New Painting Debut! “Up Close-Sally Lightfoot Crab”

“Up Close-Sally Lightfoot Crab” 20×46″ oil

Definitely a change of pace for me, this painting is the first one of three for the upcoming Sea of Cortez group show, which will open at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum on March 16, 2013. You can read about the trip and see some of the drawings I’ve done and photos I shot here.

While I was on the trip with 30 of my colleagues in March of 2011, we had access to a very nice fishing yacht whose owners generously took us out to an island that not only had these colorful, irresistible-as-subjects crabs, but also California sea lions and many species of birds.

I knew as soon as I saw them that I would want to paint one. Fortunately, there was also a Zodiac (small pontoon boat) that got us right up to the rocks. That and fast shutter speeds and I got some great reference.

Here’s the step-by-step of “Up Close-Sally Lightfoot Crab”:

Here’s how I was able to get such great shots. We were able to get REALLY close to them.
Reference photo; I knew from the beginning that I wanted to paint the crab BIG and crop in for a horizontal rectangle. I used other photos for comparison and to change the position slightly of one leg.
Preliminary graphite study, 7×17″;  to learn my subject, ensure that the composition worked and to establish the value pattern
Color rough,  6×14″; this is a really different color palette for me compared to the more restrained earth tones I use for my Mongolian subjects. Can’t remember the last time I used red and yellow pretty much right out of the tube.
Grid transfer in pencil; Raymar canvas board is tinted with raw sienna
The brush drawing. I realized after I’d done the one from the pencil drawing that the crab wasn’t nearly big enough, so I wiped if off and re-drew it. By this time I’d done the graphite study and the color rough, so I “knew” him/her pretty well and it didn’t take long.
First color pass
This is a little more than half-way there. The next step was to catch the background up with the crab and then move on to the legs and claws and then go back and tweak everything until it was done.
“Up Close-Sally Lightfoot Crab” 20×46″ oil

I thought I’d share some details of the crab and the background.

The crab was on a rock totally encrusted with barnacles. I had absolutely zero interest in painting 50 gazillion of them, so instead I analyzed the visual texture and values and then indicated those in a variety of colors and values.
But just to make sure the viewer knows what they are, I did a few more finished ones in the lower right hand corner.
The eyes were fun. The challenge was to get expression, to have the viewer feel that the crab is looking right at them.

The next painting for the show will truly be something completely different…a landscape with Nacapuli Canyon as its subject, with a special extra thrown in.

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