In my last post, I wrote about the value of risk taking and how sometimes surprisingly pleasing results can be achieved by going out on a limb. Having a piece of scrap paper to practice on is a practical way of testing out colours and experimenting with technique. However, sometimes, when the test paper has exhausted its usefulness, the only option is to plunge right in and take a risk. If all fails, it could mean 2 or 3 weeks' worth of work has been instantaneously and irretrievably ruined. But, if the plan succeeds, not only can it mean the success of the current portrait, it can also add to the artist's store of knowledge about technique, building up a wealth of resources for future projects.
This is what has happened here. The colours I chose for the jumper were dark and the pigments were especially waxy. As I built up the layers, it became apparent that the texture of the fabric was somewhat grainy, perfect for a knitted jumper but rather rough for one of stretchy material. Using a blender pencil only worsened the effect by creating more of a gritty, chalky surface.
My only option for smoothing the texture appeared to remain in the use of a solvent. I don't use solvents a lot. My style is to persevere with lightly applied layers to build up the intensity of colour and texture, as I am not keen on the change of hue which is common after solvents are applied. Obviously, experience in these colour changes does avoid the problem by allowing the artist to compensate with colours which will dissolve to the required hue. In this case, however, I had applied a bright royal blue pigment beneath my darker colours as a highlight to the sunlit folds of fabric. I was aware that any solvent would accentuate this brightness and create a boldness which I wanted to avoid.
Finally, I decided that the grainy look was unacceptable. Without a solvent, the picture was already ruined in my eyes, so I went ahead and applied a layer of solvent, using a blending pen. At first, the results were shocking and I firmly believed that my previous two weeks' work was headed for the rubbish pile. But, as I progressed and applied further dark layers of pigment over the solvent, I could see that the effect was far superior to the previous grainy look I had achieved.
The contrasts were greater and the colours were more intense than in the original picture. Overall, my risk-taking had been worth the stress. I was happier with the result and a little bit more knowledge had been added to my growing store of techniques.