However the device of the elongated finger arrests us and distracts from this possibility. Moreover, the falling left to right flow of the figure’s arms and shoulders is almost a classic variation. Simple.

    I love it

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for taking the time to write that comment – really useful for me to see it as you describe. Yes, I was wearing the glasses, but still our perception of the colours will be very different. Having said that, what I write here is usually a first impression, and after some time passes I see the paintings quite differently. The difficult part is to see things clearly while I’m actually working on the painting, while it’s still wet. The mirror sometimes helps, or a night’s sleep. 🙂


      • Dear Liam,

        Your responses to my comments are as interesting and useful to my involvement as are your paintings and blog. I know that in some way you were a critic at some time. Your writing is good – I’m assuming you realise that – I would simply add that writing a journal as you go, blog, I guess, might of itself, be a valuable and commodity.

        I hope I detect a growing self belief in your work. It sure seems to be gradually more assured. You tentatively, maybe even apologetically, eschew compositional intent. I would hazard that that’s OK. You have, everyone has, masses of stuff “inside”. It will do its work if you do yours I reckon. Sometimes composition is overrated – and it’s more about HOW you paint what you do. That’s certainly where you are kicking arse!

        Liked by 1 person

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