Heliotropic is a 22x16 oil done from life and then redone by Shirley Fachilla.
Children who’ve grown six inches love to hear those words. Adults who’ve gained six inches don’t. But painters are like children; they want keep on changing and growing.
I first did Heliotropic about four years ago in an open studio session. I liked the way the model’s face was raised as though awaiting a blessing. And I liked the way I had painted her hair. In fact, though I did absolutely nothing with her (not even taking the time to finish out the background), I liked the painting and looked at it every now and again.
I recently decided on a use for her, finished out the background then took a photo.
The painting as done four years ago
As so often happens, the photo helped me see the painting more objectively. I saw many things to change. I realized I had grown as a painter and was now able to judge and yes, paint more competently than I had four years ago.
I redid the background and made her coat make a bit more sense (artists call that getting a representational illusion to “read” better). And I repainted her face and parts of her hair. Some things were lost. The sureness of stroke is less, and I think I made her too pretty. But some things were gained. The values improved; the added glints of light in her hair created a needed delicacy and variety in mark making.
I also learned a new word that I could only halfway define before. Living plants are often heliotropic i.e. they turn toward the light, just as my painted girl instinctively lifts her face to the sun.