Arctic Char

“Turn every challenge into a jigsaw. Before you know it, all these small pieces add up to something pretty amazing.” Peter Bray

Some believe creating is mindless, when in fact, it is the opposite. It’s extremely mindful, solving problems, decision making and very hard work. It’s understanding you will never know it all, but dive in anyhow.

When he first emailed the Arctic Char photo, I could have declined the work, but I was intrigued by such amazing colour. In fact, my use of colour is the reason the client chose me. 

Revisiting the photo nearly daily for 6 months, I have been pondering how to execute it. Ideas have been simmering for a long while.

With most commissions I require several high res photos. In this case I had one lower res photo reference, purposely not requesting a higher resolution, to not be tempted to paint realism. Thou not my typical genre, it needed to still look like my work. 

It was a challenging composition to capture with the focal point directly in the middle of the photo. The Char, while colourful, lay on mostly blue grey rock. Compose it as such, the fish would look cartoonish, not a part of the rock bed, or even a part of the picture. It would feel fake. 

I needed to change the composition, placing the fish higher in the canvas, and make the tail fin flow off the canvas to invoke movement. I enhanced light & shadow on & under the fish making it feel less direct middle ground point of interest. Creating rock colour to give the painting balance, feel real, without being fussy with detail was important. That’s so tough, because one itches to paint every scale, be fussy with fins and rock contours. 

It’s one of the hardest aspects of impressionism, to not overwork. What information to leave in, what to omit.

In landscape, one can soften the scape without challenging the viewer. It’s a whole other story with a fish someone needs to recognize, needing to ‘pop’ with colour, look somewhat real, and a part of its background.

I also needed to create a whole new series of colours for the fish. 

A mixture of 4 blues, ochre, umber, green, magenta, two cad reds, alizarin crimson, two cad orange, 2 cad yellow, 2 whites to create the fish alone. 

The idea for purple was a motivating factor and my starting point, if the purple rocks would feel right as the bed for this lovely fish, it could work. The painting evolved and 1/2 way in I  knew I had it.

Interestingly, it may be the first painting I have created in complete silence without music in the studio. 

“Indeed, your biggest challenge may be to fully harness your strengths. You may be so busy trying to appear like a zestful, reward-sensitive extrovert that you undervalue your own talents, or feel underestimated by those around you. But when you’re focused on a project that you care about, you probably find that your energy is boundless. Susan Cain “Quiet”.

The work, thou challenging, was incredibly energizing and joyful.

He is thrilled with the result as am I!

~The simplicity of form, the drama of rich, intense colour, the joy of challenge, and the challenge of endurance… The piece, when it is over, is not what is made, but how it is made. Andrew Kuntz