Catching up with the Macedonian Shepherd

Some of you might be wondering what has happened to the painting I am doing of a Macedonian shepherd. In the light of Harmony Week and recognising the cultural diversity of our lives I thought it time to return to the "shepherd" who came to Australia with his family when he was young.

The progress of the painting? Well, like most creative works it is never plain sailing and there have been times over the past couple of weeks when I nearly put my foot through the canvas.

When someone asks you to create an image for them they most likely have some perception of the finished product in their mind. The chance that the artist and the commissioner of the work have a similar perception of the image, even if they come from similar experiences and cultural background, is remote.

We each see the world differently. A while back E in London sent me this link to a fascinating article on perception, imagination and what it means to see with the mind's eye*. Follow the link below if you are interested in this kind of thinking.

What Does it Mean to ‘See With the Mind’s Eye?’
Adventures in the human imagination

And so it is natural that the Macedonian shepherd and I had a different view of what his painting would look like. There are three posts already written about the birth of this painting - check out the links at the end of today's post.

I left you last time with a rough sketch on the canvas (left below) mapping out the composition of the various features the shepherd wanted in his painting which amounted to him sitting with his Maremma dog, minding a flock of sheep above his village, with his family home, corner store and church in the middle ground.

Once these essential features were plotted and under painted I started working on the village which would serve as the main feature in the middle/background - dominated by the church for which there is no picture to follow. I have created this by just using the shepherd's description.

Here is a close up of the village which I have bascially made up as once again there are very few images available. You can see the corner store in the middle ground beginning to take shape just to the right of the shepherd's head.

Note that the church has a bell tower, and consists of a hall at the front which has been recently joined to the church at the back by a common roof. There is an image of the corner store on line so that building is easy to recreate.

And then one of my family members and art critic pointed out a glaring error in the composition. One of my failings as an artist is that I get so excited and obsessive above one aspect of a painting that I can tend to ignore the surounding aspects until later: and then panic!

I had ended up with a whopping big and uninteresting hole right in the centre of the painting where the road sweeps through the village and past the corner store and the shepherd's home to eventually disappear off to the right of the painting. You can see this hole in the image on the left.

I confidently assured my critic that this hole could easily be fixed with some sheep crossing the road and going up towards the shepherd's home. And a few poplar trees can always be scattered around to soften the starkness. I paintsketched this in roughly.

But the hole remained - probably made more obvious because all I had achieved was to add more details off to the right side. Meanwhile the shepherd sat patiently waiting for me and the sheep in the foreground were taking shape. I can only wish that the shepherd could have spoken to me at this stage as I learnt later that this space between the corner store and his home on the hill is important. But I race ahead - more on this in the next post. Back to me deciding to fill in the hole in the painting.

Finally I admitted that the corner store had to be moved a little to the right from behind the shepherd's head and the road pushed up higher away from the foreground. This meant that the space in front of all of this had to be filled in in some interesting way. At this point I took artistic licence and raised the mountain on which the shepherd sat and added a couple of buildings just peering up from beneath the hill - centre and on the right. There is in reality a bit of a stream running through the village so that also helps improve the composition. And how many poplar trees can you put in a painting? I'm working on that.

So now it is full steam ahead to work on the details - the fun part of painting. The next installment isn't far away because the shepherd has come to look at his painting. Test time!!!

Below are the links to the previous posts on Painting a Macedonian Shepherd.

Painting a Macedonian Shepherd
Sharing the steps involved in painting a picture of a Macedonian shepherd. This is the second blog on The Macedonian Shepherd.
Update on the Macedonian Shepherd
Describing the new painting I am working on which consists of a Macedonian shepherd with his sheep looking out over his village. Read the blog to learn the story behind the painting.
The Macedonian Shepherd begins to take shape
Taking the blog subscribers on a journey as a painting is created featuring a Macedonian shepherd on a hill overlooking his village.