Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Almendres Cromlech Meets Manet

One of the most magical lunches I ever had was a cheese and cracker picnic in an islolated part of the Alentejo in Portugal in about April of 1992 or so. Four friends and I were traveling throughout central and southern Portugal for a couple of weeks, and near Evora we decided to track down the Almendres Cromlech, a four thousand year-old megalithic site several miles down a dirt road.

This photo always reminds me of Manet's famous picnic scene in  Le Déjeuner sur l'
Herbe "The Luncheon on the Grass", even though we're all wearing clothes. As peaceful and beautiful as that place was that day, there's something just a little disconcerting about casually eating cheese next to a truly ancient and mysterious construction of stones. Disconcerting in perhaps a similar way to Manet's ladies.

So, taking a few liberties, I've started some sketches toward what will be, for me, a rather ambitious painting. I started with a quick, amended drawing of the scene (sorry Martha!):

... and I quickly discovered I had a few composition issues to work out, so I tried another version using a different photo of the stones from that day:

And then one in color just for kicks:

I'm still not "there" yet, but I decided to move on and do some more paint studies to see if I could capture the feel of the stones and the place without the picnic (for now):

And then... back to another compositional study, mostly to see if I would have trouble painting the figures:

I think I'm getting closer to what I wanted, but I'm not quite ready to tackle integrating the whole scene in a large format just yet... but stay tuned! This part of the process is fun, a traditional painterly approach and ultimately important to the final result.

Here are my photos of the stones used for painting reference:

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