Cynthia Sheppard Analysis

What I find really interesting to look at in Cynthia's paintings is that she's got a very Renaissance sensibility done in a digital medium. 

The painting

The painting

I love the sense of movement and rhythm in this painting....everything is made up of arcs flowing into each other...like, well...water :)  On the whole, the painting is quite loose, which draws attention to the face and hands of the fairy very nicely.  She has also made an interesting choice to limit her color palette to warm blues and desaturated browns.  The atmospheric perspective is really well done, with all the contrast coming in the foreground.  Finally, the sense of story is tremendous, and this really feels like it is merely a part of a larger image or narrative.  Having the hair and wings go off the canvas was an excellent choice for that.

2 values

2 values

Arcs!  Arcs everywhere!  Such a clear read, and well designed complexity!  The arcs in the bottom all point up, and the ones on the top all point down, creating a tension just below the fairy in the water.  Sweet!

3 values

3 values

The 3 & 4 value reads aren't really necessary to this one, it says what it needs in 2.  

4 values

4 values

The arcs continue all the way to the 4 value read.  Notice the dark spot where everything points to.  It's all about that fairy hovering right above *that* rock.

The face

The face

This is by far the tightest area of the painting, rendering-wise.  Compared to the pale skin, those red lips really pop!  They are also the only thing that "purely" red in the entire painting.  I love her hand treatment, they feel very real and kinda "chunky" but with very few obvious strokes.

The water

The water

This is quite loose, and looks like it was painted with a hard brush and then "ghosted" over with an airbrush to give it that sense of mist and spray.  Check out how many different shades are in there, and pay special attention to the purples and the warm tones....water isn't just "blue", "green" and "white."  As you would expect, the strokes are very directional, and help give contour to the liquid.

Where she rests her hand

Where she rests her hand

This is a really neat spot to look at for me.  The hand, like the rest of the fairy, is quite tightly rendered, but the rock is pretty much just a blob.  Looks like quite a bit of either soft brush, blending or a combination of both has been applied to give it that dreamy, wet quality, but you aren't supposed to spend a lot of time looking at it.  When the values are right and the highlights in the right place, you just "buy" it and move on.

The other rock

The other rock

Wow!  Take a look at just how impressionistic this one is in comparison to the first!  Well placed strokes of similar values give the idea of texture and form, but nothing is rendered here!  This rock is in the painting to balance things graphically, but the story isn't about the geology of the area, and it has been treated so that you KNOW that.

 

Learnings:

  • Despite what some may say, soft brushes aren't the enemy when you use them correctly in the correct places.
  • Again, as we see over and over again - Limit your tight painting to the areas you care about.
  • Keep saturation down when making a moody image.  Punch it where it matters.

Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoy both the painting and my analysis of it!  You can find more of Cynthia's work on her website.