Well, this is my first post as I set out trying to (hopefully) do a decent job at reproducing John William Waterhouse’s painting from 1893 (not 1905 as reported at www.jwwaterhouse.com) ‘A Naiad’. And here’s the reason why: my current project in college is doing portraits and figures and we had to choose three artists who did work we admired and do, as a final piece, a self-portrait in the style of one of the artists. Never needing a second invitation to have anything to do him, I chose Waterhouse.
As Waterhouse was my chosen artist, rather than do a straight-forward self-portrait, I decided to try and do an image that was inspired by some narrative or other as many Pre-Raphaelite artists usually did. I did think of doing something from Homer’s Odessey as Waterhouse had done before but plumped for an old Scottish ballad/folktale called Tam Lin. Below is a summary of the tale I found at this website which has all the info you would need if you wanted to know more about Tam Lin:
“The woods of Carterhaugh are guarded by Tam Lin, a man who demands payment of all maidens who pass through, in the form of a belonging or their virginity. A maiden named Janet travels to Carterhaugh and picks a rose, causing Tam Lin to appear. He questions her presence, to which she relies that Carterhaugh is rightfully hers. She then travels to her fathers house where she exhibits the early signs of pregnancy, much to the concern of the household. She states that her lover is elven, and then returns to Carterhaugh, once again encountering Tam Lin. He reveals he is not elven, but a mortal captured by the queen of Faeries, and that he may be sacrificied to hell as part of the faerie tithe. He then details how she can save him to be her mate, if she will undergo a trial on Halloween night. She must pull him from his horse as the faeries process through the woods, and hold onto him as he is transformed into various beasts, then plunge him into a well when he turns into a brand of fire. When he regains his own naked shape she must cover him with her green mantle and he will be free. She does all of this, much to the anger of the watching Queen of faeries.”
It’s the moment when Tam Lin (who, I hasten to add, will be modelled on me to satisfy the self-portrait part of the project) appears just after Janet has plucked the rose that I wanted to paint. I’ve done a number of small studies with some of the ideas I’ve had. As a precursor to doing this piece of work I decided to try and do a Waterhouse painting and hopefully learn something along the way in the hope of being able to emulate his style for my final piece. I didn’t have to think for long about which of his works to paint as I’d already decided months before (after having a stab at Fair Rosamund) that it’s a picture I would like to have a go at (being A Naiad). To get the maximum impact from doing said picture I would have to do something I’d never done before and that was use oils on canvas and when I found out that my college actually made canvases for students to any size they want, I wasted no time in putting in an order for one that was 50 x 26 inches (the size of the original). I was excited to say the least.
For one reason or another, I had to wait just over two weeks to get my eagerly awaited canvas and I have to say there was something rather special about that first one and having it the same size as A Naiad kind of added to it. It certainly won’t be the last time I have one made to order. Anyway, I started on the canvas the evening I brought it home. To get the image to be an exact fit I had to square up the canvas as I did the original image and then replicate it as best I could. The most crucial part of the painting to get right for me was the Naiad’s face which I didn’t think would be an easy task at all (as it proved). I don’t think I did too bad a job though. I actually started this painting a few weeks ago so I’m further down the line than the images I’ve shown below, but I’ll try and remember things as I write up my progress.
Before I even started drawing I had to prime the canvas which I did using white acrylic with a little green and black acrylic added to it to take away the starkness of the white. Another reason I did this was because I’d read in Peter Trippi’s Waterhouse biography (excellent book by-the-way) that the artist had helped gain a transluceny in the flesh of his paintings by underpainting them with green. I wasn’t sure what kind of green this would have been, so I studied as best I could what images of Waterhouse’s that I could find that were half-done studies where you could see the underlying colour (the study for Jason and Medea being an example). From what I can see, it looks more like a grey/green, so that’s why I added the green/black paint. Personally, I don’t think I made it dark enough, but it’s all trial and error at the moment. We’ll see what happens.
Anyway, it took me a good few days to get to the point where I was ready to start painting. The images below represent this stage.
Well, I think that’s it for now. The clock’s have gone forward, I had a late night and a long day today. I’m so tired!