This picture is part of my ongoing series of theatre studies. On occasion (and for a quite a few years now) I meet with actors to sketch and paint them in the process of stage rehearsals.
This canvas was painted in december 2014 based on Jessica Boone performing Lady Macbeth at the Kolowrat theatre in Prague. The excellent Prague Shakespeare Company will be performing 'The Scottish Play' once again on the 30th of November and the 1st of December this year.
This is a particularly difficult picture to photograph, it seems to give off a light all its own that I can't somehow capture with a camera. I did all I could to give it a unique light, glazing techniques for example, the painters method, but it goes beyond what I planned or thought would happen. I don't note down my process and so, don't recall what in particular was different about this one...but it's all in the underpainting and layering. This is one of my better pictures and as usual, when that happens, I feel I had nothing to do with it. I feel like it painted itself.
The other odd thing is how different 'Lady' appears at distance. Her face and even her expression seem different to me in close up. You wouldn't think the detail below is the same painting. I have my own theories on how to create a sense of 'life' in painting the human form and it rests in part on the neutral balancing of expression combined with the 'sfumato' (like-smoke) effect. It's not easy to pull off but when you get it right the face appears to change expression, not dramatically, but on the cusp of tipping into a different expression - we read expression so well that some artists can exploit the eagerness of the minds eye. I've done it before but this time I wasn't really trying. I should say it's subjective, I may be alone in thinking I see this.
If you know the play, this scene is in act 5. The moment in which she says 'Damned Spot' and that is this pictures title. It's a haunting scene in which Lady Macbeth sleepwalks and believes she has blood on her, blood she can't remove.
Where the painting is not soft I deliberately emphasised its angles, the sharper the better.
Macbeth Act 5, scene 1, 26–40
Visiting Prague? This is a great production - Get your theatre tickets here.