Paper Doll’s by Vann ~ The Titanic

Every painting has a story but some have more story than others…

James Cameron’s TheTitanic came out in 1997 and was, as we all know, a huge hit.
I saw it and I thought the visuals were pretty impressive.  The epic special effects chronicled the historical disaster as best it could, being wrapped as it was, around  a fairly standard Hollywood rich girl/poor boy romantic potboiler.

Others, I found, did not share my cavalier impression of the film.  Some got quite wrapped up in it.  ‘Immersed’ might be a better word.  Some people got so enthralled with the movie one would think they had gone down with the doomed ship.

One of these people happened to be a young woman I’ve known for a good part of my life.  She was one of the Titanic survivors in a manner of speaking.   For some, surviving the movie itself and not becoming a sobbing basket case afterward was it’s own form of surviving the sinking .

There were a lot of things you could buy centered around that movie and she had more than a few of these…  She was definitely into it.

I was painting quite a bit around that time so it was only natural that I would try to paint her.  She was a pretty lady but she was very hard for me to capture with my brush and paint.  I work from photographs rather than sittings and portraiture is hard for me.  It is doubly hard to do if I know the person being painted well.

I had a certain photograph of her she’d let me copy.  It was of her, taken in one of those touristy photography setup shops where they shoot you wearing costumes, cowboys, turn of the century stuff… you’ve seen them.

She had donned a Scarlett O’Hara/Southern Belle outfit…. hoop skirt, parasol, hat and gloves…  Her face in the shot fascinated me.   It was almost angelic, a sweet serene expression with a vixenish hint of a smile…  But I just couldn’t catch what I saw using watercolor.  I tried using that face as a model several times with no success.  I had turned out enough failures trying to paint her that she may well have thought I’d never succeed making a painting of her.  I was beginning to think the same thing.

…meanwhile, back on The Titanic

There is a scene in the movie where Kate Winslet’s character is laying pleasantly naked on a couch and De Caprio’s character is doing a charcoal sketch of her.   This scene and the resulting sketch got a lot of attention in the movie.  It also gave me an idea.

I didn’t have Photoshop but using my scanner and some voodoo, I got that photo of her face maneuvered onto the movie sketch.  I then ‘cheated’ and used an opaque projector so I could trace the result  to help me block it out on a piece of 20 x 30 illustration board.

I worked on that for about a week but I bobbled the “blue jewel”, a central thread of the picture and the movie both…  I had no idea how to make blue jewels.  I’d never tried to make any color jewel, let alone a blue one.   I reluctantly set the work aside.  I even thought of throwing it away but the face was intriguing even unfinished.  All  I’d had done on it were the eyes and the lips and a vague outline.    You can ruin a watercolor by overworking it so I stopped work on it but kept it around.  I figured I might at least save the face as a painting on its own merit.

On a whim I used a Polaroid camera and snapped a shot of the unfinished painting.  I scanned that and e.mailed it to my friend  to show her what I had done.

Well, that got her attention and she begged me to try to finish it.

Watercolor is touchy folks, particularly if you’re trying to do repair work on it.  You can’t just daub over it like you can with acrylics and oils.  You run a very real risk of losing your paper to agressive wetting as you try to draw off some colors and otherwise try to fix things.  I started with the Blue Jewel because if I couldn’t get a sense of that then the rest would not work.  Some fixes work.  Some do not.

How did it come out?

Honestly, it has problems because of my lack of training, but my friend was thrilled.
She was pleased so if she was pleased I was pleased…

I somehow had managed to rescue the blue jewel and in so doing salvaged the painting.    I don’t think I could do that photo of her face any better justice than what I have here.  My friend has a bit more endowment going for her than Kate Winslet had but that just requires extra attention.  One does what one must do…

I’ve known her a long time, now that I think of it…

which has nothing to do with the painting.

Or the story…

the painting is signed, as they all are…

Paper Dolls by Vann


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